Archive | April, 2013

Am I Brilliant In Blogging?

26 Apr

I swear this April is my most AWESOME month ever!

I have now received an email to excitedly inform me I have been short-listed for a Brilliance in Blogging Award!!


For me to have any chance of getting anywhere I need YOU to vote for me (well, only if you agree I deserve to win an award for Brilliance in Blogging!)

My category is Lifestyle and the criteria is:“These blogs are personality-driven, where bloggers share stories, anecdotes, ideas and experiences about home, personal relationships and what it’s like to be them”

Well, I like to think I do that – so if you agree – vote for me!

So, I hate to beg, but I’m *down on my knees* pretty please move your mouse over the button and VOTE FOR ME!   And, feel free to get any of your friends, family and pets to vote for me – the more votes I get the more chances I have!

All you need to do is click the button, enter your name and email address then scroll down to 15: Choose your favourite blog in the Lifestyle category – and then select What Sam Saw Today

Thank you *BIG KISS*



Choose Yourself. Don’t Wait To Be Asked

25 Apr

Five years ago I started writing “Sam’s Auction Tips”.  It was a weekly tip sheet about some of the best buys in the auction rooms.  I pestered friends and family to circulate it.  I really wanted everyone to share in the joy of buying property from auction.

Then (almost) 3 years ago I started writing my blog and that took over from Sam’s Auction Tips

Then 19 days ago I sent an email.

I decided it would be awesome to have my own column in the most popular and widely read property magazine in the UK: Homes & Property in the Evening Standard.

I didn’t know the Editor.  I had never met her or spoken to her (I tried but nobody would put me through!)

So I emailed.

I didn’t actually have a column sample, but I had the germ of an idea which I thought could be awesome.  So that’s what I told her.

25 minutes after I sent that email she replied:  “Drop by and see me sometime”.

So I decided I would and I dropped by 4 days later at their swanky (and slightly intimidating) offices in Kensington.

We discussed, debated and deliberated about the column.  She told me she would give me a trial.

15 days after that meeting, my column in Homes & Property is now REAL.  How AWESOME is that???!!

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You can see the full article: here

The moral of the story: Choose yourself.  Don’t wait to be asked.


Postscript: My column will not replace my blog – there are too many things I share here which are just NOT publishable 🙂

Top 10 Property Renovation And Resale Tips

22 Apr

Every renovation no matter how small, big or long is an opportunity to learn.

My property renovation while being simple and short (although the sale seemed to take forever!) has still thrown up a lot of learnings which I would like to share.

1. You make money when you BUY property, not when you sell

I know this saying off by heart.  It was one of the key reasons why I tried to pay less for the property in the first place.  I did not want to pay £147k, I actually wanted to pay £139k.  However, that was not going to happen.  After the auction, another party was also interested in buying the property and they offered £146k.  I had a choice at that stage to either over-pay (on my ideal price) to get this deal or walk-away.  Even though the sums were tight I decided I would rather pay a bit more as I wanted the chance to make a bit of extra money.  Without the deal, I had no opportunity for a relatively easy route to make some extra cash.

2.  Keep attuned to market sentiment and react appropriately

When I bought the property in the summer time, the market was *hot*.  There was limited supply and a whole heap of demand, this kept prices strong.  However, cue the onset of winter and a rash of cheap repossessions at the bottom end of the 3 bed market and suddenly the house didn’t look as good value for money when compared to the competition half a mile away.  The areas of the repossessed properties may not have been quite as salubrious as our area, but it became increasingly difficult to justify a £50k price difference.

3. Listen to viewer feedback and overcome any barriers

At the same time as the market started to de-stabilise slightly, I also learned of the issue with regards the perception of parking at the property.  The property had communal parking with no individual allocation and this was seen to be an issue with every buyer we got through the door – despite there being plenty of space.  On any viewing I made sure I parked a little further away to ensure there was always extra space available in the parking area.

4. Do not be afraid to drop the price – but understand price search bands

There came a stage when points 2 & 3 (market sentiment and viewer feedback) collided and I felt the best thing to do would be to reduce the price to incentivise more buyers.  £5k was cut from the asking price – but nothing happened.  The fact was a £5k price reduction was not enough to put the house into a new price band search category.  To open the house to a new and wider audience the price needed to be cut further to place it in a different price band: the price was cut by a further £5k to enable this.  Within hours of the price cut, the demand for viewings went through the roof!

5.  Be careful who you choose as an estate agent – and keep tabs on them

I chose a local high street estate agent who had seemed very proactive at the valuation, but this interest in selling my property soon fell away (they were later sacked and another agent instructed).  I also had the property listed with Hatched an online estate agency and so I felt I had all bases covered.  But, I should have stalked the estate agents more with regards inquiries for the property and possibly reacted quicker to the market circumstances – this would have sped up the sale.

6.  Build in financial buffers

While I had expected the project to be quite straight forward – and it was – with any renovation there are always surprises which you have not budgeted for.  This comes under contingencies – and it’s something which you must always be aware of – and always have money ready for.  The first contingency got used when I found out a FULL re-wire was required.  The second contingency got used when £10k was cut off the asking price.

Without those contingencies built into the budget from the outset, this little profit making property could easily have turned into a loss making project.

7.  Wait until you feel you REALLY want to make a sale

I was not a desperate seller.  I had no need to sell the property in a hurry, nor any real need for the money, however I did want to sell the property.  In the beginning, I was happy to wait until I achieved the original asking price.  However, over time and with the change in council tax bills and watching the changing market I decided I needed to act to create a sale.  The price reduction was critical to ensuring this would happen.  I knew the profit margin would be hit, but I decided I wanted to make a sale sooner rather than wait for the possibility of a larger profit margin.  At the end of the day, a sale is a sale.

The one thing I would caution: once you reduce your asking price, it is pretty difficult to increase it again – so be sure when you do this, it is actually what you want to do.

8.  Work out the best way to finance your project from the outset

One thing which really struck me from my financial calculations is the amount of money I ended up paying for the finance.  Not only did I have the arrangement fee, security fee and surveyor fee, I then had the actual interest on the loan.  Fortunately, I have commercial finance so there is no redemption fee – however with what some banks charge for this, this could have crucified what little profit there was.  Finance costs on this project came to 25% of the total costs.  If this project had been bought cash the net profit would have increased by £3,965 – an increase of 23%.

9. Weigh up future plans and opportunity costs: hedging is expensive

I wanted to keep my options open in terms of whether the property was sold or rented long-term.  Taking this balanced approach – or hedging bets – is expensive.  The money borrowed cost 25% of the total costs – and ate heavily into the net profit margins.  However, it meant I could keep my options open if another project came along.  Unencumbered properties need to be owned for at least 6 months before they can be refinanced and in that time period you may have seen and lost the opportunity of a lifetime.

If in doubt, taking finance is a cheaper “opportunity cost” in the long run.

10. Don’t be afraid to do a different deal

From the outset, I have admitted that while this property is not far from me, a family house is not my usual target market or type of property.  However, I chose not to let that stop me.  I did lots of research with estate agents to find out family trends (is it true that everybody wants an open plan kitchen/ diner/ lounge?; Should I take this dividing wall down?) and spoke to friends of mine who lived in family houses, had families of their own and asked them for their opinions.  I listened and learned and tried to incorporate my findings into how I shaped the development – with a little bit of “me” added in for good measure.

I have learned a lot from such a small project – and I look forward to finding the next project where I can continue my journey!


How To Make Money From A Simple Property Renovation

19 Apr

The property sale has completed and the money’s in the bank!!

Now you may remember, this was a property I bought after auction (i.e. it was a property which did not sell in the auction room and was still available to buy at reserve post auction).

For me, the decision to buy was a quick one – the fact was; the property was located less than 10 minutes from where I live and didn’t really need much work doing to it.  I knew it was never going to set the world alight in terms of what could be done with it, nor the money which would be made from it.  But, you know, I was happy.  For me – it gave me a little project to do, which was local and wouldn’t take up a lot of time or money.

The property renovation took exactly 18 days – it was a bit longer than originally anticipated (I had hoped to complete it in 14 days).  But, having found out the property needed a complete rewire and the decision to strip the entire property of wallpaper meant I created delays which could never have been built into the original schedule  (which was already tight from the outset).

Anyway, I think we did a pretty good job on such a tight budget and time frame – the whole series is on my vlog here: What Sam Bought Today: Diary of a Property Renovation

But, you can also see the before and after photos here:

Front external:

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Downstairs WC:

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Store to Study:

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Bedroom 1:

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Bedroom 2:

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Bedroom 3:

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So, now I know the key thing you want to know is the numbers – so without further ado, here they are:

Property Renovation Sums:

Property Purchase price:                                                                                               £147,000

Purchase costs (inc. legal fees & stamp duty):                                                          £2697

Finance costs (inc. arrangement fee, security fee, surveyor & loan interest):    £3965.32

Materials & labour (inc. new kitchen, full rewire, carpets):                                   £7836.71

Decor and staging:                                                                                                            £70.50

Etc (inc. utility bills, petrol):                                                                                          £121.35

Selling costs (including legal fees and estate agency fees) :                                    £1179.60

Total costs (excl. property purchase):                                                            £15,870.48

The property was sold for £179.995, so after costs and the purchase price the net profit is: £17,124.52

I plan to post my top 10 lessons from this project next, but the key points worth noting at this stage are:

  1. Look how little the actual renovation costs were.
  2. As a proportion of the total costs look how much the finance cost: 25%
  3. Note how much all the other incidentals add up to – the renovation costs are not even half of the total costs
  4. Remember I have used a double contingency: firstly the full re-wire and secondly the £10k price reduction
  5. Note I sold this property myself with Hatched which kept the selling costs down

In conclusion:

As a project, this was as easy as they come.  The property didn’t have any major renovation surprises.  It was a fun, easy and simple project which I loved doing.  It was great to be able to experiment with selling the house with an online estate agent vs. a high street estate agent, and I have loved sharing the ups-and-downs with you all as we have gone along.

Making money from property is possible – however it is no longer the route to riches and overnight success story which so many of us were brought up on in the days of Property Ladder.  However, what this real life property renovation does show you, is that with a bit of hard work, some time and some persistence money can be made from buying, renovating and selling property – even in a difficult market!

*NB. The figures altered in my favour from my original post as the bank overstated the redemption figure for the loan which has now been settled.

Where There Is Muck There Is Brass: Water Treatment Works For Sale

17 Apr

If it’s true “Where there’s muck, there’s brass” then these former water treatment works which are being sold at auction, could well make you a s**t load of dosh!

But, if like me, you are not familiar with the mechanics of a water treatment works, this simple video: Waste Water Treatment Made Simple explains it:


Now, I don’t think the water treatment works which are being sold at auction, are anything like the size of that shown on the video – or that you’ll be starting your own water treatment plant.  However, if you fancy a site which has potential for a variety of alternative uses and a development angle, then this could be your chance to grab your own piece of a “phosphorous fountain”!


Bovey Cross Water Treatment Works, North Bovey, Newton Abbot, Devon

Guide Price: £150k


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Bovey Cross offers a rare opportunity to convert a former water treatment works into a detached 6 bedroom, 3 bathroom holiday cottage with a swimming pool (no pun intended!).  Situated on an elevated site of approx 0.4 acres in a rural location in the Dartmoor National Park with extensive views towards Moretonhampstead and beyond.  The site is a short walk from the picturesque village of North Bovey with its pub and local church.

Full plans for the conversion were obtained in 2012, however it should be noted that “the development should not be used or occupied other than for the provision of short let holiday accommodation and shall not at any time be used/let/sold or otherwise occupied as a separate dwelling. No person, couple, family or group shall use the accommodation for a single period or cumulative periods exceeding 28 days in any calendar year”.

For more info: Bradleys Estate Agents


Dale Water Treatment Works and Springs, Cumbria

Guide Price: £20k

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This former redundant water treatment works and land is situated on a site of approx 0.49 acres.  Occupying a scenic location some 1¾ miles north of Kirkoswald in a rural spot within Cumbria. This site offers two parcels of land, upon one of which is a former redundant pump house.  For potential future uses, interested parties should consult direct with the Local Planning Office: Eden District Council.

For more info: Pugh


Clarence Villa Waste Pumping Station, Bideford, Devon

Guide price: POA

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Clarence Villa, a former waste water pumping station enjoys a fine location on the banks of the River Torridge at East the Water, Bideford.  The site occupies an overall area of approx 90 sqm (968 sqft) and is located adjacent to an existing doctor’s surgery and a public car parking facility.  The site benefits from planning consent for office use.

For more info: Bradleys Estate Agents


Hallaze Depot, Penwithick, St Austell, Cornwall

Guide price: £200k

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This former water storage facility, offices and depot occupies a site area of approx 1.6 acres.  The site is fenced and access is through double gates. There are a variety of buildings on site including: an office in the style of a bungalow, an old mining engine shed, a pump house, shaft head building and an attached store. The site offers enormous scope for a variety of alternative uses, subject to planning permission. Please note there is an uplift clause.

For more info: Bradleys Estate Agents


Kincraig Waste Water Treatment Plant, Kincraig, Invernes-shire

Guide price: £10k

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The site of a demolished sewage treatment works measuring approx. 32m x 20m (0.344 Acres).  The site is overgrown and is on two levels: the higher level at the entrance gate is surfaced with hard core and appears to be a landscaped area around underground tanks. The lower level extends to the side of the stream. The site is mostly bounded by a net and concrete post fence.  Land to the north of the site (some 70 metres away) has recently been developed for housing by Wilburn Homes. The site offers potential subject to all necessary consents

For more info: SVA


Lynton Water Treatment Works, Lynton, Devon

Guide price: POA

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A substantial former Water Treatment Works site measuring approximately 1.48 acres.  The site contains a building on two floors with various pipework and pumping equipment which will be left in situ. There are also various other buildings on site which form part of the sale.  The site is mainly level and is set in a very pretty valley next to the Barbrook and all within the Exmoor National Park. There is road access to the site and subject to the constraints laid down by the National Park could have a variety of end uses.

For more info: Bradleys Estate Agents

Happy hunting!