In our latest guest blog, we asked property expert Jo King to share her knowledge and expertise when it comes to home renovation.

The house before renovation started.

Jo bought her first property in 1978 at the age of 19 – a three bedroom terrace house in East Sussex with plenty of potential for ‘added value’ which she went on to maximise.

With her husband Deric she has built, renovated and added value to a wide range of properties in East Sussex, Surrey and Devon.

Jo puts down their success to tight financial control and spotting the potential for ‘added value’ which has been achieved largely through a combination of physical hard work, thorough and detailed research, tenacity and endless persistence in the face of adversity.

2010 has been an exciting year for Jo and Deric as they embarked on another renovation project involving traditional and sustainable techniques.

Here are Jo’s top ten property renovation tips:

1. Planning Permission & Building Regulations

Familiarise yourself with current planning and building regulations for renovation work. Even if you are contracting out the work it helps to know what’s possible and the likely cost implications when viewing potential projects

Your Building Inspector will require a Structural Engineer’s calculations for Structural Alterations.

Demolition of the gable end for new window installation

2. The ‘Wow’ factor

To achieve the ‘wow’ factor – money spent on an architect can reap rewards. The whole project will have a better finish and run more smoothly if you have good detailed plans.

Finished gable end

3. Budget

Draw up a detailed budget and stick to it. Your builder, architect and engineer should view potential projects and give you an overall budget figure. If the project is too small to justify a team like this, it’s still important to establish your costs.

In general materials and labour will be roughly 50:50 so doing the works yourself can potentially make savings. Be aware most electrical and all gas installations should be carried out or inspected and certified by appropriately registered contractors – your Building Inspector will ask for these certificates.

4. Contractor or DIY Route?

Consider using a skilled contractor or ask them to work alongside you. Having the right skills, tools and equipment to do a professional, speedy job can save you money in ways you hadn’t thought of. Doing the work yourself may slow the project and impact on financial costs. Labouring for your builder can be a good cost-saving method and you can learn along the way.

5. Choosing your team

Get recommendations. Meet them, discuss your project, check previous work and make sure the chemistry is right.

We have learned to pay more for a team who work well with us, are up for a challenge, enjoy their work and take pride in the results. It saves money in the long-term and hassle.

Get your builder to commit to your job until completion, but be flexible. If they are good they will have regular customers who might need them to attend to small urgent jobs, accept this and don’t give them a hard time.

Completed house. View from the rear.

6. Fixed Price or Day Rate?

If your builder is working to a fixed price ensure your specification includes everything – the extras can be financially crippling if you don’t plan properly.

We prefer to work alongside our builders, paying them a day rate. We know we’ll get a good day’s work and experience has taught us renovation work usually uncovers unexpected changes along the way.

7. Demolition Works and Recycling

Building materials have become expensive and difficult to dispose of. Skip companies have to pass on the cost of additional red tape for building material disposal and highways licenses. Recycle where possible – it’s more sustainable.

8. Scaffolding

Make sure your scaffolder knows exactly what works you plan to carry out so they can erect the structure according to your needs. Get a fixed price for the estimated period of works and a weekly rate thereafter in case the project overruns.

Demolition of roof and dormer

9. Insurance

If you use a contractor check they have up to date Contractors’ Liability Insurance. If not, it’s something you should take out to cover the works. Run a safe and tidy site to help avoid insurance claims.

10. Project Manage to a Happy Ending

Whether you employ a Project Manager or manage the project yourself, regular communication with site is essential to ensure everyone understands what’s required of them. Get materials delivered to site in plenty of time to ensure continuation of works. Be prompt, clear and realistic when making decisions. Dithering costs money.

Some information contained herein may have changed since it was first published. Zoopla strongly advises you to seek current legal and/or financial advice from a qualified professional.

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