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A labour of love with rich rewards

THE idea of buying a romantic, unmodernised property can be immensely appealing, offering both historical charm and the chance to do a place up with your own stamp on it. There’s also the promise of earning yourself a tidy profit when it comes to selling down the road. Simon Barnes, a property consultant, says: “Renovating a house well pays you in the long run because you can do it exactly as you want. And you’ll know the quality will be of a higher standard because you’ve overseen it – you’re going to use a higher quality than a developer. From a seller’s point of view, it’s much better to buy from someone who has renovated by themselves for themselves.”

But be sure you know what you’re getting into. “People think things will be easy to do, and they end up being a lot harder,” says Barnes. For example, if you live in a small road or in a terrace, with no space for trucks or a skip, building work can be a major logistical challenge. Equally, if you’re in a terraced house with no direct access from the road to the garden, building an extension in the back can also be a huge hassle, requiring hand-digging in the absence of the proper machinery. A top floor flat requiring scaffolding means you’ll have to pay for it to go up the whole building – and so on.

If you’re certain you want an unmodernised property, Barnes says the first thing he tells clients is to get a survey done before making an offer. It’s not worth waiting until you’ve secured solicitors and the offer has been accepted, because haggling post-offer can be difficult and unsuccessful. If, however, you present a survey with proof of all the work that’ll need doing when making the initial offer, you’re far likelier to secure a better, more reasonable price straight off, saving time and money for everyone down the line.

“But whether it’s underpinning a house to correct subsidence, getting a new roof or rewiring the whole place, everything can be done,” says Barnes. “The key is to remember that building work always takes longer and costs more than you expected.” Simon Barnes Property Consultants: tel: 020 7499 3434;
simonbarnes @dial.pipex.com.

ONSLOW GARDENS, SOUTH KENSINGTON
This three-bedroom flat needs general modernising and a new staircase. Buy the front patio area and vaults for conversion. Spend £100-£150 per square foot and the flat will be worth around £2,150,000. Guide price: £1,750,000 through Savills, tel: 020 7581 5234, www.savills.com

LOWNDES CLOSE, BELGRAVIA
This four-story, three-bedroom mews house clocks in at 2,382 sq ft and is located at one of the best addresses in London, despite needing substantial work. Price: £5,250,000 through Beauchamp Estates, tel: 020 7499 7722, www.beauchamp.co.uk

WEST STREAM HOUSE, SURREY
It’s not a beauty yet, but you get 1.7 acres of land plus a good deal of square footage with this home in a rural area near the lovely village of Pirbright. Guildford is five miles away with quick access to London. It’s a great opportunity and a big project: the owner would need to install a private drainage system and central heating system along with numerous other works. Think of it as an idyllic Surrey cottage in the making. Asking price: £500,000 through Knight Frank, tel: 01483 565171, www.knightfrank.com