Do your research
Check how long the property has been up for sale. A property that's been on the market for more than a few months suggests there isn't a great deal of profit to be made. Find out about choosing a location in our Buying a property guide.
What should I look out for?
Ensure you're not buying a money pit. In an older property you should be prepared for anything, right down to half the wall staying on the wallpaper when stripping or great holes behind the panelling. Don't be afraid to make umpteen visits with every type of tradesman in order to know what you're letting yourself in for!
Ask the experts
Roofers, timber and damp specialists and electricians will charge nothing or very little to engage their services for estimates and will be more beneficial to you than a surveyor in the initial stages.
How much work is involved?
This depends on the property, but don't bite off more than you can chew. For a good first experience of renovating, try doing up a dated property rather than a wreck. A new kitchen, bathroom, central heating, carpets and re-decoration will miraculously transform something dark and decrepit into a 'des res'.
You can always leave the architects, specialists and planning department to another time when confidence and funds are more plentiful.
Be prepared. The phrase most heard when doing up a wreck is: "It cost twice as much as I thought it would." Set yourself a budget and build in some contingency funding - 15 per cent of the total cost is a good guideline.
You could start your renovation with a small cash fund, and once you've re-decorated and carpeted, the overall improvement should allow a small re-mortgage. This can be used for a new kitchen and reinstating period features such as fireplaces.
Managing the project
A project manager will liaise with the builder and ensure work is carried out to a specification. You could manage your own project or employ an independent. There is a Joint Contract Tribunal (JCT) contract you can use to formalise your relationship with your project manager or building consultant (see Employing tradesmen below).
Get all the quotes well in advance, from carpets to carpenters. That way you can calculate all your expenditure.
Never expect the scheduled timescales. The buying and the restoring may not always go as planned.
Seek as much advice as possible, especially from people who've done it before.
Be prepared to live in a building site until things are settled.
Decide exactly what work you want to undertake before asking for any quotations. Write a clear specification; it need not be technical, but it should detail the work you want to carry out.
The JCT is an independent body that has produced a standard contract for use between you and the builder. This is a robust legal document that avoids technical and legal jargon.
It confirms the precise arrangements for the work to be done: the price, the payment terms, working hours, insurance and guarantees and how to resolve disputes if they arise. It deals with how to make changes to the work to be carried out and how to deal with a builder who wants to extend the time taken for completing the work. In essence, it sets out clearly what's expected of you and the builder. It's a document that a reputable builder will want to use.
Additionally, remember that your builder will be spending a lot of time in your home, and therefore should be someone you feel comfortable with. Good communication and a professional relationship is very important if you want the project to run smoothly. Reputable builders will always want to do their best work for you from the very start.