Many property pundits and property professional like to make predictions on the future of the UK property market and house prices. There are also a number of banks and economists that are prepared to put their reputations on the line and estimate where the average UK house price will end up. These projections rarely vary greatly but some have proved far more accurate than other particularly after the last property boom. Amongst one of the best respected and accurate is the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. They do have the advantage of having so many members who have the unenviable task of valuing people’s homes and properties. For the new year of 2013 they are predicting a rise in house prices of around 2 percent which given the economic landscape is a positive and sustainable increase. They are also tipping an increase in transaction volumes with the number of property sales thought to rise by a around the three percent mark edging them tantalisingly closer to the million sales marker. This is still a far cry from the heady days of average number of transactions edging up towards 1.7 million at the height of the property boom in 2006.
Many property investors, property developers or speculators are often looking for cheap or bargain properties most professional developers usually purchase off market. This is usually through property traders or from property auctions. Property auctions have changed dramatically in the last fifteen years with people from all over the country and world having access to online property auction listings. Many novice property developers and investors believe that it is simply a matter of chancing your arm at the auction buying a cheap property and then finding a good builder to get it back up to standard. However it is better to get your builder involved before you buy, they can often spot problems that you may miss and could potentially save you thousands of pounds. One thing to consider is that if you had a property with a serious structural or other defect and you wanted to mask the issue you would probably look to off loading a problem property through the property auctions. So be aware that less honest vendors may pass their problem properties onto you. So before you buy set a realistic budget for all the various trades and work that may be required to your auction property. A quick look at the type and age of the consumer unit (fuse box) can give you an indication of if the property may require a re-wire. There are some items that may seem a luxury but dependant on the area can be a good investment. Things like reinstating original period features or altering load bearing walls to open up smaller reception rooms to suit more modern family living styles. It is also important that you do not miss out items like outside space as this could put off drive by viewers and will affect the look of online details. You will find that many builders have worked on auction properties before and will be able to advise on what has worked well for other property speculators and developers.
Home owners are often looking to add a bedroom or master suite and often with houses or bungalows that have large loft spaces a loft conversion is the answer. Loft conversions vary in cost and complexity dependant on the size, specification, layout and design of the existing construction. With more modern properties the roof structure is often constructed using roof trusses rather than the traditional stick built method of purlins and larger rafters. This means that members of the roof trusses are often in the way of living space and need to be removed to make the loft space useable and ready to be converted into a loft room. However when the roof trusses are altered or sections removed this can affect the structural integrity of the roof and this can be potentially dangerous and costly to repair if not done correctly. So your building contractor or architect will need to employ the services of a structural engineer to make sure that the new design conforms to part A of the UK building regulations and is safe. The alterations can be made if the existing structure is upgraded this is usually done by adding additional timber and steel supports usually in the form of steel beams or RSJ’s as they are more commonly know. These are often used to support the new floor joists and upgrade the roof structure once sections of the roof trusses have been removed. These new steels transfer the weight or loads from the new floor and roof structure down onto existing load bearing walls. It is important to select a building contractor who has experience in working with structural steels and carrying out more complex projects as the positions of these steels is critical to the structural integrity of the roof. This is particularly important if you currently have a trussed roof and you are installing ridge or cranked beams to carry the loads that have been transferred from the trusses that have been altered or removed.
Many property owners and property developers lack either the time or experience to undertake their owner building project management. Those that try to take on this role can find it both a challenging and sometimes a costly experience. When you employ a project manager or main building contractor you do not just employ their skills and experience but also their access to a network of trades people and property professionals. Dependant on the type and size of the building project you may find a variety of issues that need to be addressed during the building project. With a good competent building company or by employing a good project manager these issues can be addressed quickly and with the costs controlled. If you are a first time property developer and your building contractor calls you when you are busy or at work and tells you he needs a structural engineer on site the following day this will cause you a great deal of stress. However if you get a call from your main building contractor or project manager saying there is an issue but he has arranged the correct professional to site and will keep you updated on costs and will not go ahead with any additional spend without your written authority you will feel more relaxed. You will also be able to keep costs and your budget under control. With an experienced main contractor or a project manager they will be able to update you regularly with a cost report. These are usually broken down into two main sections measured works and instructed works. Measured works are the pre-agreed works from the quotation or from a building contract usually in the form a JCT building contract a home owners JCT or minor works JCT. Instructed works are usually called extras, so from instance if you add a double socket or there are some extra joists that need replacing. If you chose to manage a building project yourself you often find that your various contractors will present you with unexpected invoices at the end of the project. The other issue is that the work can fall between trades so for instance your kitchen fitter and your electrician may argue of who’s job it is to fit the kitchen extractor. With a main building contractor or project manager they will make sure that all these issues have been resolved prior to your project starting. So it can often be far more cost effective in the long run to use a main building contractor or project manager who usually charge around fifteen percent on top of their net costs. You do not need many issues or extras during the build to run up the additional fifteen percent of costs and this is without considering putting any value on your time or the stress of running a project with limited experience.
Many property owners either decide to upgrade their existing homes or decide to buy one that requires building work to save costs or give themselves a project. So where is the best place to start? Well it is important to consider the whole project and what you are looking to achieve from your renovation project. We have often be asked to add alarm systems, T.V. points or outside taps and other items once the plastering has been complete which has added costs, rework and potentially affected the final finish. So the first thing to do is work on your design this does not always mean a full set of architects drawings, although even on small projects they are a good idea if the budget will allow it. So get some drawings or do some sketches, it is a good idea to do small sketches of how you want certain details to finish to help your builder get you just what you want. Along with your drawings you need a list of what you want to do and what materials you want to use. This is called a schedule of works although on bigger projects the projects manager or contracts administrator will use a variety of documents that are cross referenced to form the project documentation and contract documents. The more work effort and time you put into this the easier it will be for your builder to provide a fixed price contract for all the works. This is important as it is the only way to really obtain like for like quotations that allow you to choose your building contractor. When selecting a building contractor it is important to see one of the projects they are currently undertaking and talk to some of their previous customers. Different building contractors tend to be better at some types of work than others simply because of their experience and their employees skills and experience. So ask contractors about similar projects they have undertaken and do a little research so you can ask them a few technical questions about building regulations and how to finish various robust details of the build. Your contractor should be able talk not only with authority about building regulations but also with a passion for your project. Those contractors who are genuinely passionate about their work will leave you with a better finished project than those who just see it as another job.
With the temperatures dropping some home owners are having problems with condensation which can lead to black mould growth. This can be an unpleasant issue in the home and can affect your plaster and decoration and can also be a potential hazard to health. The issue of black mould growth appears in houses at cold spots that are called dewing points. This usually happens when the building fabric becomes cold and the condensation condenses on the cold spot and allows the correct level of dampness for the black mould to grow. This can then spread to other areas of the property the places that tend to be worse affected are behind furniture the corner of rooms and ceilings particularly on and adjacent to external walls. Many homeowners suffer this year after year and face the annual spring clean and redecoration but there is a permanent solution. You can fit a unit in the roof void called a P.I.V. this stands for positive input ventilation. These units work excellently as they work to reduce the humidity levels in your home solving the root cause of the problem which is condensation and high humidity levels within the property. Once a unit has been installed and all the historic mould growth has been removed the property will remain free from condensation related mould and you can start to enjoy your home again. Many home owners try various other options first from dehumidifiers through to cutting in additional air bricks. The majority of the time this is not enough to resolve the issue and it is either only partly resolved or the mould and condensation will simply move to a different area of the home.
The first stage of planning a home extension is to get your home extension designed so you will need to get your ideas or sketches draw up by an architect. These will either form the basic design for your planning application drawings or for your building regulations drawings. The first stage is that your architect will meet you at your property and carry out a survey of the property, to create drawings of your property, it is these drawings that are called the existing drawings. From these drawings the architect will be able to take measurements and work out how best to get your ideas into a fixed design and in the form of a drawing. Then you can check these drawings and make sure you are happy with the proposed design for your new home extension. Then these drawings can be submitted for either a planning application or a full submission building regulations application. Many home extensions can be built without the need for planning applications but it is important that you or your architect check to make sure and either get it in writing or apply for a lawfulness certificate. This will be important if you come to sell or remortgage your home as any conveyancing solicitor will check this is in place before they complete any sale or remortgaging transaction. If you do need to obtain planning permission to build your home extension you can either go through the planning process which take a couple of months and then apply for building regulation approval or carry out the two applications concurrently. The planning process is to determine that your home extension project is in line and in keeping with the current development of your local area. The building regulations process is to check that what you are proposing to build will meet the current building regulations. These are split into various sections titled with a letter for instance part “A” covers the structural integrity, part “P” covers the electrical installation and part “L” the thermal efficiency of the property.
There are various types of roof structures and they are repaired or designed with a combination of timber and steel trusses or roof members. The two main types of roof structures are trussed roofs which are usual on more modern properties usually properties constructed from the late 1970’s to modern day. The second type is often referred to as being stick built, this is when individual timbers or steels are used to form the roof structure. Roof trusses are usually designed and constructed off site and then delivered as readymade trusses and placed on the wall plate and lined up and braced together on site to form the roof structure. With trussed roofs the skill and experience required to fit these correctly is at a lower level than that required for stick built roof structures. Often when more complex roofs are designed and constructed on sites they usually combine individual or linked steel beams as well as individual timbers usually in the form of rafters. The two main timbers used when constructing stick built roofs are the purlins and rafters. Purlins are normally large timbers or steel beams used to reduce the span that the rafters cover by supporting them at the half way point or breaking the span into even thirds. Many home extension roofs use ridge beams this allows for warm or open roof design and is used to eliminate the potential for roof spread. Roof spread is when the loads from the weight of the roof puts too much pressure on the wall plates and can cause the walls to be pushed out. This is a very serious structural problem and can be both challenging and expensive to remedy. One of the more unusual and difficult structural roof steels is a cranked beam. These are some time used to transfer roof loads down from the roof and still allow for a vaulted ceiling or one with sarking detail, or partially sloped ceilings. Cranked steel beams need to be both perfect in length in both directions from the crank angle and the angle must be degree perfect to allow the roof loads and the roof plan to be constructed with the structural integrity as designed. So you will require a competent and experienced roofing and building contractor to make sure these are installed correctly.
Many home owners long for extra space and a modern and contemporary home extension but are unsure how to get their home extension projects underway as they fear the costs of such a project. So how do you know that your home extension is going to be in your budget? The obvious answer is to get quotations from local building contractors which is simple on smaller projects. If you have a grander or more unusually building project it is a good idea to employ a quantity or building surveyor. There is a cost involved in this but it can save you huge amounts of money in the long run. These professionals will look at the project and check the costs are below or in line with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors standard schedule of rates. They will help you put a building tender together to make sure that the prices that you get back from building contractors are like for like and that no items and costs have been omitted. This helps reduce the chances of extra and additional costs they will also control costs on site so that extra work and extra costs are all agreed on site prior to you suddenly receiving an unexpected bill. They will help you get a contract in place that both protects you and your building contractor and their role in the project is to act as contracts administrator. They will also be able to recommend building contractors who they have worked with previously and know the quality of their work. Although many home owners are concerned about the costs involved in employing a professional to oversee their building project it does add a level of protection. Many people have stories to tell about less competent and unscrupulous builders and these will be frightened off by the involvement of a contract and a professional to oversee the building project.
When converting an existing property to a new use it can prove both an exciting and rewarding experience both financially and personally. This will require planning permission and building regulation approval. The planning can add value to your building as soon as it is granted this is called the planning gain and some property speculators and property developers simply focus on adding value to their property and projects and then selling a property ready to develop. The next consideration is the building regulations approval these can be both onerous and expensive depending on the type of property and the end use. If you are converting older properties or carrying out a mixed use property development the building regulations and other statutory requirements need to be carefully planned and budgeted. With sub division of properties there is an issue called compartmentalisation this is where individual residences flats or muse dwellings or separate commercial units need to be separated from each other. This is when the individual units are separated or compartmented from acoustic and fire spread from the neighbouring units. When carrying out conversions over many floors or in period building this can require careful planning as some services like drainage will need to pass through or from one unit to another. Sound or acoustics requires a carefully specified design and good onsite installation as the units will have to be sound tested upon completion. The integrity of the buildings fire separation between units will be inspected at the site visits by the building control officer. It is important to get a good building contractor on board who has experience on this type of work and can check the design options and advise on cost savings and value engineering. This could save you thousands of pounds and their experience can prove very valuable when any issues that have not been seen or discovered becomes an issue on site.