Firstly, you should define your goals – decide why you want to restore a period house. This will help prioritise the most important renovation jobs and ensure that your budget is realistic. Your goals could be any of the following or something else:
• We don’t like the finish or decor of any of the houses we’ve viewed and want to create our own vision.
• We can’t afford what we want so we could buy a wreck and create it ourselves.
• We’ve got time and money on our hands and doing a renovation sounds like fun.
• We’ve inherited a period house and want to do it up and sell it.
• We view this as a business so we want to maximise the value of the property and then sell it for the best profit.
You also need to be realistic about your timescale in terms of turning the project around and how long you will keep the property, whether you will live in it, rent it out or sell it when it’s finished.
If your goals and timescales are really clear it will make decision-making easier. For example, if you are simply doing it up to sell it again, you’ll not want to spend a lot of money on things that don’t add to the resale value such as addressing any non-critical structural issues. If you are creating your forever home, you may want to splurge on luxuries such as kitchen ranges, underfloor heating, triple glazing, landscaping and planting that won’t necessarily add to the resale value but that you’ll appreciate over a number of years.
Choose your renovation project carefully – once you’ve defined your goals you’ll then need to keep them in mind when attending house viewings. This is essential if you want to avoid an expensive mistake. Keep your estate agents briefed on your criteria and check these are all met before you arrange any viewings. Question a number of other estate agents about the resale value of a property after renovation and check this by looking at sold figures of similar properties in the area.
If you’re simply looking for something to turn around quickly for a profit, avoid listed buildings, conservation areas and houses with structural issues. Be suspicious of scruffy buildings that are freshly decorated as this could well be the sign of somebody trying to mask a problem. If a house looks derelict, run-down, scruffy and uncared for, chances are that any issues will be easy to spot. Many issues are simpler than you think to remedy and may be as straightforward as slipped tiles that need replacing. Conversely, things that look small can often be minefields. Make sure you get a full home survey before putting an offer in.
Find out whether the property has previously been extended as this may affect how much you will be able to extend under certain circumstances.
Budget is key to make any project a success. You need to work out the total you can afford to spend. If you don’t have the knowledge to do this, take a builder around the house with you. Bear in mind that a builder may give you figures based on the easiest way to resolve an issue but you may find later down the line another solution is chosen and prices may change. So, discuss your plans and preferences in detail with the builder as this is the only way to obtain realistic figures.
If you purchase all materials yourself you could save up to 40% on your material costs. Set up trade accounts with all of your local builders' merchants by telling them the size of your project and get them to quote competitively on any large orders you may be placing and negotiate on all prices quoted.
If the house is uninhabitable or unsellable unless all work is fully completed, we strongly advise that the money you need for the work is put in a savings account and earmarked for this work once the house becomes yours. Money rarely, if ever, appears out of nowhere and thinking “we’ll come up with the extra money later” is often the road to disaster involving whopping credit card charges or unpaid debts.
Once the house is yours, thoroughly clean it and make it habitable for the least money possible and then live in it. Until you live in a period house and truly know it, it’s difficult to make decisions about how it needs to be changed.