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Purchasing an empty property

Purchasing an empty property

From Cow Byre to Dream Home

Always viewed as a challenge, buying an empty property can be a worthwhile investment, a chance to own something quirky or unusual, a holiday home or an addition to a property portfolio. However, the first step is to make sure you take as many precautions as possible to ensure you buy something worthwhile.

Research – before you buy an empty property to renovate, it is worth doing some homework to ascertain if this really is the property for you, or is it just a black hole into which all your cash will disappear? Probably the best thing to do is to obtain a professional opinion on the matter by instructing a chartered surveyor to prepare you a building condition report. This will set you back a considerable sum of money, and if you are considering more than one property, these costs can rack up very quickly. In the initial stages there are things you can look out for yourself: this should then keep your costs down, and you can instruct a surveyor when you are really serious about a property, and then obtain a detailed building inspection report.

Advice from a Builder – older, often semi derelict properties will have problems ranging from subsidence, damp, dry rot, damaged or faulty wiring, broken plumbing – including collapsed drains etc, or it may that the building has never been used for human habitation before. Whatever the problems, try to keep an open mind and remember that most things can be overcome – at a price! If the basic shell is available at a good price, then even with remedial work, you may still have found a bargain. Once you have a good idea of what needs to be done, speak with a builder who should be able to give you an estimate of time and costs involved. Remember too to check out the VAT position. Some properties – depending on how long they have been empty, may qualify for a lower or zero rated VAT on some aspects of the work to be done. It is worth checking this before any work is undertaken. Make sure you check out the true value of your finished property: speak with local estate agents as to how much similar properties are fetching on the market – and how long it takes to sell them.

Viewings – When viewing your desired empty building, start by looking at the outside. Take a walk and makes notes on the condition of all sides of the structure. A camera to take pictures is vital and can help you explain more clearly your thoughts and ideas to a builder. Take a tape measure and note all the dimensions of the property. Look wider a field and see what other types of buildings surround yours, and note what type of usage and access they have.

Structural Movement – This is of paramount importance. The remedial work for this can be costly and often even when repaired it can make the building difficult to insure. You may not be worried about the subsidence aspect, but remember that one day you will want to sell the property and the ability to obtain good quality affordable insurance will be of paramount importance to any purchaser. Further more, if a property is not eligible for subsidence insurance, it is highly unlikely that you will not be able to secure a mortgage on the property.

Examine walls for cracks – inside and out. Check to see if there are cracks in plasterwork. Look closely at doors and window frames. Stepped diagonal cracks could be there is a subsidence problem as do doors that will not close properly. Cracks above doors do not necessarily mean subsidence but they can be attributed to failed lintels – gain a builder's opinion. No matter how trifling the problem may look, check and double check to make sure you are happy with the work required to make the building good.

Drainage - special attention needs to be paid to drains (if they are in existence!) collapsed or broken drains needs dealing with urgently as ay escape of water into surrounding soil can lead to settlement and thus can often be confused with subsidence damage.

Chimneys and Roofs – Make sure the chimneys are straight as building new stacks is expensive. Roof problems include broken or slipped tiles or damaged lead flashings and worn pointing. Having access to the attic is essential – take a torch and look to see if you can spot any holes or damage to the timbers caused by damp or fungal infection.

Internal Fixtures – Have a look at the electrics of the building. If they are old and worn they may well need replacing. Check with a reputable electrician. Remember to check all the internal wood for evidence of dry rot or fungal infections, these can be treated professionally and need not cost a fortune.

Once you have ascertained the true condition of your property and costed all necessary remedial works, you can then look at the prices of similar converted houses in the same location. Do your sums and see if your chosen property really is the bargain it appears. If you are still determined to go ahead, contact an insurance company who can advise you on the type of insurance you require whilst the work is being carried out and the property therefore empty. This will be one thing less to worry about whilst you watch your dream home become a reality.

Contact Westhill Insurance Services, today.

Posted on 19th July, 2010