Monthly Archives: July 2012

House sales rise by 11%

The number of property sales has increased by 11 percent from the same period last year. Many believe that this is partly due to the rush by buyers and sellers to beat the end of the stamp duty holiday. This is of course good news for building contractors who are often enlisted to help either prepare a home for sale. Or when a buyer moves in add an extension or make other alterations or repairs. Home buyers surveys usually pick up on some issues that need to be addressed as an ongoing schedule of maintenance. Some home owners are choosing to get a pre-sale survey completed to stop surveyors from picking up any nasty issues that could be a deal breaker and rectify them before they put their properties on the market. Damp, leaking roofs, structural issues and dodgy electrics can all scupper a house sale and often buyers look for large discounts as they fear further issues. People are always very wary of structural issues and often these can be rectified for just a few thousand pounds when a buyer might well ask for a discount of tens of thousands. It still remains a buyer’s market and even the slightest hint of a structural issue can cause a vendor to lose a buyer. With full structural surveyors starting from a few hundred pounds it can be a worthwhile investment. Often small cracks to masonry can be resolved with the use of Heli tie crack stitching bars and issues with roof structures can be resolved by inserting a steel beam or additional timbers.

Home extensions and play rooms

With the arrival of even a small baby your home suddenly starts to shrink, and starts to look like a toy shop. So many new parents or those with growing families find they need extra space in their home either to accommodate their children and all their toys or a room for the grownups. A simple ground floor extension is often the best way to add that valuable extra space. From as little as fifteen thousand an extra room can not only add valuable space but also add value to your home. With a home extension rather than other building projects the vast majority of the works in carried out externally so you can continue family life relatively unhindered. Many home extensions no longer need planning and can be started in a few weeks adding that all important room ready for family parties or extra guests at Christmas. Many home extensions are at the rear of the home so this also allows parents to watch the children playing in the garden as well as adding items like by-folding doors that allow extra light into your home. With the property market still stalling many home owners and families have decided to extend their homes rather than move to a bigger home and face the challenge of finding a buyer for the home they have out grown.

Building a home extension

What you need to know before you build a home extension. There are many things to consider when planning a home extension. Will I need planning permission for my home extension? Will I need building regulations approval? Will I need to have plans draw up? Do I get quotes for a home extension? Do I need a contract with my builder? Well to answer the first question it depends on the size scale of the home extension and where you home is located. There have been changes to planning law in recent years that mean you can add a home extension without planning permission if it fits certain criteria. The key is to contact your local authority planning department and get the information in writing in case there is any comeback in the future. The reasons for the need for a planning application for a home extension are many and varied from the requirement of conservation through to permitted development rights and agricultural covenants. Although planning is complex and there is no simple answer that covers all home extensions building regulations approval is far simpler. You will need building regulations approval to your home extension. There are two ways you can complete a building control application either through a full plans submission or using a building notice application. Although building notices are cheaper and simpler they are really only useful for small domestic extensions like porches or small kitchen extensions. The best way to obtain that all important building regulations application completion certificate is through the use of a full plans submission. This answers another question you will need to have a full set of drawings done so that not only your building contractor knows what to build but so building control can check that what you are building complies with the current UK building regulations. Once all this is in place you will need to find a building contractor to build your home extension. There are two main ways to run the building stage of your home extension either simply get quotes from local builders and hope it all works out OK. Or employ a quantity surveyor or project manager to run the building project, select contractors and manage the building tender process. This comes at a price usually around 15% of the project value but can be money well spent if you find yourself in dispute over extra charges or the quality of your build. These professional will usually provide you with a building contract a JCT is the industry standard and there are several types, a minor works JCT, home owners JCT or a design and build JCT. Reputable building contracts will be able to advise you on these aspects and should be able to recommend all the professionals required to successfully complete your home extension.

Adding a porch

Adding a porch to a property can add value, space and give your home more curb appeal, the two main options are fully enclosed or an open porch. Open porches can often look very appealing but do not allow secure storage or weather proofing. Many family home benefit from having a porch for the storage of pushchairs coats and shoes. This can give other rooms in the house less need for storage and make the home feel less cluttered. The key to adding a porch to your home is to pick one that is in keeping with the type and style of the property. For instance adding a full white UPVC porch to a period property is perhaps not the best way to add value or space. The roof lines and details are critical to make the porch add to the overall look of a property as well as adding extra space. With porches being small it is worth considering opting for an open roof design (often referred to as a vaulted or warm roof ceiling) this give more feeling of space and roof windows can also be added to again make the space more light and airy. Although the vast majority of porch extensions do not require planning permission it is always best to check with your local authority planning department. Porches do however require building regulation approval usually carried out under a building notice. This allows works to commence on site within a few days of the building notice application being applied for. The use of large timber beams and period roof details can really add to the look of a porch but the size and scale of these details need to be well thought out to create the right look for the property. The other consideration is if the porch will be heated or unheated. The sensible option is to opt for unheated but many people can chose to add some heating to assist in drying coats, shoes and other items. I would advise a very small amount of heating to a reasonable well insulated porch. The consideration is that often when the front door is open you will lose any heat that has built up in the porch.

Refurbishments of period properties

When you are undertaking the refurbishment of a period property it is always a good idea to start at the top and work down. So first check the chimneys and roof conditions usually at the least the chimneys will need flaunting and perhaps pointing and ridge tiles often need to be removed re bedded and pointed up. Then the gutters need to be checked for any defects and then check if the walls have any cracking or missing pointing. One item that is often overlooked is the drainage it is worth getting the drainage installation surveyed for any defects as this can cause more serious problems if it is defective. It can lead to subsidence and other defects to the foundation so a worthwhile investment. It is always worth considering the replacement of any damaged or missing original features as these will add considerable value to a period property as well as increasing your enjoyment of your home. It is also important that the external landscaping is in keeping with age and style of a property. Although a neat Japanese garden may look beautiful it could well devalue a period property that would benefit more from a cottage or traditional English formal garden. The same applies to material choices and lay outs simple knock thoughts between rooms make period properties more in keeping with modern living. With that said they must be done sympathetically so that items like period plaster coving are still retained. One of the worst things you can do is trying to replace or repair period features with poor reproduction items. These can look very poor and are immediately recognisable not just too period properties purest but to anyone visiting your home. So do not be in a rush to do get your project complete make sure that you chose items wisely and take the time to find appropriate contractors with suitable experience in this type of property development.

Mechanical heat recovery ventilation contractors

The installation of Mechanical Heat Recovery ventilation systems is becoming more common on self builds, new builds and even some to retrospective fits in property refurbishments. The systems basically take the air from warm areas of the house like Kitchens and bathrooms back to a central point and then recovers the heat from the extracted air and replace it usually into a central hallway. The systems are very efficient they usually recover over 95 percent of the heat they recover often using a plastic heat exchange component. The critical part of the installation is the quality of the fitting and commissioning, these units usually require ridged ducting and some sections must be insulated ridged ducting. If the units are not correctly installed they can get a build up of condensation and this can then leak out into ceiling voids or back to the unit and cause a short circuit damaging the main units. The units cost from around two thousand supplied and fitted dependant on the size and complexity of the installation. The commissioning of the units is also critical and the flow rate from each duct discharge point must be balance and meter readings taken to make sure that the system runs at its most efficient. There are other less expensive options to improve air quality and the efficiency of the overall SAP rating. The installation of positive pressure units can be a less expensive and efficient way to control air flow. They are also referred to as positive input ventilation units and the installation of one unit usually in the ceiling void above the central stairway means that even without any further at source extraction a property will still pass part “F”, of the UK domestic ventilation. All contractors that install these units should carry a BPEC card that covers them for the installation and commissioning of domestic ventilation units.

Conservatories and garden rooms

Many home owners are looking to add extra space and enjoy indoor outdoor living by adding a conservatory or garden room. So what is the difference? Usually a conservatory has a glass roof and a garden room has a traditional slate or tile roof with lots of glass and often double opening doors onto the garden or more recently bi-fold doors. Although conservatories are often a cheaper alternative many home owners and particularly home buyers are starting to find large white UPVC conservatories have a less natural look and would rather opt for a garden room. Garden rooms often require planning permission but they do offer a much more useable space in winter when conservatories can be cold. Just the feeling of large expanses of glass in winter can be off putting. With a garden room you can still enjoy the views of the garden while still feeling snug on colder days. It is easier and more economical to heat a garden room and it is more practical to open up existing living spaces into a garden room by inserting and RSJ (steel beam). This gives a more open and family friendly living space and is ideal for entertaining. The key as with any building project is to take the time and effort to get the correct design and also chose the right building contractor. If the property is a period property it is important that your building contractor take the time and effort to match in brick types brick bond and jointing and finish details. The roof can really improve the look of a property if the design is well thought out and the finishing details are well considered by the building contractor. It is these small finishing details like the use of cast iron effect guttering and weather boards or other finishing details to eves and gables that will make your garden room stand out from one that has been put together with less care. The other consideration is a patio or deck that leads onto the garden makes sure that you make this large enough. Very often home owners can make these a little tight and guests can find their chairs perilously poised on the edge of decking or patios. Enjoying a gin and tonic on the deck is never quite the same if you are under attack from garden foliage or worried your chair is about to fall off the deck onto the lawn. So take some time to plan your project and take the time to check your building contractor’s references.

What sells big houses?

There are several items that sell larger properties when you get over that million pound barrier buyers become rather choosey and the wrong kitchen may not stop a sale but could hit the achieved sale price. Firstly when dealing with top end properties you must fit a kitchen that is both in keeping and of a suitable standard. Buyers will not pay the top asking price for a high end property that boasts a standard kitchen they will be looking for a brand kitchen. They also want to see the right level of bathrooms and ensuite for a five bed house they will usual want to see three ensuite and a high quality family bathroom. Buyers of this type of property usually have big families or lots of guests and if they are being asked to pay a good price they will want plenty of toilet and wash facilities. Large open plan kitchens and family living spaces are essential for modern buyers they are not just buying bricks and mortar but a life style choice. Do not skimp on fittings buyers want to see good quality but neutral tiles and sanitary ware. The other thing to consider is the outside space, I have heard of potential buyers choosing one house over another because one had a big pond or impressive water feature, so you cannot afford to leave the outside to chance. Of course all this comes at a price and it is often better to do very little than spend a limited budget on the wrong areas. Professional property developers make a good living at this end of the market and although they use their money wisely they know not to cut corners if they want to achieve a good sale price. Also entrances can be improved by adding a porch and good quality double doors this can improve the all essential kerb appeal and make your property stand out in an estate agents window.

Tips for successful property development

There are three main cost considerations when you carry out any type of property development from refurbing a small terrace house through to a multi million pound housing estate. The first is the acquisition costs, this is the price you pay for the land or property. The second is the build or construction costs this could be a simple refurbishment budget though to a full construction cost contract. The third is the GDV this stands for gross development value this is the end sale or sale price of the finished project. If any of these figures are incorrect the profit can quickly slip away, the most common mistakes of novice developers is to overestimate the sales prices and underestimate the build costs. If you are buying at auction or even on the open market if you are working on unrealistic sales figures or optimistic build costs your sums will allow you to pay over the odds for the property or development site as other more seasoned developers have been more conservative on sales and have allowed a contingency for the build costs. So the best thing to do is start with a small simple development like a two bedroom terrace house and even if you cannot sell for your desired asking price you can rent the property for a rent that will hopefully cover costs. I have never seen a first time developer buy a large project and it go well, there must be some but particularly when the market is not rising even those with experience can get caught out. In fact many developers have looked at finance costs and availability coupled with challenging sales conditions and have simple decided to shut up shop until they see the market start to move upwards. With this said those that have cash on the hip can get some good bargains with the number of depressed and bank owner land sales. So make sure you buy wisely in areas where you can resell easily and quickly. Get a few quotes from contractors before you commit and do not be lead too much by the estimated GDV or sales figures that the agent who is selling the potential development quotes.

What will happen to house prices?

House prices continue to stumble along with small movements up and down giving neither comfort to the optimists or pessimist. Indeed the same data is often used by both camps with negative data being picked up as continuing pent up demand and the pessimists suggesting that it is because of a lack of demand. If you look at mortgages which have a huge impact on the property and construction sectors you can see both positives and negatives. Mortgages are cheap with low interest rates and good fixed rates available however this is offset by tight lending material. Even though house prices are static it is still an achievement considering the wider economic backdrop. The bank of England has recently continued with its position of low rates and increase quanitive easing with more moves suggested soon to keep inflation on target. But the key is mortgage criteria and money supply when banks have access to cheap money and an increased supply they feel they are in a better position to lend. To increase lending they will relax lending criteria and the upward cycle begins. When lending criteria is relaxed more people can both practically borrow at the same time they have the confidence to borrow. The opposite is currently happening with property buyers and property developers less excited about buying assets that could fall in value while loans become harder to come by. It is interesting that new built homes and developments are seeing price rises against all odds. This is probably due to the recent low build rates in the UK making new homes much rarer than in the boom years of the mid 2000’s when every city’s skyline was peppered with tower cranes. Some economists are now predicting a fifteen percent increase in house prices over the next five years believing that the low supply rates will drive capital values higher.