Advice For First-Time Renovators

For most of us, buying a home to renovate can be a daunting task. Below is a simple guide to help first-time renovators navigate their way to securing their dream home.

The first step on the path of renovation is to identify a suitable property to invest our time and effort into. In the internet era, it is easy to become so overwhelmed with choices when searching for houses that gems will lie forgotten and potential disasters will waste our time. To prevent this, we must draw up a list of standards that our ideal dwelling will meet. Whether you are buying for investment purposes or to actually live in the house, your list will most likely contain the following criteria:

surveyor1) Is the property itself structurally sound, with low risk of future problems? To make sure of this, we recommend having a chartered surveyor or architect look at the property in detail. Due to the expense of this action (expect a fee of $500 – $2000, dependent on property size), it is typically left until you have narrowed your search down to a specific house. It is also worth speaking with your potential neighbors to find out if the area has any history of flooding or other problems that an estate agent or current owner may neglect to mention.

2) Is it within a reasonable proximity to local schools and businesses? Whether you are looking to eventually sell the property on or are simply planning to settle in for the long haul, this will be one of the major factors that determines the desirability of the home. A house can be turned into a veritable paradise, but if you are facing a commute of over an hour to simply drop your kids off at school or to get to work, you could feel that you are not getting your money’s worth. Details of school transport arrangements and catchment areas can typically be found on the local county’s website, whilst areas with a thriving economy can be identified by simply punching their postal code into a few internet job boards and tallying the number of professional opportunities available.

3) Is the building overshadowed by adjacent properties? Whilst it may seem like a common sense measure, it is crucial to make sure that the home you are buying is not of a substantially lesser quality or size than the other properties in the neighborhood. Not only can this prevent you from securing a sale, but it can also be indicative of a potential ‘money pit’ that will take an inordinate amount of resources to bring up to par.

4) Is the property located in a low-crime area? This is vital consideration. Due to the ease with which data on criminal activity is available (with real estate sites such as Zillow going as far to provide heat-maps for many areas), it is almost impossible to disguise the fact that a house is located in a bad neighborhood.

5) Will future developments in the area affect the property’s value or desirability? Nobody wants to have their idyllic country getaway abruptly spoiled by the construction of a brand new subdivision in their backyard. As such, be sure to check local zoning laws and planning applications prior to making a purchase.

The Best Way To Add Value To A Property

When renovating a property, one of the main objectives is to add a substantial amount of value to the building. There are many ways to accomplish this – some more ambitious than others – but we have gone ahead and compiled a summary of some of the most effective ways to add to your home’s market value.

loft-conversionA loft conversion can be one of the best ways to add an extra room to a house. By adding floors, windows, a flight of stairs and wiring for lights and outlets, a homeowner can readily turn their loft into a bedroom or even a lounge. Costs can be as low as $20,000 for a simple living area, however a bathroom will obviously run closer to $50,000 due to the costs of installing proper plumbing. Whilst a loft conversion will obviously provide a great degree of utility to any prospective homeowner, it should be noted that this is a major undertaking and a significant investment that will take time to complete.

A simpler way to boost the asking price of your home is by investing in a kitchen refit. The kitchen is the focal point of the home, and one that makes good use of the available space and is built with high-quality materials will be a major draw for potential buyers. A sub-par kitchen, however, will drive away customers by virtue of being cramped and cheaply constructed. If you have an especially small kitchen, it is worth taking into consideration the possibility of going as far as to remove dividing walls to create a combined kitchen and dining area.

The cheapest way to add value to your home is to get outline planning permission (also known as ‘zoning permission’, dependent on your location in the USA) for an extension to the building. This alone will act to increase the price, as it makes the property desirable for builders or more ambitious property flippers who want confirmation that the local council will not act to thwart their plans for renovation. The good thing about outline planning permission is that very few specific details of the planned development are required, aside from the general dimensions and location. This means that the associated costs and hassle (i.e. hiring an architect/contractor to go over the details) are passed on to the eventual buyer.

Speaking of extensions, it is best practice to follow the mantra of ‘extend as much as possible without being excessive’. This makes sense for two reasons. Firstly, although there will be a high base cost of materials and labor, extra room in a house always adds value so the ROI for the extension will only increase as more space is added. Secondly, an extension that disproportionately intrudes into the garden will turn away a fair number of buyers, so exercise common sense when drawing up your designs. An excessively large extension might also draw the ire of your neighbors or Homeowners Association, so it can be best to tread carefully depending on your local planning laws.