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Are you looking for a renovators’ dream? Do you find yourself viewing properties and knocking on internal walls hoping for the sweet sound of a hollow stud wall?

Hard hats, dust, design, project management, frequent trips to use the neighbour’s bathroom. Not for the faint hearted but the results can be spectacular, achieving a space tailor made for your lifestyle and a positive return on investment.

When Kendra and Mike stepped onto the property ladder in London’s trendy West Hampstead they didn’t have the cash to achieve their dream of spacious high spec flat. It took them 18 months of dedication to get there the hard way. “We undertook a full loft conversion, moved walls, built in wardrobes and re-finished every surface” Kendra explains.

At Christmas 2005 they moved into a 2x1 flat in desperate need of repair. Currently their impressively remodelled 1,100 ft2 three-bed, two-bath plus dining and dressing room is back on the market and they’re looking up the ladder. The results reflect their commitment to creating a space that they’re proud to live in and show-off.

There are several reasons this renovation was such a success. Here are six of the big ones.

1. Understanding of the vision before purchasing the property
This can be difficult for a first-time renovator. Kendra and Mike invited a builder to come and inspect the property before making an offer. The builder confirmed their broad ideas could be realised and provided a rough idea of basic costs, ensuring they went into the project with their eyes wide open.

2. Build the home you want to live in
This is evident throughout this renovation with a high quality and homely feel achieved. Unfortunately the developer project is becoming easy to spot with their cheap finish and unusual room layout. The couple avoided this trap by creating rooms that fit their lifestyle, not the rooms that added the most value on paper. This has seen the introduction of a nursery off the master suite and the removal of a bedroom to create a study and larger reception room.

3. Make extensions feel integral to the property
A loft conversion on the property has added three new rooms. Similar materials have been used throughout and redecoration has been undertaken in the same style to ensure consistency, making the extension feel like it’s always been a part of the property. Crucially heavier materials were used in to floor to avoid creaking that can be a dead giveaway.

4. Create a feature
At the centre of their home, Kendra and Mike have created a stunning solid oak staircase with open treads to give a feeling of space. To top it all off they had a window fitted in the floor of the landing allowing light to pass through the property. “It took some design time to get it right but it was certainly worth it” Mike says. “This is the part of our renovation that everyone notices and comments on.”

5. Use all available space effectively
Kendra says “This is the one thing we have really noticed being done poorly in many of the properties we’ve seen, there’s often a room or corner with no obvious purpose.”
The couple spent 6 months living in the house before the final design was completed with the help of an architect. Mike adds “By that stage we knew the house intimately and knew what we wanted to use every inch of space for”

6. Don’t over-invest cash, but invest plenty of time and emotional energy
There really is no limit to what you could potentially spend on a property. Choosing those things that will add value or quality of life within a budget is a significant challenge.

To compensate for a fixed budget you should consider doing some of the less skilled work yourself such as stripping wall-paper, ripping up old carpets and project management. Then, when you have the professionals in you need to manage the finer detail. Nobody will care as much about the finish of your property as you will. “At final building inspection I wrote a list of 30 points the builders needed to fix or finish before final payment” Mike says. “Far from being annoyed the list helped them to manage the final stages and understand my expectations”

Kendra and Mike have achieved something quite special and should recoup 200% return on their renovation investment of £70,000. However there are many projects that don’t succeed. Discipline on budget and the choice of the right builders are essential but the biggest learning point from this project is to see the vision, and be single minded in achieving it.

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By Sue
21 Mar 2010

Categories: Property Rentals

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