Archive | August, 2012

What Sam Bought Today: Diary of a Property Renovation (Day 6)

22 Aug

Profitable property renovation is a juggling act.  Note the operative word here is “profitable”.  Anybody can renovate a property – but not anybody can make a profit.

Renovating a property for profit involves balancing the three key variables of a project: time, money and quality.  When you increase one variable you impact upon the others – for example, to improve on quality you end up spending more time and/or money to achieve a better finish.  A prime example of this, was me deciding to remove the wallpaper throughout much of the property – this increased the quality of the finish, but had an impact upon the timings of the project – it took longer to remove the wallpaper and prep the walls.

On any property renovation you have to be clear from the outset what the budget is, and be sure it is realistic.  However, budgets are not some ideal set of “stuff you need/ want to do” – budgets are created by:

a) What needs to be done to renovate the property

b) What the resale price is for the property

c) How much money you want to make

Every property and every budget is different – however, what does remain consistent is the necessity for a contingency budget.  No matter how tight your budget, you must always be prepared for when/ if things go wrong.  I usually work on a margin of 10% of the total project budget to be my contingency.  Other people may work on more or less, but for me 10% has always served me well.

So today, this contingency has been put to good use…

Today the electrician has visited to do (what I thought would be) a partial rewire.  To cut a long story short – it needs a full re-wire.  We have negotiated a good price for the full rewire of £1800.  However, this has obviously had a huge impact on the budget and the timings.  Where before I had allocated £700 for the electrics – I now have to find an additional £1100 for this job.  Truth being – that’s now blown my contingency out of the water.  The project had an original budget of £8000 – thus a 10% contingency gave me £8800.  I’m now £300 short from my contingency which means we are looking like we are set to go over-budget on the renovation.

The only thing I can do now to stop this spiraling (and I mean it – this is the stage when costs start to spiral) is to look at what else we can cut back on to keep the “juggling act” going.  What happens at this point, is that you start spending more time, in a bid to try and reduce the money you may spend elsewhere.

In this case, on this property renovation, this has now meant – where earlier in the day I thought I was going to call a landscape gardener in to sort the garden – we have now had to tackle the garden renovation ourselves.  Again, we are back to the project triangle of: time, money and quality.  I admit, a landscape gardener would have produced better quality, however if I want to try and keep a rein on the budget and ensure this property renovation remains profitable, I have to then put in the time to try and keep this on track.

I am grateful, to my friend Jo (green fingered expert) who came over this afternoon to lend a hand and help us out, and Dimitris has shown amazing manly strength in getting rid of the tree stumps (it’s amazing what super human strength you can find to try and stay on budget!).

I would also like to say at this point, thank you so much to so many of you who emailed me with ideas and suggestions for the garden – and especially to those of you who offered to come and help me for free.  I am touched by your kindness. Thank you xxx

Here is progress so far:

Until next time…


What Sam Bought Today: Diary of a Property Renovation (Day 5)

21 Aug

It’s only day 5 and there is not a piece of me which does not hurt or ache. It’s like I have been to some kind of Sadomasochistic gym.  I have cuts, bruises, scratches, scrapes and all other manner of wounds in the most unexplainable of places.  And the dirt and dust – I won’t even go there!  But this is what real property development is like – when you get “down and dirty”!

The great thing about “getting stuck in” when you do a development is that it gives you a greater appreciation about what is involved “work wise” and about how long things take to do “time wise”.  I admit, I am not a natural manual labourer and most of the time I employ people to do this work for me, but on this project because of our tight budget and timelines I’m doing as much as I can myself.  And to be frank, it serves as a great reminder as to how hard the work is and how long things take to do.

But I love stepping into the shoes of a “tradesman” because for this short period of time I get to become “one of them”.  It’s hard work – but it’s rewarding – at the end of every day I feel like I have done an “honest” day’s work…in fact, I feel like I have done a “proper” day’s work!  So proper in fact, that every day after we knock off I also feel compelled by the tradesman’s ritual to visit the pub on the way home.  And my God that drink tastes good – it just feels so satisfying and “earned” as I sit there gently sipping from my glass in my paint splattered clothes.

And I know I have been accepted as “one of them” now – as when they pass me by at the pub (in their matching paint splattered outfits) they raise an eyebrow or cock a knowing grin at me – which says – you’re also into S&M.

Here is a progress so far:

Until next time…


What Sam Bought Today: Diary of a Property Renovation (Day 4)

20 Aug

Hot, sticky, steamy…and a little bit disappointing.  That’s how I’d sum up Day 4 of my property renovation!

It’s been 32 degrees outside –  but it must have been closer to 50 degrees inside my kitchen…as I had the wallpaper steamer plugged in for most of the day.

All wallpaper and tiles have been removed from the kitchen – and the the units can now be removed – however we can’t remove all of it as we need to keep the kitchen sink for access to water.

Maybe it’s me, or maybe it was the heat – but everything seemed to take longer to do…and so it seems progress was slower.

I’m disappointed that my great “freecycle the garden” idea doesn’t look like it will pan out.  I had several interested freecyclers round who were tempted by the idea of free mature hedging, conifers and shrubs.  (I laughed so much when somebody thought I was offering a “mature hedgehog”!) But, alas this idea doesn’t look like it will work as everybody is put off by the “matureness” read “hard work digging it out” – so basically the garden renovation looks like it’s now firmly back in my court.

I have NO idea how I am going to get rid of the 10ft conifers – or how I can even get close enough to have a proper look with the huge spiky hedge which blocks the way.  I have looked at buying a chain saw – but feel unless I want to re-create scenes from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre I should probably avoid the purchase of this!  A mini digger has been proposed (not in budget – yikes!), but we have since discovered we don’t have the access necessary to get one to the garden.  I think I’m going to have to find some big, burly blokes with raw man power…now that will make an interesting search in google…think I’ll turn the Parental Guidance OFF!

Here’s a round up of day 4:

Until next time.

What Sam Bought Today: Diary of a Property Renovation (Day 3)

18 Aug

We are motoring ahead with the property renovation – and are just about on schedule – despite me changing my mind about what we should do on Day 1 of the project (this always happens, I don’t know why I bother having a plan!)

When I first took this project on (which had an original timeline of 15 days) the plan was to leave much of the wallpaper in situ and paint it.  However, the more I looked at the property and the offending wallpaper, the more I decided the wallpaper had to come off…

I knew when I started taking the wallpaper off I was taking a risk, as you never know what horrors lurk behind the wallpaper – and if you will end up having to re-skim the walls (in the worst case – maybe even hack off all the plaster, go back to brick and then board and skim).  If that were to happen it would add perhaps a couple of grand to the budget and probably a 2 week delay…so I knew I was taking a chance.

I am so pleased to report the wallpaper has come off really well and the walls are fine underneath.  No crumbling chunks of plaster and no signs of any hidden horrors!

I have now taken a deep sigh of relief and got on with filling and sanding the walls in preparation for painting.

Admittedly the preparation of the walls has added to the timing of the schedule – however, this kind of balances out time wise as if I had left the wallpaper in situ it probably would have required additional coats of paint and some repairs – so I think we’re OK for time.  Anyhow, this way we will get a cleaner, more modern finish and I am pleased with that.

Sadly, I am still not doing well with the flooring budget.

Previously, I had visited a large carpet retailer for the flooring who had quoted me £2.2k.  In a bid to beat this quote, I decided to contact one of those “home visit” companies who claim to have cheaper prices as they don’t have stores.  Not the case.  The quote has come in £150 dearer – and I don’t even like their flooring designs as much.

So – while I may have saved on the walls, looks like my floors are going to be over-budget – unless I start to radically re-think how I am going to do this..

Here’s a wrap up of day 3 of the property renovation:



Until next time…


What Sam Bought Today: Diary of a Property Renovation (Day 2)

17 Aug

Today we have made a start on stripping the wallpaper in the property.  Fortunately, we haven’t had to to use a wallpaper stripper yet – while these are good – I do find that the heat and moisture they emit can sometimes make the plaster underneath crumble meaning you end up having to skim the walls after – which would not be good for our budget or timelines!

We’re on a tight budget of £8k to complete this renovation so we are doing a lot of the stripping out and manual labour ourselves to keep costs down.  I’ve just had the flooring quote back which was £2.2k (my striped staircase is costing a bomb!) so I am now having to organise more quotes and hopefully I can find a supplier who can meet with my expected flooring spend of £1.5k.

Here is progress so far:


Until next time….