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BUYING

Camilla Dell
MANAGING PARTNER
AT BLACK BRICK

Q.Dear Camilla, I'm buying a property as an investment and want to split it up into three or four flats to rent out. What is the procedure and the order in which I need to do this?

A.The first thing you need to consider is whether splitting the property is the most sensible option. Depending on the location, it may be more desirable to let it as one large house. For example, if the house were in Acton it would make sense to knock it into flats because there simply isn’t the market for big, expensive properties whereas if the house were in Kensington, you would be absolutely mad to divide it up.

A lot of people see buying a large property and splitting it up into a number of smaller properties as the traditional way of maximising the value of a building but in certain cases it can be more profitable to keep it intact. As a guide, take a look at similar properties in the area and on that particular road. If there are plenty of properties split up, then you are probably best off doing the same.

Equally, when it comes to planning permission – which you should investigate before you make the purchase – it will probably be easier to get agreement to divide the house if all the other properties are the same. It’s not inconceivable, though unlikely, that the authority would refuse an application if the other properties on the road were all houses.

Providing you decide you do want to divide the house up, the next thing is to speak to your solicitor – a good property and conveyancing lawyer ideally – about how the purchase should be structured legally. It is possible that you will want to sell some, but not all, of the flats at a future date. Creating individual titles in separate names is the easiest and most efficient way to do this as well as giving you some flexibility.

Once you have spoken to your solicitor, inform your mortgage lender and then speak to a local independent planning expert and the council planning offer.

Q.Dear Camilla, I have always lived in London and now work long hours in the City. I am looking to buy a property in the country to enjoy in the holidays but struggle to get out of London to look. How can I go about doing this?

A.If you work long hours and are therefore unable to spend the time researching the area, the estate agents and, of course, the actual properties on offer, then you need to employ the services of a search agent. If you try to do it all yourself, it will probably take much longer and you will miss out on opportunities.

When it comes to choosing a location, there are a number of things you need to consider. First, decide how much time you want to spend travelling to and from London and how you will travel. If you are going to be driving, then think about motorway access – you don’t want to be next to the main road but equally you don’t want to be driving down miles of country roads on a Friday evening. If you normally take the train, then look at properties that are within easy distance of a train station.

As you are not going to be resident at the property every day and working long hours it is worth finding a property that can be maintained easily. Alternatively, if you find a perfect property that looks like it would be time consuming, then think about organising somebody to look after it for you.

Camilla Dell is the managing partner at search and acquisition consultancy Black Brick. www.black-brick.com.