Updated: Aug 9, 2021
Once or if you have successfully been granted planning permission, the next stage would then to obtain building regulations approval to ensure that what you are proposing is safe for the end users and the environment.
The Building Regulations Approved Documents run from Part A – Structure, through to Part R – Physical Infrastructure for High Speed Electronic Communications Networks, covering amongst other things, drainage, ventilation, conservation of fuel and power, access to and use of buildings, and very importantly, fire. There are two main ways of applying for Building Regulations approval;
Building Notice Application
This meant for smaller scale developments, so perhaps like a house extension where there is an assumed level of competency of your build team/designer, and where the works would not require a fire officer to assess the plans. The scheme is assessed on site as details are received or project milestones are met.
Once submitted, works can start on site 48 hours after the council receive the forms. You don’t necessarily require drawings for these applications, but you may as well give your builder a blank cheque then, so it’s not advised unless you really know what you’re doing, as you may have to prove that certain elements have been carried out to meet the regs.
Full Plans Application
This is where all the information is provided to the council to check before any work commences on site. This would be required for any change of use or mixed-use scheme, new build, or where things like fire escape routes & fire detection systems are required. This is my preferred route, if time allows, as you generally unearth all the potential issues & hazards with a scheme before work begins and any costly changes may be needed once you get to site.
Phew, I hope you managed to take all that in?! Not the most exciting topic to discuss, so well done if you are reading this far down the page! If I can be of any help to anyone with your own projects, help explain anything in a bit more detail, or try to connect you with someone in your area who can help you with your own projects, please feel free to reach out.
Where There’s Muck, There’s Money!
Why a problem property attracts less competition and can bag you a higher discount on the purchase price - Anthony Boyce
Us property folk are a weird bunch, aren’t we? Wired a bit differently to most, don’t you think? Are you like me in that whenever you’re looking for a new project it’s often the smellier, dirtier, more structurally unsound properties that get you the most excited? Thought as much! For me, when I find these issues, it usually means that there are problems to solve, and it’s in the solving of problems that the money is made in this game. When properties are deemed unmortgageable, the competition is largely reduced, as the property will need to be purchased with cash outright or via lending channels which are uncommon or scary to most.
Structural or severe damp issues are within this category of unmortgageable issues. Often the pool of potential investors will reduce again at the mere mention of structural issues, but it’s exactly this sort of stuff that gets me thinking about how I can maximise on discounts!
Now, I’m not saying that you should just go and throw in lowball offers on any property that looks a bit wobbly or smells funny! Some issues can cost the earth to fix but, if you go into the transaction with your eyes wide open, fully armed with a solution, there are some real gains to be made come re-valuation or remortgage time.
If you do come across them though, don’t just listen to the estate agent’s accompanied viewer or your mate down the pub’s view on how bad/good it is and take it as the gospel truth. I’ve found that sometimes even surveyors, the people who we generally rely upon in these situations, can over egg the pudding and put people off wanting to buy these properties.
So, what are you meant to do? It’s easy! Get proper advice from the appropriate professionals who have dealt with issues of this type before. Go to the people who actually fix these problems, not plasterers who say they “have done damp-proofing for over 25years.” They won’t get to the root of the problem, they’ll just plaster over it! I once had a client who had his walls tanked by a plasterer, but the plasterer had stopped tanking at the skirting boards as no-one had taken them off. Six months later, the wooden skirting and door architraves were rotten because the most important part of the tanking of the wall – the junction between the wall and the floor – hadn’t been treated.
Google “Structural Wall Stabilisation” or “Structural Repairs” for a selection of decent specialists. Often these specialist companies will come out to carry out a full survey and provide recommendations and a quote for free. I’m not saying abuse this offer – don’t go to them for their free advice and expertise then employ someone who says they’ll do it for half the price! That’s a great way to wind up the good contractors or any professionals in your area in any industry and will only lead to problems for you in finding help on future projects.
But what you will get from working this way is a sensible, realistic price to alleviate the issues fully as well as that all-important insurance certificate your future mortgage lender may want to see.
The pictures here show a time where working this way paid off for me. A previous sale had fallen through on an end-of terrace property when the mortgage company’s surveyor picked up a slightly bowed cable wall. The mortgage company pulled their offer to fund the purchase, so the property had gone into a “modern auction” sales process.
After viewing the property and thinking it didn’t look all that bad, we managed to get hold of a copy of the surveyor’s report detailing the problem. Basically, as the joists ran in the same direction as the gable wall (common in these older Victorian/Edwardian terraced houses), there wasn’t anything tying the brickwork gable wall into the joists to provide lateral restraint. In modern construction a simple metal strap is screwed to the brick or blockwork (usually strapped within the cavity) and then taken across and screwed to three of the joists which run parallel to the wall. This provides the support needed to stop the wall bowing over time under its own weight.
The fix in our situation was to introduce a similar strap, albeit retrospectively. This was carried out by drilling metal tie rods (they look like long threaded bolts without a head) through the outer brickwork at the joist levels, and screwing them through three of the existing floor and ceiling joists. The pilot holes are then filled with resin cement and they become as strong as the brick around them.
Another issue we faced with this property related to the bay window. Bay windows are often not built on as chunky a foundation as the rest of the house, so have a tendency to move slightly with cracks appearing in the mortar joints and close to where the bay window joins the rest of the house. This had also been highlighted in the surveyor’s report, putting off potential purchasers as the wording used made the problem sound far worse than it was. The remedy for this was to grind out the existing mortar joints to the bay window’s brickwork and install steel bars using a crack stitching kit. Easily sorted!
The same goes for damp-related issues. When there’s that musty smell of damp you know there’s a lot of dirty work in stripping all the walls and plaster back to brick to rectify the problem, possibly joists to repair, replace and re-support. But usually the problem isn’t as bad as you think: what’s on the other side of the wall affected by rising damp? Is there a gully or rainwater downpipe? A cast-iron drainage channel set within the pavement? A cracked or blocked rainwater pipe or hopper?
Although we were planning to get the property fully treated for damp (plaster off to a minimum 1,200mm from ground floor and tanked internally – although you should go higher to perhaps 1,500mm if it’s really damp) we had one localised spot where the wall was absolutely sodden. It turned out the culprit was a blocked drain gulley in the front garden which was overgrown with weeds so just a simple bit of DIY maintenance and rodding would have prevented that from becoming such an issue in the first place.
All in all, the structural works we carried out came in at around £4k, and being fully insurance backed, the property was now mortgageable. The agreed purchase price before it fell through and went to auction was £80k. The surveyor’s report had identified all the structural issues having an estimated cost to rectify of over £10k. Our agreed purchase price, including the £6k modern auction fees was just £58k – so being brave and fully understanding the issues and what was involved in rectifying them had saved us £18,000!
In the interests of complete transparency, we needed that saving on the property in question. We had real issues with the builders we were using and ended up parting ways halfway through the build. Delays, new builders uncovering shoddiness, re-doing work and the added holding and finance costs meant that our planned ROI (return on investment) took an absolute hammering so, had it not been for the saving up front, this project would have left us short when paying back investors after we had mortgaged!
So there you are. I hope this has given you a little bit of confidence to perhaps take a punt on that next smelly, wobbly wreck you walk into? It’s like anything in this game: do your research, be prepared for some trial and error, and make sure you know the people who can solve your problems and save you a few quid. There are some real deals to be had, if you know just that little bit more about solving the issues you’re facing than the agent or vendor selling the property.
A great way to find out about dealing with problems like these, or to find the contacts you need to help you, is via networking. I’ve found that property investors love telling you all about the problems they have faced on their projects, and how they got around them to turn their failures into successes, so if you haven’t started doing this yet, get your ass along to a local property investor event and ask questions! I really can’t stress enough how much networking has raised my game, so you’d be surprised what it will do for you too.
As always, I’m happy to have a chat if you need a little help in this area, so please reach out to me.