A Step-by-Step Guide to Property Renovation

There are many reasons why one might want to undertake a property renovation project. Maybe you want to:

• Upgrade the condition of the rental property you own, so you can profit more from it and keep your tenants satisfied.

• Find a house that needs renovation and invest in the project for future profit.

• Put your own stamp on something and give the house a unique look between vintage, modern and your personal taste.

• Afford a house in a great neighborhood that comes a bit too expensive for you otherwise.

property renovation

In any case, house renovation is exciting, it can be profitable, and it develops many skills, including organizational. In this article, we’re going to help you work precisely on this skill – every successful project starts with an excellent schedule of the steps you need to take to complete the process. A step-by-step plan is necessary if you wish to avoid hidden costs, maintain the project within a certain budget, and complete it in within schedule. 

We’re going to walk you through a complete property renovation step-by- step guide which you can follow when you’re taking on a property renovation project and modify it to your personal needs and specific situation.

Property renovation

Property renovation is a great way to achieve big value for your money. Rather than building a house from scratch and spending so much time and money on materials and construction and builders and whatnots, you can simply create a dream house by renovating one that has gotten a bit rough around the edges. 

property renovation

This is a great investment for your money. If you do it right, you will reap fantastic rewards of the property’s end value. However, if you get it wrong, it can turn into a disaster and eat up your finances and time without any hope for profit at the end. This is why you need to plan it all out very carefully, stick to your step by step guide and pick your project wisely.

Step one: Weighing up your budget

Regardless of whether you’re investing in renovating a property you already own or in a completely new property renovation project, it’s important to determine how much money you’re willing to put into it. Find out what are the local sale prices and figure out what end value do you want to achieve. It’s best to have a contingency of 10-15% that allows you to cover any unexpected expenses that usually arise when you’re renovating an old property. Split your budget in half: it’s easier if you determine separately the price for structural work and the price for decorating and furnishing the property.

Step two: Find a renovation project

If you’re looking to buy a property for renovation, you will soon realize there are plenty of buildings that can do the job. Before you start sifting through them, you need to establish some basic criteria. Your number one priority is location. If you’re renovating a property, you can change with money and effort everything you don’t like about it. What you can’t change is the location – and trust me when I tell you this is your number one asset when it comes to property renovation projects. Buy property in an expensive neighborhood that people don’t want to rent or buy because it’s too old and doesn’t look good, renovate it and watch the property’s end value go through the roof. People will be fighting to pay you for it! This is why a good location is your top priority when you’re looking for a property renovation project. There is a lot of competition for renovation projects in good neighborhoods, so brace yourself. 

Usually, when there is a lot of interest (and there often is for the good deals), the properties go to sealed bids. Your real estate agent should inform you of the date and time when the bids must be in and that’s the deadline for providing a letter stating your final offer. A personal touch may get you a long way sometimes: you can send a letter to the owner of the house and explain why choosing you is a great decision. 

Bear in mind that houses in popular areas come at premium prices because they’re in high demand. Doing property renovation in a part of town that people don’t want to live in unless they have no choice will probably not yield you a big return of your money, no matter how much effort you put into it, so unless you’re willing to spend a lot or strike on a surprisingly good deal, it’s best to look for locations that are good but not excellent.

property renovation

Location is not everything though: look around the neighborhood, check out the nearby amenities. If you’re planning on renovating a family house, look around if there’s a school nearby. Is there a hospital around? What are the transport links? If you plan to rent property to young people, check out the local social scene, are there any clubs or bars around? All of these can raise the end value significantly.

It’s important to understand the local planning policy in order to pick a sustainable property renovation project. If you only plan to do internal works, there’s nothing much to worry about because this doesn’t require planning permission, but if you want to do work on the front facade and to add extensions, you need to figure out if the local planners will allow this. 

The next step when you’re looking for the right property renovation project is to make an assessment of the structural quality. You may want to hire a professional surveyor for this. You need to make a list of the most common problems in old buildings and to assess the property for any of them in order to determine the final cost of the project. Look for problems with the heating and the electric, dampness, cracks, drainage issues, etc. These things are usually difficult to determine by yourself, so it’s best to commission a building report by a professional. The more thorough the investigation, the bigger the price, of course. So you need to be sure about the location and everything else before you commission a detailed report. In the long run, it will save you a lot of money because without this report investing in a property renovation project is too much of a risk and can turn out way more costly than your budget allows. And if the report shows too much work is needed, you may use it to pursue the vendor to lower the price.

Here is a short list of important things to look for when you’re investigating the structural quality of the property:

• Structural movement: Look for cracks on the walls. They often indicate the building has moved. This might due to changes below ground, such as subsidence and heave, or due to structural failure. Is there an active movement? Or are these old scars that can be removed with a cosmetic procedure?

• Electrical: Look for fuse boxes with no circuit breakers, old-fashioned round pin plugs, and light switches. In general, if the system hasn’t been updated for more than 25 years, it needs work.

• Heating: You need to determine what kind of heating is used in the property and to check the condition of the heating source. Would you need to invest in a new, more efficient electric storage heater? Investigate the property’s thermal efficiency as this is important when it comes to the performance of the heating system.

• Plumbing: You need to consider whether the sanitary hardware needs to be replaced with modern units and whether you’re going to relocate or add bathrooms because extra plumbing would have to be added.

• Dampness: This can be a total dealbreaker for many properties. Some tenants and buyers reconsider paying for the perfect property if it has signs of dampness, even if it’s just a slight tint of that distinctive smell of moisture. It’s just bad for your health. That’s why you need to resolve any issues related to an excessive amount of moisture on the property. Look for mold, damp patches, rotting timber and white salt deposits on the bricks – they are all signs the place is too damp and you need to fix the damaged parts and resolve the issue.

• Infestation: Look for pest droppings, dead bugs, active pests, evidence of nesting, weird holes and gnaw marks. Termites are extremely destructive so pay special attention for signs of those. They may cause extreme structural damage to a building and any wooden furniture. Pay attention to visible holes or sagging floors or wood that makes hollow sounds when you tap on it.

Last but not least: Work out the cost of the property renovation. You need to know if it fits in the budget you established in step one of the property renovation guide. It’s easier if the property is already in a habitable state. If it’s non-habitable or even non-residential and you intend to convert its usage, it’s best to contact a specialist and to determine the additional costs for that. Aside from the property renovation costs, there are additional fees you should consider too, for example, reconnection taxes.

Step three: Deal with the paperwork

That might be the most annoying part of it all. You need to get all these permissions before you can actually start with the property renovation. Start with completing the deal for the property you’re planning to renovate, of course! Then it’s time to check for renovation restrictions in your area. Once your plans for renovation are set, you must identify with a professional which aspects of them require a permit. To get a home renovation permit, you need to complete a permit application, share blueprints if your project is big, and pay the fee. Some inspections are required at various stages of the project to verify that you’re following the plans and that you meet the codes and you need to figure out when. For example, in some cities, it’s required that the holes for deck footings are inspected before the concrete is poured. Don’t worry if you fail an inspection! This might cost you some money and time but overall it’s just a bump in the road you can easily fix. 

You need to hire contractors and subcontractors to do the things you don’t plan on doing yourself. It’s good to get the right insurance for your property renovation too. Many projects that you undertake as a part of an extension or renovation project might not be covered by the existing home insurance policy. Make sure you’re not ignoring the renovations insurance and that your main contractor has site insurance. If you’re hiring subcontractors, you need to sort out the site insurance yourself. 

Step four: Stabilize the condition of the building and make sure it is weatherized

property renovation
Property renovation

In order to start the real property renovation work, you need to make sure the building is weather tight by covering up missing doors and windows and part of the roof. Depending on the condition of the structure, you might need to place steel ties that stop the lateral spread in the walls or the roof, or scaffolding to prevent the structure from collapsing. Things like plastering and electrics need a dry building, or it’s a safety hazard. It’s crucial to get the roof coverings on and to create a safe environment for the property renovation.

Step five: Talk to the neighbors

Everyone knows how stressful it can be to live next to a building site. It really takes the edge off the inconveniences you will be causing your neighbors if you make the effort to be considerate and inform them in advance about when the renovation work will start, how long will it probably take and what they should expect. Talk to your builders about the shared entryways and communal areas and make sure they don’t leave them messy. And here’s a quick tip: your neighbors can actually give you great ideas for your renovation project, as maybe some of them have experience with doing such work in this neighborhood and have renovated their own places or have ideas for renovations they wish they had in their unit.

Step six: Schedule your renovation work

Make the schedule about the order in which things must be done for maximum efficiency. It might need some adjustments later in the process but it’s good to have an idea about the order in which things are going to be done. 

Here’s a quick example of how property renovation work is usually organized:

• Demolition: Dispose of parts of the building that will be replaced further on. This is the part for which you need to rent a huge container for the waste. 

Structural carpentry: You need to work on the carpentry that is supporting things such as drywall, new or replaced walls, doors, etc. That’s the stage where you move or construct walls, enlarge the window openings, create new openings for doors or remove old ones, add beams to support bigger weight upstairs, add new windows, etc. 

Electrical, HVAC, and plumbing work: You have to install these while the walls and ceiling are still open (but of course weathertight). Call the HVAC company to install ductwork for ventilation, air conditioning, and heating. Now is the time to deal with the new electrical and plumbing systems.

Insulation: This is one of the fastest stages in property renovation. Install fiberglass insulation or whatever kind of insulation you’ve picked in the walls and attic. Proper insulation reduces energy costs, prevents moisture condensation, lowers noise levels and emissions of pollutants. You will definitely benefit from including it in your property renovation process.

• Closing up the walls and roof: This is the stage when you close up the walls, usually with drywall. You need to get your inspections from the electrical and perhaps the plumbing inspector before you do that. 

• Windows: Now it’s time to install the windows.

Fine carpentry: This includes any kind of carpentry that is not structural: including baseboards, trim around windows and doors, etc. This is the stage at which your property renovation project starts to look as if it’s almost done.

Cosmetic interior jobs: That’s when you paint the walls, hang the wallpaper, seal the trim and finish the surfaces in general. There is a debate whether you should do the paint jobs before you sand the flooring – if you lay the flooring first this means the paint may get on it, but if you paint the walls first the floor sander may scrape your walls. 

Flooring: You put the final floor covering that you’ve chosen. That’s the last stage in the interior property renovation because it’s important to save the surface of the floors from damage.

Exterior work: Siding and gutters are usually done when the property renovation job is almost finished on the inside.

These are the primary stages of the process of property renovation. The exact order in which you perform them depends on the state of your property, so you need to tailor it to suit your situation and needs. 

Step seven: Do the work:

property renovation

Now all that’s left for you is to follow your schedule, try to stick to your estimated budget, and enjoy the process! Property renovation may look as if it takes around 30 minutes to complete if your experience with it comes mostly from watching shows on the DIY network. It’s a complex and difficult task one needs to undertake with a lot of patience and attention to detail. But most importantly, the property’s end value pays off for all the hard work you put into the renovation!