Property renovation costs are notoriously hard to control when a property investor does not have a close control on the work being carried out.
As an investor, it’s natural to depend on your builder or build team to complete your property refurbishment.
It’s equally common to run out of money in middle of property renovation or over run on costs.
Did you know?
Most of the reasons why we end up in such situation is nothing external and mostly in our control to avoid such mistakes.
Here are 10 things that we have been mindful off backed up by good education on property investment and few which have come back to bite us hard.
Subscriber Only Content
Enter your details below to instantly reveal the premium content.
1) DIY Property Renovation
Whilst saving costs is something that everyone wants to achieve during property renovation, Do it yourself (DIY) isn’t something I would recommend.
But guess what:
I come across investors talking about doing some work themselves before they engage a builder.
Strip out the walls, remove tiles in the kitchen, take measurements and order material and many such tasks are something that are part of those DIY tasks.
Here is the reality though:
Most of us are not professional builders and the work has to be relooked by the builder when he is engaged.
The urge to save costs is great but not within the areas where a professional does justice to the work. You may end up spending more than saving, should things go wrong.
2) Not Having Schedule Of Works
One of the mistakes we did on our very first property is to go ahead with a builder who was non-technical when it comes to documentation or planning.
We resigned to the idea that the builder cannot do the schedule of works and has never done one for his clients.
This soon came back to bite us severely with scope creep on work items, lack of visibility into what order work is going to happen and what timescales the build team will adhere to.
Here is the deal:
Not having a property schedule of works that is agreed between build team and investor is a rookie mistake.
So get that right, even if it requires you to create the schedule of works with the builder yourself.
Here is a simple schedule of works that you can create on your own in the given format below in an excel or a google sheet.
You need schedule of works for following reasons
- Spend Wisely: To have a clear understanding on what work is going to take place in which week/day i.e. correct sequence of work. Get the sequence of refurbishment wrong and you will end up paying additional price for same refurbishment.
- Avoid Surprises: Tracking estimated costs versus actual costs on a regular basis and not just at the end of the refurbishment phase. Avoid last minute surprises on overspend.
- Payment Milestones: The logical incremental schedule where you agree to pay the builder based on completion of a milestones.
- Refinance Deliverable: It’s a formal representation of works carried out and a deliverable during refinancing of the property at later stages.
3) Property Renovation Costing
There are two elements to get your renovation costs right.
- Getting your estimated costs right for your investment area
- Having control on your spend against the estimates
These however are also the two areas where people let things slip up.
First property we set out to renovate, we pretty much took the costs that builder has given us as quotes.
Retrospectively, we understand we could have saved at least over £1000 in costs if we did some due diligence and had average costs in our investment area with us handy.
Investors tend to leave refurbishment to their build teams and not focus on weekly tracking of costs.
This specifically is relevant to people who have to travel a long distance to review their property.
In such a scenario, one is as good as what build team will propose. Controlling costs is a weekly or a daily affair and should not come as a surprise towards end of property renovation.
4) Choosing the Cheapest Workforce
It’s easy to just outsource property renovation to someone who has a team and get the refurbishment done at fraction of cost.
At the end of the day the buck stops with you. You are accountable.
If you don’t get right builder or tradesmen for yourself, then there are no two ways about it. You lose money.
We did lose money due to engaging a wrong builder, however we did our journey to get our mental map right on what we were into and how to overcome the loss.
For many, who are not at the same space, this certainly could sound as an end to their property investment journey.
One cannot go with any builder they come across or recommended. You will have to do your due diligence on the builder to ensure you build that relationship to create a cash flowing portfolio month on month.
This applies to engaging right letting agent as well to manage lettings of your property.
5) Boiler Is Always A Hot Topic
Do you always come across this question “Should I replace the boiler or not within the property refurbishment?
Specifically when it looks shabby but is in working condition…..
We do have that debate most of the times.
We found something:
If the boiler is not aged and is in working condition then don’t replace it.
If the boiler is little aged say over 10 years or so, always better to replace it even if it’s in working condition. This is our experience though.
We tend to see issues later in the day once the property is tenanted out most of the times adding extra cost.
Avoid the mistake of always thinking that boiler is working and hence leave it as is.
6) Not Understanding Right Order Of Renovation Work
Not understanding the right order of work can seriously increase your property refurbishment budget.
It’s easy to think that the build team will take care of it given they are the experts.
But here is the fact:
Build team will think about getting their piece of work right at all times and provide you the service you desire. They necessarily would not have a full view into works that needs to be carried out overall.
This is where having a right builder who communicates with the team effectively is essential.
For sanity, below is a high level sequence for reference and the order has to vary depending on refurbishment work needed.
- Roof and Foundation Fixes
- Strip of walls and floor coverings
- Damp proof course + Drain Systems
- Electricals / Gas / Plumbing
- Insulation and Dry walls
- Carpets and Blinds
Let me start this section by actually writing up where investors go wrong in their understanding.
Contingency is not the money you can spend on your additional requirements or luxury fittings within the property refurbishment phase.
Contingency in cost is to absorb any unforeseen costs overhead you come across within your refurbishment. Something like a damp proof course costing at £2500 is now costing £3000 due to additional square meter that needed fixing.
Did you know??
When people factor in contingency, they go with standard contingency of anything between 10% and 20% of overall refurbishment cost.
Here is how you should look at defining how much contingency you should factor in for your property refurbishment.
- Assess based on complexity of your property refurbishment
- Aged property refurb then you have to factor in extra percentage for obvious reasons
- Confidence within the listed refurbishment work and quality of work the build team are known to deliver should also factor in a percentage.
We apply a standard 10% contingency without fail on refurbishment work, however we multiply with a complexity factor depending on responses to above questions and add that amount to contingency. Ex: if £1500 is contingency budget and then we further multiply the amount by 0.5 and add it to stay on the safer side.
Get your mindset right though.
If you don’t use the contingency then you firmly return this back to your cash pot to invest in next property.
8) Not Creating Refinance Pack During Property Renovation
This may come as a bit of surprise if I say, you have to create your property refinance pack during the property renovation itself.
I can say with fair degree of confidence that not many create refinance pack during property renovation.
- You have access to pictures of property both before and after refurbishment and pictures during refurbishment as well.
- You stand better chance to remember and list down all the works carried out on the property to the detail and have team at hand to help with any questions.
- Getting this done simply puts you ahead of the game and avoid procrastination later.
- Get the broker to review it upfront so he can have a sensible chat with the lender to get you the money quick enough. In few cases he can even influence to get the refinance done immediately.
- You have an exit to sell the property covered with all the information at hand, should you need.
9) Not Updating Your Insurance Provider
As an investor you always take an insurance policy when the property is not in the living condition. This will call for higher premium.
Once you have refurbished the property, you may have fixed many issues that insurance provider deemed as high risk and has quoted higher premium.
If you update the insurance provider and inform that the issues deemed as high risk for the property are fixed, you may have your premium lowered.
This one is more of a optimisation that an investor can do to reduce costs than anything but does not seem to have much interest within the community.
10) Not Enforcing Snagging Before Final Payment
People assume that snagging list is to make a list of cosmetic issues once the builder informs that the property renovation is complete from his end.
It isn’t just that:
Snagging list or report is a comprehensive list of issues that are identified which you think the builder has not completed as per the contract.
This only means your contract or agreement of work has to be strong enough to cover all the work including cleaning, finish and time when snagging review with commence.
You pretty much have to define the definition of done upfront and agree with builder instead of leaving builder to tell you it’s done.
Push yourself a bit further like we did:
Above picture explains everything.
We actually lived in the property for a night to ensure all appliances are working as expected. We tested bathroom/electrics/gas/kitchen are all working as expected.
This pretty much avoids any issues that your future tenant were to report if there were any, and here all of them are fixed before we call refurbishment as complete.