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Please note that articles on this site & any other 'planning-approval' related web site does not constitute professional advice. All articles are intended to provide a general view of many subjects. We suggest you to consult a solicitor before making any important decisions.  The author is not an expert in any given field.

Property Auctions
Price guide reality
by Howard Goodie

As you will appreciate, I have to start preparing my copy for this article quite a long time before you see it in print, so that by now those of my readers who were either surprised or pleased to see the word fleshed and spoken in my cameo appearance in the middle of September on BBC Breakfast Television and North West News may now have forgotten it. Frankly, if you blinked you will have missed it! If now, my thoughts seem a little scatterbrained this month you will perhaps forgive the flowing of the adrenaline provoked by both the nervousness of having a cameraman prancing around my auction room, coupled with the inevitable "high" with which I leave the rostrum anyway.

I can confess to you, my readers, that the programme did not, I hope, reflect the fact that it was a very unsuccessful auction. As, with my team, I analysed the sale the following morning, that lack of success reinforced the comment that I make so frequently in this column about being very careful of the situation of the properties which you buy. My reserves were low. Generally the condition of the properties was quite good, but they were all in poor situations in areas of low demand. Obviously the knowledgeable audience appreciated that. If you are investing, it doesn't matter how cheap a property is if you can't then find a tenant. If you're buying to occupy or refurbish and resell, make sure it's in a poplar area that will remain popular - or at least be quite convinced it's in a district that is "on the up".

But then again, there were some bargains which, because of the ambience that developed in the saleroom and the resultant mood of the audience, failed to sell. I have subsequently agreed to sell five vacant flats and two flats let on assured shorthold tenancies in a block of 24 where there was also £850 a year in ground rents to collect, at a figure close to the reserve of £60,000. It was the last lot in the auction; sometimes one to watch for, that "tail-end Charlie", if half the audience have by then decamped. Nevertheless, I was pleased to see that the Longden & Cook Commercial logo got a little television exposure; that at least gave me some value from the day.

I am told that quite a few of you find guide prices confusing, and frankly this does not surprise me. The panel of auctioneers of which I am a member, who, under the auspices of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors give advice and guidance notes to auctioneers throughout the country, have been considering the subject very recently. Their view is that guidelines should represent the range of figures within which they expect the reserve will be fixed. They recommend that a phrase to this effect should be included in auctioneers' brochures, wherever guidelines are referred to. Without such caution in fixing the guidelines, unwise amounts can create problems for auctioneers and obviously for would-be bidders.

At one auction local to me (not one of my own, dare I emphasise) a property was withdrawn unsold at an amount considerably higher than the bottom guideline. The difference was so marked that the withdrawal of the property provoked a near riot by the would-be bidders in the room who had been encouraged to attend by a low guideline which was not realistic in the light of the reserve fixed.

In my office, guidelines are quoted to enquirers on the phone but are not published in the brochure, since as you can appreciate there can be many changes in the time between the brochure going to print and the day of the auction. Guidelines that have been thus printed cannot be changed, and yet very frequently the circumstances during the three to four weeks of marketing can provoke a change. There may be a considerable amount of interest in one particular lot, and the auctioneer transmits to the owner various offers which are noticeably higher than the original guidelines. It is only fair then to everybody concerned if all those offers are refused and the guidelines varied to take this into account and probably to take into account that the reserve is raised. By the same token, an owner may originally have fixed a high reserve and during the marketing period comes to the realisation that his expectations are more than the attitude of the enquirers would suggest, and so the reserve is lowered and once again the guidelines need changing. Sellers are not unknown to change their ideas on reserves between instructing the auctioneer, and sale day, entirely without reasonable justification! So you will appreciate that printing the guidelines in the advertisements and the brochure can, in my view, be an unwise move. The increasingly popular internet advertising, of course, has the advantage that the information can be updated on a daily, even hourly basis to accommodate these changes.

The other point I would like you to consider is: why are some properties put in an auction? It is so that open competition for something of particular attraction can encourage bidders to fight for the property. Of what benefit then was the original valuation, as far as the fixing of the guideline was concerned? I have been a valuer, "man and boy", for over 40 years and have been conducting composite auctions for at least half that time. I must confess there are occasions when the advice I have given on value has been proved to be totally wrong by the competition engendered in the room. I very often say to my clients in the early discussions on guidelines and reserves, to their surprise, that it doesn't really matter what I think a property is worth. What matters is how much the two last bidders in the room think it is worth coupled with the extent and desire of the owner to sell reflected in his chosen reserve.

I seem to scatter my articles with clichés, but do remember the one: "valuation is an art, not a science". All that a valuer can come to is a view of what a hypothetical buyer might pay, based on his experience and comparison of the property being offered with others of a similar nature that have been sold recently. That is almost the point where we reach that phrase, beloved of financial services, "remember that past performance ... etc, etc, etc". My article only last month commented on the property which I offered in three successive auctions, where it could have been bought for under £15,000 at the first auction but did not sell, was offered at a slightly lower reserve at the second auction but did not sell, and yet on the third time of offering, with a lower reserve, strong competition from four bidders around the room took the price up to £24,000. Did somebody then, I wonder, say that my guidelines were "up the creek?" You should have been there for that potential bargain at the second sale.

Many authorities and quite a few Court judgements talk in terms of there being a tolerance of 10% on valuers' accuracy in the size of the figure they give. Some judges have suggested that a larger tolerance may be needed if the property is unusual or the circumstances are unusual. Think how often one or both or those parameters apply in the auction room. I would hope that I never get my guidelines worse than 10% wrong, and the figures are not quoted lightly. Nevertheless, one can find that individuals who have seen something in the property that nobody else has seen, or exceptional demand misjudged by the valuer, drives the price up. And finally, whilst I am being so righteous, it has suddenly occurred to me that there has been one occasion in my life where I had some building land where the reserve was at £1 million. The bidding almost stopped at just under that figure and I was about to withdraw, before several bidders took over and I finally had a record sale of £3.5 million! (No, since you ask, it was not my biggest sale ever!) The local authority who were selling were delighted, but myself, the District Valuer and the valuer employed by that local authority, as we sipped our champagne in celebration afterwards, were a bit embarrassed about our valuations, to say the least. It can happen, with the best will in the world; but if it does happen more than one time out of say two hundred lots, maybe those particular auctioneers should start thinking again about how much care they are giving before the guidelines are fixed.

In case all this has confused the issue even more, I will end by reassuring you that the quoted guideline prices are usually fairly reliable when they refer to a property whose type can readily be seen in the area, or when the valuer has extensive experience in the locality. When the property is unique or even unusual, the guidelines can be intended to serve merely as a starting point for the bidding, and neither the auctioneer nor his audience really know where it will all end. That is what makes auctions of all kinds exciting and unpredictable and where they derive their entertainment value, and property auctions are by no means an exception - but such properties are merely the jam on an auctioneer's business. The bread and butter is provided by the vast majority of standard houses, shops and plots of land that come up again and again and which should attract predictable amounts of cash and be relatively easy to value.

I hope you are still finding the ones - the bargains - that the professionals got wrong.

Property Auctions
Cut out competition
by Howard Goodie

I always try to do a deal beforehand because you never know what opposition you are going to come up against at auction. But you should never show your hand in case it does go to auction.” - Michael Kirby, Chartered Surveyor.

Negotiating the purchase of a lot before auction is not at all unusual. Before the day of the sale, you may feel confident enough to risk negotiating for the property. Lucky buyers can acquire bargains in this way but they do run the risk of ‘disclosing their hand’ to the auctioneers and they can be passing the initiative to them.

Whether you take up such an initiative is undoubtedly a gamble. Only you can decide whether it is worthwhile in the light of your desire to buy the lot and to beat the competition that might take place on auction day. On the other hand, by revealing your interest so soon, you can lose what would otherwise be a strong position in your bidding at the auction.

Before you start such negotiations you will no doubt have decided how much you wish to pay for the property. If you are endeavouring to buy before auction, this must be either because you wish to buy the property noticeably cheaper than the amount you are ready to pay on auction day, or because you want the lot so badly that you do not want anybody else to have the opportunity to purchase and ‘bid you up’ on that day. The decision is entirely yours. You must realize that disclosing your interest and your figure at this time gives the auctioneer and the seller an opportunity to adjust the reserve and take into account the amount which they believe you are prepared to bid.

By bidding before the auction you are likely to remove any opportunity of buying the property any cheaper than your pre-auction bid. But this has to be balanced against the advantages of cutting out the competition. If you decide to bid before the auction, you must be prepared to negotiate quickly and if your bid is successful, to sign a contract and pay your deposit even faster. The auctioneer will require you to exchange contracts before the auction, (and probably by several days in advance). You have an even greater need for speed.

If you have decided to buy before the auction you must be aware that there could be other people who have a similar desire to buy early. If, therefore, you have agreed a pre-auction purchase, you should not then leave your solicitor to exchange contracts or memoranda in the normal course of ‘legal’ time. You should press him to complete his enquiries at top speed and to exchange contracts or memoranda as a matter of urgency. You will have to provide your 10 per cent deposit at the time the exchange takes place.

Many auctioneers are willing to allow you to leave your deposit with them and to complete and exchange memoranda or contracts in their office. This will speed the passage of the sale but it is not recommended unless your solicitor is satisfied with his enquiries about the title and background to the property. Only those who want a lot so badly that they are prepared to risk irrevocably committing themselves to a purchase before their solicitor is satisfied, should proceed before then.

Having exchanged, if you then decide to ‘go back’ on the purchase, legal sanctions (including loss of your deposit and other responsibilities to meet damages) will follow. The same sanctions apply if you succeed with a bid on the auction day itself and subsequently withdraw. You must realize that a purchase prior to the auction does not change any of the procedures, responsibilities or actions other than those that relate to attending and bidding at the auction itself.

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Where to start with property investing

Property investor information is available for free with Plan4group.

There are many paths in property, and all are exciting and interesting. For a start, some of the paths in property you could choose from are in the menu.

These of course are not all of the routes you can take.

Plan4group information is mainly focused on residential and in the UK only. Once you have reviewed each path, you have lots of planning to do to make sure you are maximising the benefits of each route. It is best to try to be focused, pick a path and learn as much about it as you can. Once you have enough experience, then if you want to expand you will have a good base to start from. I have found that most people in property who have not been successful, have been so because they tried to do a bit of everything, and bit off more than they could chew. They also had unrealistic low budgets for any refurbishments or upgrades (just look at the twee tv programme property ladder). No one can tell you what is the right path for you. This is something you have to decide yourself. Research this site to find out more about buy to let and property investing in the UK.

How to manage a refurb - Patrick Harrington

An indepth look at how to manage a property refurbishment

The first point I would like to make here is with regards to full surveys. When buying a property you have the choice to elect which type of survey you would like to have carried out. Generally you have three options. Option one is the home buyers report, option two is an intermediate report and option three is a full survey. If the property you are looking to purchase is in need or more work than a kitchen, bathroom and a lick of paint I would suggest you have a full survey undertaken. Even if the property superficially needs nominal work you can still get caught out.

I was recently offered a property which someone had purchased via private treaty with only a homebuyers report. They purchased a property for 110k which required around 15k spent on it to then sell for 140k, sounds okay on the surface. This house was a three bed end terrace house next to the start of another terrace, in fact the start of the other terrace was a fraction under 1m away. The vendor of this house purchased this as their first investment property and was eager to get the first of many properties under his belt.

It transpires that this property has subsidence to the front and side wall caused by drainage problems that were not corrected. I was offered this house for 60k and was told that they would be willing to take an offer on the property. This work will not come cheap especially as the start of the next row of terraced houses was so close to the problem area of this house. As you can see you cannot compare the cost of a few extra hundred quid for the full survey against the loss that this person will make of around 50 - 60k when all said and done.

When refurbishing a property you need be sure of “your intent”; is the property to be sold or to be let?

The reason why you should make this decision before works commence is down to costs.


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If you are going to keep the property the works should be undertaken with ongoing maintenance in mind. As a landlord you will want to keep your tenants happy, the consistent presence of builders will not achieve this aim if works are carried out in half measures.

An example of where your intent for the property can be shown to give two different remedies is easy to illustrate. The fascia’s and soffit’s for your property are not in good condition and your builder asks you what course of action you want to take. If you are going to sell the property you could probably patch these up to enable the sale to take place even if they collapse and fall down two weeks later, whereas if you are going to keep the property it would most likely be the best option to replace the existing with uPVC so you will not be faced with the same problem in a few months time. As uPVC requires no maintenance this will save you time later and also maintain good relations with your tenants. As you can see one problem two different remedies based upon your intent.

Remember - rental voids = costs, builders = costs and your time is also a cost.

The next decision you may want to think about is “your plans”. At this point in time you have no idea what the future will hold. This venture, in your mind, may be the start of a new means of earning a living and you may go on to achieve this aim, the other side of this coin is all to plain to work out for yourself. The reason why I mention this point is down to making a provision for the future.

Let me side track for a minute to explain the point I would like to make here. I started buying a few properties and had the idea of this replacing what I did for a living. I got a few under my belt and I felt things were generally moving in the right direction. Upon the completion of each project, whether it be one of my own houses or a house I undertook the building works upon for others, I removed all the surplus material from site and moved it to my lock up (some 1800f2). These premises that I rent (10k ish p.a. inc) I now need to vacate and it dawned on me that I now have a need to store these materials and tools elsewhere which is a potentially major problem.

Luckily I made a provision for this with some of the houses that I have bought to refurb and sell. Two of the properties had garages (standard single size) and I had been pondering long and hard about the dead money I was pouring into renting my lock up. I also wondered if there was any additional ways in which I could benefit from the properties that I purchase, not just the profitability from the resulting sale.

My solution was to extend the garages on the houses. I changed them from 4.5m to 11.5m and I increased the height from 1.9m to 2.9m. This was allowable on both properties under a planning regulation called “permitted development” without the need for a planning application. Both garages are visible from the gardens of the houses and frankly they are ugly due to their size. I put up concrete fence posts, gravel boards and 6” fence panels and now only the top 2” of the garage can now be seen from the houses. Both these properties are about to come onto the market and upon speaking with the local estate agents I will not have to reduce the sale price by more than £1,000 on each house.

My intent for the long term is to continue to refurb properties as a living so this storage facility is essential to me. By having this storage space it also saves me money. I recently picked up 2000m of skirting, architrave & dado for a little under 20p per m against a retail price of around £1. No doubt this little cost savings over time will end up paying for the cost of these storage facilities.

If your plans for the future are to be materialised you need to make provisions so that you do not take one step forward and two steps back. When looking at a property look to see what value you can add and perhaps what you may be able to retain from it that you can benefit from. I know many people who have bought a house in the catchment area of the best school in the area. They have no intention of living in the property and let it out but as far as the school is concerned they live in the house so their child is then able to get into the school in question.

When thinking about your plans you need to consider how the building works will be managed. The next stage is to devise “your strategy”. Do you intend to farm the buildings works out in full to one building contractor or divide the works up and appoint your own roofers, plasterers, plumbers etc. or perhaps retain some aspects of work for you to undertake yourself. There is a certain logic to believe that if you farm the work out trade by trade you will achieve a cheaper end result but this is not always the case. The other problem you may be faced with is that these singular tradesmen are not the most reliable builders in the world so do not be too surprised if Ronnie the roofer does not turn up for work when you booked him.

By having little or no building knowledge does not mean it has to remain that way. There are a million and one short courses out there in all aspects of building work and they are not that expensive either. If you are about to embark on your first refurb you would do well to spend a little time on site to see how things are done and what duration of time they take. Not only will you learn you will also be surprised and it may also stop your cowboy builders getting up to no good such as accidentally forgetting to insulate new stud partition walls.

The first job that you need to undertake is a complete specification listing each and every job that you want undertaken. I generally do this on a room by room basis with the externals listed separately. You will need this to be able to obtain any prices from your builders. You may want to have this with alternatives and get the builders to price on both options from the outset. Altering the spec after the event generally incurs a greater expense and can also frustrate your builders. Frustrated builders have been known to take out their irritation with silly prices which ultimately you may have to pick up the tab for.

If you have decided to get one set of builders in to do the whole job then you do not have to worry about the manner in which the job is organised, that is their problem – simply agree a completion date from the outset. But if you have decided you get different tradesmen in for each aspect of the job you will need to organise the job in a streamlined way to achieve; 1. the best end result, 2. keep costs down , 3. get the job completed in the quickest possible time and to stop your tradesmen falling all other each other by trying to get their works done all at the same time.

We have just become an ISO registered firm for the quality of our management so it seems that we must be doing something right.

In my opinion the best way to organise a job is as follows;

Gut - Before any work commences on site in any capacity I always completely gut the property. This includes kitchens (simply leave a water pipe with a tap on the end of it), bathroom (leave only the toilet with no cistern), carpets, curtains, internal doors. Basically everything that is not to remain. The removal of the kitchen will also make the property exempt from council tax (Class A or C exemption). Get hold of a copy of the “Classes of exempt properties” list from your local rates department for clarification.

Do not just dump the whole lot in the garden or garage as you are spending your time moving it once and then a second time of putting it in a skip. What I have done of late is look in the local papers of where the job is situated and looked for these adverts where people will come along with a trailer and take all the rubbish away. Don’t do this in half measures get them to do the whole lot in one hit. I recently had four skip loads removed in this way for £320 and they did all the loading themselves, I had to do nothing. You could not get four skips for this money so not only were they cheaper but they did all the donkey as well – fantastic.

I would suggest that you undertake this as soon as physically possible after you have completed on the property purchase. By gutting the property you can start to see the real job in hand. It also allows you the opportunity to make any last minute alterations to the spec before your builders come into give you prices on the work in hand.

Structure - Any structural defects that are apparent in the property need to be undertaken before any internal works are commenced. I use the term structural defects loosely but in essence I am referring to leaky roofs, rising / penetrating damp, woodworm, replacement lead flashing’s etc. If you are undertaking your first refurb project I would suggest dealing with problems with a greater level of structural problems than these listed should be avoided until you have a greater deal of experience under your belt.

Any works that you commence prior to dealing with these problems could be damaged or pointless when you finally address these problems thus resulting in greater costs and possible time delays.

Windows - Double glazing generally takes around two to six weeks to be delivered on site from the placement of order. If your property needs new windows you want to get these ordered up as soon as possible. If you have exchanged on the property there is no reason why you cannot get the windows ordered prior to completion so you have them on site in the very early stages of the job.

Double glazing is a complete minefield and the horror stories that you heard about from friends are probably all true. My friends elderly mother recently had “a” bay window replaced in her house by a very large double glazing company for the tidy sum of £12,000. No, I have not made a mistake with my zero’s. Shop around on this. Generally externally beaded windows are cheaper than internally beaded units. Also stay clear of the double glazed doors as they cost a crazy amount of money for what they are and frankly most of them are ugly and add no value to the property. A stained hardwood door will do the job just as well and save you a few hundred quid in the package.

When ordering your windows go for fully welded units rather than mechanically jointed as they sometimes come apart.

Also get a copy of the window regs listing from your local building control department so that you are sure that the windows that you order comply or further costs and time delays could be incurred. Also watch out for conservation areas which may prohibit certain window types being used.

If the property you are undertaking works upon has old sash window boxes and you intend to replace them with double glazed units generally you will have a half brick size area to make good around the internals of your windows. This is another good reason to get your windows on site a.s.a.p. as you do not want to pay your plasterers twice.

Water / sewerage - You may want to start thinking about this aspect of the job now. It may well be that you intend to install an additional toilet or a shower. Additional toilets are a good thing to have when it comes to selling the property but look to see where the soil pipes from this new toilet will connect onto. If you have to start breaking up concrete drives / pathways to access the existing soil stack you may want to consider the benefit against the cost to be incurred for the extra luxury.

Electrics - What condition is this in ? Fuses in the consumer unit that look like they have been around since the Romans invaded England may offer a good clue as to when the electric’s were last upgraded. Do not panic and start adding on a couple of thousand to your refurb budget just yet tho’. A property I recently bought had a consumer unit with the old fuses that have the fuse cable running inside of them and the rooms of the house had only two not switched single plug sockets in them. I simply changed the consumer unit over to a new RCD breaker type. The sockets were siting in solid walls, instead of installing all the electric’s again and sinking in new double sockets to each of the rooms I simply got socket converters which makes single sockets into double sockets by screwing into the existing single back box. The end result, when the surveyor looks at the property on behalf of the new interested buyer, is that it looks like the electric’s have all been upgraded and also adds as a selling point to the property. The reality is something quite different.

Walls & ceilings - Now all your electric’s have been completed and your property is dry it is time to start thinking about the quality of the walls & ceilings to the property.

You have a few options to choose from on this front. The most popular being dry lining or plastering. Dry lining is where tapered edged plasterboards are used. The tapered edges are taped (scrim), filled with a dry lining compound and rubbed down to give a flat surface. Some people do not like this idea but one point you may want to take into consideration here before you dismiss this route is that around 80% of new built properties choose to use this route rather than traditional plaster. The benefits are speed, drying time and finish quality. You may find it hard to believe in this day and age but there is a shortage of decent plasterers in this Country and it is easier to get a decent finish with dry lining than it is with plastering.

Plastering goes on square edged plasterboards and all of the surface is “skimmed” over to produce a flat end finish.

Depending on the depth of the plaster and the heating to the property plaster can take a long time to dry out to be able to start painting which could cause you time delays. In addition, if you are putting in new ceiling and plastered walls to an area where you are planning on putting down a hardwood floor, you could have a problem with the flooring cupping (bowing) due to the level of moisture in the area which may influence which route you choose.

If you are only planning on small areas or one wall in a room then plastering is the only logical choice, dry lining is more suited to large areas or the inside of a cupboard etc.

Heating - With the walls & ceiling having been plastered you need to get them dry so you can get your project finished. In the main you can choose between gas or electric heating. If the specific property offered the choice I would go for gas every time. I am told that there are lots of good electric heating options that are more economical to run and are safer than gas but generally the end punter wants gas central heating. I only use combi’s rather than traditional heating systems for ease of installation and I generally only use Potterton, Valliant or Gloworm boilers. When the property is sold you could have the opinion “I have the money in the bank so the boiler is not my problem” but I generally find these makes are more reliable and are easier to find engineers for if faulty than some of the other brands on the market which is a nice after thought when you have sold the property.

Quite a lot of firms are NICEIC and CORGI/ACOPS registered so you have the option to possibly get the heating done at the same time when all the flooring is up for the electric’s and you may be able to get a better price by getting both done at the same time from the same company. If you do get them done at the same time ensure walls that are going to be plastered do not have the radiators fitted of this will cause more work.

Watch where the engineers installs the overflow pipe for the boiler, you do not want it overhanging the lounge window for example. Try to get the boiler installed in an area where the space that it takes up is not causing the room to appear too small – garages and cupboards are good.

Bathrooms & kitchens - Generally I go for fully tiled bathrooms. Shop around you can get some half decent tiles quite cheaply. I know that it sounds very boring but I am using a lot of these whites bubble / wavey tiles that are 200mm square. Because they are bigger than the really cheap white ones and are textured they look quite good and as long as you get a decent border with them they look the part but on a cheap budget.

The B & Q take away kitchen range is okay. I get mine elsewhere but this is on account so the prices I get would not be available to you. Get a cheap kitchen, not the rock bottom, but spend time choosing the worktops and handles. You can make a cheap kitchen look the part by having decent handles and worktops, you would be surprised what you could get away with. I know that this may sound petty but try to ensure that when you worktops are fitted that the joins are mitred into each other don’t get these metal strips joining the two worktops together as this can ruin the effect of a kitchen. Stainless steel cookers are popular but if the property is more appealing to an older couple avoid stainless steel as this requires more cleaning.

I generally fit extractors to bathrooms and kitchens and also downlighters as these are very popular and offer a better quality of lighting. Lighting is very important in properties especially in the smaller darker dingier sort as they give the feeling of space. The extractors are generally on a timer and are connected to the light switch in the bathroom.

My market is family homes and in my opinion the women decides where the family live not men, men are generally told where they are going to live. With this in mind ensure you offer a good finish in your bathroom and kitchen.

When looking at a potential property purchase try to avoid properties where the bathroom comes off the kitchen as people do not like this. You can add value to a property by moving the bathroom upstairs but not at the expense of a bedroom.

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Carpentry - If you are changing the internal doors to something timber get these delivered as late as possible into the job and when they arrive get them hung and coated a.s.a.p. or they may go out of shape due the them absorbing the moisture in the air from the plastering for example.

Any skirting boards or architrave’s that need fixing / replacing should be done now. Some other carpentry on the job may need to be done earlier like window sills before plastering or little bits of skirting infill etc.

Decoration - I generally go for painted surfaces only with white ceilings, white woodwork (either in satin wood or gloss) and one generic colour throughout the property – good old magnolia springs to mind.

Floor coverings - Laminate flooring is as cheap as carpet and generally more desirable. If not for any other reason if you intend to do some of the work yourself but have neither fitted carpet or flooring - flooring is easier. Don’t go for this shite that you have to glue as it takes 2 or 3 times longer to lay than the interlocking glue-less option.

Externals - When going through the above sequence apply this to the external work to the property as well. For example when you start decorating the property always look to get the outside done before the inside but have both aspects of the works to do at the same time so you can always move inside if it starts to rain.

Drives and parking facilities are always desirable. You may need to submit a planning application to enable the kerb to be dropped for off street parking. You should look to pick up this aspect of the work at the same time as the windows and water/sewerage in case a planning application needs to be submitted or you could incur further time delays.

Gardens are not my strength. If works need to be done in the garden I generally go for soil or grass seeds depending upon the time of the year. People tell me that this can sometimes add a little value but more importantly it could make the difference between a quick sale or one that is drawn out so it is something that I am going to give a little more time to.

I hope that this has been of some help to you in managing you own refurbishment project.

Patrick Harrington.

For and on behalf of Janpal.

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Schedule of Articles

property investing
property refurbishment
buying overseas property
moving house
home letting
buy to let
home improvements

top 10 celebrity areas
6 up & comming areas
5 signs that an area is up & comming
city types yearn for the country in town
your place in the sun
equity release
planning permissions & extensions
estate agents
rent or buy
buy to let
mortgage overpayment
mortgage endowments
mortgage protection
stamp duty
self build your home
electrical surveys
the cost of moving in
the perfect neighbourhood
council tax
house price league
good neighbours
stamp duty land tax
top 20 towns 2003
cut the cost of moving
interest rates
buying in scotland
dream homes
first time buyers
the worth of uk homes
bad estate agents
keeping up appearances
home improvements

Property Auctions
Do you really need a valuer? by Howard Goodie

Did you absorb that article in Developers’ Notebook on tax saving ideas? It really gave me reminders of quite a few legitimate tax items that are worth considering. I gave it a second read the other day and felt the time was still well spent. It reminded me, too, that I have just received the news that we have secured a speaker from the accountants WJB Chiltern for our next Conference on May 25th. If you don’t note it elsewhere in this edition of PAN, we shall all be at the University of Westminster at 309 Regent Street (easily accessible in the West End) from 8.30am to 11pm - if you stay for the networking supper at the end. As I have been saying to all the enquirers, “I look forward to seeing you there”. I am sure Peter will be warning you as the Order Forms go out shortly we have already received nearly as many expressions of interest as there are places, so make sure you book early.

Thinking about other professionals has encouraged me to consider again the facet of my own work which I enjoy a close second to standing on the rostrum – building surveying and valuation. Strangely enough, I am going to encourage you to think very hard about how often you will need an expensive and thorough valuation and survey before you go out to buy at an auction. Later on in this article I am going to plagiarise part of my own book and for this I apologise to all of our readers who already own the printed word or the CD ROM.

If you are buying for restoration and resale, unless you are very confident of your own abilities and judgment you may well feel you need guidance from a builder on costs and from a selling agent on your eventual realisation figure. I would hope that you already have both in tow on the basis that they have an opportunity to profit from your endeavours as well as you. You might already have decided to cut your builder in for part of the profit, although this should not stop you from ensuring that he is fully aware of how his costs are quantified and how the profit, or dare I say, any loss, is to be split. With a common sense approach you should be able to get a pretty good idea yourself of what needs doing to a property or, alternatively, be capable enough to decide whether you need the advice of a building surveyor or structural engineer. Let me run through many of the items to look for that a surveyor ran through at our last Conference.

The first look. Always start by a slow, and I mean slow, general look round inside and out to get your bearings and familiarise yourself with the property. If you can, choose a time when it’s raining (and if it isn’t the first time, go back when it is). There’s nothing like a cold wet shower down your collar to draw attention to faulty rainwater goods!

Now start to use your common sense and start looking about you more carefully.

1. Structural failures. No one needs to be a surveyor to judge a wall is out of true or a window frame is crooked. Who straightens all the pictures in you house after the dusting? Look for noticeable cracks at the corners of door and window frames, the line of mortar in brickwork being crooked or bent and for settlement over window and door arches. Look for ceiling cornices that have cracked and crooked door lintels inside. If you must be like an old-fashioned surveyor, carry a marble in you pocket to check how sloping is the floor that your sensitive feet have already detected – or if you must, take a spirit level, just in case! Be particularly suspicious of cracks in walls that run beneath the damp proof course level. For good measure it is worthwhile giving a cursory look at other houses nearby to see whether they are suffering settlement. If they do, go back and check for incipient cracks in the same places in the structure of the one for which you are thinking of bidding. Only now is the time, if you are suspicious, to start talking to a surveyor or engineer.

2. Damp. Damp should be obvious. Smell it or feel the humidity; look for old and new damp stains; run your hands over the lower half of the ground floor walls or indulge yourself in a damp meter, if you are feeling adventurous. Then trace back the reasons for any damp you find. Leaking roof or gutters? Faulty downspouts or overflows? An old and faulty damp proof course? Faulty plumbing? They are all curable, at a cost. Then go out and find out that cost.

3. Wood. Faults. Look carefully for the flight holes and you will know you have found woodworm. Make sure you lift the carpets and the linoleum and that you look in dark small corners, under stairs and in roof spaces. If there is fresh dust and clean holes then specialist treatment is necessary. Once you find it somewhere, suspect it elsewhere. Any self-respecting woodworm turns into a little fly in it’s third year and goes prospecting! That’s when it has bored its way out through the clean hole you have found. Woodworm is treatable. Wet rot is mere deterioration in timber which has been subjected to damp and is treatable – just look for the crinkled rotted looking timbers and replace them after you have cured the cause of the damp which caused it in the first place. Dry rot is vicious. Smell, if you are lucky, as you walk into the property – like a cross between wet seaweed and a clutch of vile fungus up close. And that’s what it is. A fungus that can grow large coloured fungous mushroom-like growths. It starts with an airborne seed that fruitfully falls on damp wood in stagnant surroundings. It then grows long thin white tendril roots that go seeking dry fresh timber for further sustenance. I have seen the roots grow through an 18in thick brick wall and fill a dry cellar beyond with a thick cotton wool type mesh in 6 months. The roots will spread everywhere. You will really need a good and thorough specialist to poison and eradicate this menace and cure the conditions that fostered it’s growth in the first place. Make sure you get a contractor who gives you a guarantee that is worth much more that the paper it’s written on! Dry rot is not for treatment by amateurs and your future buyer or mortgagee will certainly need to have the guarantee. Furthermore, that guarantee is very likely only to cover the new timber that has been installed! It will not cover you or your buyer or the mortgagor against future attack of the timbers that have not been replaced.

4. The Cosmetics. This perhaps is not an item which can be covered too lightly, but it should be immediately obvious to you if the bathroom and kitchen fittings need replacing. How are the plumbing and electric installations? How’s the decorating, inside and out? Don’t skimp on any of these and don’t use paint and wallpaper just to cover up any faults.

5. The Exterior. Too often I feel people don’t think about gardens, paths and boundaries. What was that about first impressions? In housing they always count. Think of your first thoughts as you began the first inspection.

So now I’ve frightened the life out of you! If I have, maybe you should think about getting a surveyor in anyway! There are really three approaches:

1. You can call in a builder you feel you can trust. This has the advantage that you have the practical approach and a chance of a realistically quick approximate costing. On the other hand you probably have lost any chance of pecuniary recourse if he misadvised you.

2. You can get a full building survey. If you do this you should ask the surveyor to give you a full and detailed structural survey. He or she will then carry out a detailed inspection of the building and will give you a relatively comprehensive report on the nature of, and defects in the structure. He should be able to give you approximate costs for bringing the property up to scratch and to advise you on appropriate specialist firms, if you require any. The professional surveyor may well be able to advise you on market values as well. This approach is relatively expensive and you may decide that your own initial survey will be sufficient for you to decide whether you need to spend on the cost of such a report before you go to the auction. 3. You can obtain a House Buyer’s report of the kind promoted by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. This report will certainly cost less than the full building survey but is in my opinion of only limited value. You get what you pay for and this report will only give you sketchy comments on likely problems in you building.

And how, you may ask, is a property valued? Avid readers of my past columns, or my book or my CD ROM (see later), I’m afraid may already be too well aware of my answer to that question, so maybe I should avoid answering it this time. I will instead treat you to a copy of my Valuers’ Checklist so that you can do it for yourself.

Obtain as much preliminary information about the property as possible, in particular:

(a) Tenure of site.
(b) Any tenancies.
(c) Size and extent of accommodation and site.
(d) Any peculiarities of the district, situation and site.
(e)  Recent sales, purchases or lettings of the building or ones close by.

Thoroughly inspect the property inside and out.

Ascertain any outstanding defects and deficiencies that need remedying to bring the property up to good standard.

Make a provisional estimate of the costs of curing those defects or deficiencies using specialists where appropriate.

I judge the effect of those costs on the mind of a hypothetical buyer.

Obtain details of recent transactions of comparable properties.

Adjust those transactions for any rise or fall in the market over the period in which they have taken place.

Compare and adjust the information from those comparables so that it relates as closely as possible to the subject property.

For vacant properties use as far as possible values from other vacant comparables.

For investment properties consider rental levels as well as yields of comparables.

Allow for differing states of repair.

Come to a conclusion in the light of your analysis which you would hope will equal that of a would-be-buyer.

And, finally, let me give you the wisdom of the very first valuation lecture I ever attended at Cambridge by a curly red-headed Chartered Surveyor, C.W.N. Miles, who was so good that he subsequently became a Professor and the Principal of the Department of Land Economy at Reading University.

“If” he said “you are going out to value a property in a district with which you are not familiar, talk about it over lunch at the local pub, ask where it is in the local Post Office and make sure that you need to ask the way at least three times before you get there. By then you should not even need to go to see it, having been told all about it before you arrived!”

Unfortunately, with the local pub and post office now gone, you may have to rely on the local estate agent, the postman, your wits and my advice, but I’m sure you will come to the same conclusions! Good luck in your research.

Copyright 2004 all rights reserved