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Are you renovating a house on a budget?

House price growth slowed across the UK in 2019. In London and the home counties prices remained static and this trend is expected to continue into 2020. While home improvements are still a wise financial investment, market conditions mean it is now even more crucial for you to stay in control of your home renovation costs.

The team at CLPM help architects, homeowners and property developer keep a tight control on their renovation costs, and here we share our 12 top tips for renovating a house on a budget.

1. Set a Clear & Realistic Budget

It’s important to have a definite budget at the start of your project, and to share this openly with your architect. Then your designer can discuss what it achievable with the money you have available and you can make sure this matches your needs and ideas. Discussing construction costs at the beginning, before you start the design phase will also give you time to look into additional finance should you need it, and prevents you wasting money on designs you can’t afford to build.

Good to Know – CLPM can help you better understand construction costs, and what you can get for your money.

2. Benchmark for the Correct Build Quality

Many architects and builders will talk about average renovation costs. Usually this is on a cost per square foot to renovate a house. But there is a huge difference in the renovation costs of a property with a basic finish versus a luxury specification. Make sure you are clear what you want to achieve and discuss this fully with your architect. Triple glazed windows and bespoke staircases cost a great deal more than the standard, mass-produced alternatives!

Good to Know – CLPM can help you estimate your build costs in an accurate and detailed way, using your architectural plans and specifications.

3. Make Provisions for Fixtures & Fittings

Be clear on what your home renovation budget includes. Quite often a designer or builder will only consider the elements that they are responsible for designing or building ie. the actual construction costs of your project. Whereas you have probably included all of the fixtures and fittings such as kitchens, bathrooms, fitted wardrobes and floorings. You will probably also be including hard landscaping or garden features. Make sure you outline what your budget includes from the outset and you will prevent a lot of worry and overspend later on.

Good to Know – CLPM prepare bespoke reports for architects and clients which include accurate budget estimates to help make sure your financial planning is the best it can be.

4. Invest in Insulation and Draught-proofing

The Climate Emergency means we are now all more aware of our choices and their impact on the planet. The UK’s properties are notoriously inefficient and older properties – even those built only a few decades ago – can often be cold and expensive to heat. If you are renovating a house on a budget it can be tempting to stint on costs which do not affect the look or feel of a property, such as loft, floor or wall insulation and draught-proofing. But this is a huge mistake – as this is the best time to improve the energy efficiency and comfort of your home. Investing time and money getting the right advice and then insulating and making your home more airtight will make it more comfortable. It will also be cheaper to heat, will cut your carbon emissions and will make it easier to sell in the future. It’s important to get expert, independent advice.

Good to Know – CLPM’s energy consultants are 100% independent. Our experienced team can carry out an energy assessment and give you and your architect detailed advice on the best ways to make your home more energy efficient.

5. Budget for Heating & Hot Water Systems

Very few people get excited discussing boilers and radiators, but if your heating or hot water system breaks down or does not meet your family’s needs it can be a major problem. It’s therefore important to have set aside enough money in your home renovation budget to make sure you can install the right heating system.
Technological advances mean that boilers are much more efficient than they were even 10 years ago, and the Climate Emergency means that a greater focus is being placed on renewables but it’s a complicated area and it’s important to make the most informed decision. It’s a good idea to get some independent professional heating advice so that your heating arrangements are part of your architectural plans, rather than just leaving the decision to your plumber.

Good to Know – Heating systems should be designed around how your individual building is constructed and how you actually live in your property. CLPM’s heating consultants are 100% independent of manufacturers and installers and can work with you and your architect to choose the best heating solution for your particular needs.

6. Financially Plan for External Works

Most house renovation projects will require work to be done to the outside of the property – either during or after the main building work has been done. This might be painting or rendering the outside of the house, landscaping such as turfing the lawn, laying a patio or re-surfacing the drive. Make sure you think about what you would like the garden or drive to look like and what might be required – and then budget carefully for these elements too.

Good to Know – CLPM’s QS team can help you prepare a comprehensive budget for your project which includes all of these elements.

7. Don’t forget the VAT

VAT can be a significant sum if you’re renovating a house on a budget. Most homeowners talk about their budgets inclusive of VAT. By contrast, Architects and builders generally tend to quote exclusive of VAT. This can create a great deal of confusion and if this is not clear can risk of an immediate 20% overspend to the unsuspecting home renovator. Make sure you are always certain about whether estimates include VAT when you talk about your budget with your architect!
Most renovations will involve paying a 20% VAT rate on both materials and labour. There are a few exceptions – for example if you use a tradesperson iwho s not VAT registered, or are renovating a property that has been empty for a long time or that is being converted – so it is always worth checking.

Good to Know – Check with your architect or talk to a VAT specialist.

8. Understand How Your Location Affects the Cost

Your location can also affect your renovation budget. Material costs tend to be fairly similar but labour costs can vary considerably depending on where you live in the UK. In general London tends to have the highest day rates, with the home counties following close behind. However, demand also plays a part. The amount of work in the local market and the under or over supply of skilled builders and trades people can also have a significant affect on the going rates for construction work.
Therefore, if you are renovating a house on a budget it is wise to start looking for a shortlist of suitable builders as early as possible. That way you can negotiate the lowest rates. It also means you can get your project on the waiting list for the best builders.

Good to Know – An experienced Quantity Surveyor like CLPM can help advise you on the rates for your area and can help you budget accurately for your building project.

9. Plan Upfront for Professional and Other Fees

Professional fees are an important part of every construction project. You have no doubt factored in the architect’s fees in your home renovation budget. However, it is easy to forget to allow for all the other additional fees when renovating a house on a budget. Unfortunately, major home renovations can sometimes require the most advice. You may need to get a Chartered Surveyor to investigate any damp or drainage issues. Often you will need to get a Structural Engineer to provide structural drawings and calculations which will be used by your building contractor and architect during the renovation work. Sometimes you may have to appoint specialists to report on issues such as trees or asbestos. Other professional fees could include Quantity Surveyors, Project managers and Heating & Energy Consultants such as CLPM, as well as Interior Designers, Landscape Designers and Lighting Designers.
In addition, you may need to get specialist building insurance to cover the property while it is being renovated.
All of these fees add up and need to be budgeted for at the start of your project.

Good to Know – Talk about your project in the early planning stages with your architect and an experienced construction project consultancy such as CLPM and you can get a better feel as to what might be involved with your individual project.

10. Make Sure You Include a Contingency

Even the best planned renovation projects can go over budget. Issues can be found within the building structure which have not been allowed for or changes may be needed to the original specification which cost more to complete.
Renovations can be particularly difficult and so it makes sense to plan in a contingency to cover these eventualities.

Good to Know – CLPM can help highlight any risk areas but we usually suggest a contingency figure of  around 15% depending on the size and complexity of the construction project.

11. Tender the Works Professionally

If your project is likely to spend £100K or more it makes sense to tender the works using a professional Quantity Surveyor. He or she will use your plans to draw up a comprehensive schedule of works and help you get the most accurate, competitive prices from the most suitable building firms. Getting a choice of quotes will help you better understand the cost of your build and give you the opportunity to review your plans, trim costs and negotiate.

Good to Know – CLPM can tender the works on your behalf. Get in touch to find out more.

12. Appoint a Builder via a Building Contract

Once you have agreed a price for the building works with your builder it is wise to formalise this via a building contract. A written contract has two main aims: to record the agreed terms (price, start and end dates, invoicing milestones etc) and to provide a fair and equitable way of dealing with problems or changes should any arise. This should help to prevent disputes and protect both your and your builders’ interests.

Good to Know – CLPM can help you appoint your build team and draw up the building contract for you. Should you wish we can also act as your Contract Administrator.

Are you planning a major home renovation project? If so CLPM can help. To get in touch call 01923 896550, email or complete a contact form today.

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CLPM Project Managers cover London, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, and West Sussex. Energy Consultancy and Cost Advice services available across the UK.
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