The Magic Behind a Successful Property Refurbishment

In the episode #14 of Deal Finder’s Corner, Guillaume Black had the pleasure of hosting Martin Rapley. With a history dating back to 1985, when he owned a building company involved in prestigious projects like the Bank of England, Police Stations, and Museums in London, Martin Rapley’s journey in the property industry has been both fascinating and instructive. Since 2013, he has transitioned into a construction consultant role, primarily serving property investors.

Martin’s experience isn’t limited to consultancy; he walks the talk. Alongside Sarah, he manages a portfolio of flats and HMOs in Kent and Wales. As an active user of Property Filter, Martin’s expertise spans various facets of property investment.

Martin generously shares his formula for a Successful Refurbishment with the Property Filter Community members, and it’s a formula well worth noting. As Martin puts it, “You can’t do much in property investing without carrying out a refurbishment.”

Check out Martin’s presentation to discover the connection between Maurizio Cattelan’s gold-toilet artwork and a a successful property refurbishment (Photograph: Jacopo Zotti Guggenheim Museum 2016)

A + S + Gb + M = a successful project

A – Appraisal

  • Due Diligence: Trust, but verify. Relying solely on the estate agent’s judgment isn’t enough. Not every property that needs refurbishment is a golden deal.
  • Desired Outcome: Determine your objective – is it cash flow from rent or profit from selling?
  • Realistic Figures: Work from the top down. Calculate your desired outcome and deduct all costs, from architects and legal fees to fire alarms and kitchen replacements. Seek professional advice on cost estimates.
  • Avoid Impulse Buys: Don’t purchase a property just because it needs refurbishing. Bigger profits often come from more extensive refurbishment projects, such as those in an inhabited state.

S – Specification

  • Clarity is Key: Create a detailed document outlining what you intend to do with the property – your schedule and scope of works.
  • Understanding the Project: This document helps everyone involved understand the project, from your business partners to builders.
  • Builder Communication: Builders are not typically property investors. Avoid asking them to make decisions; instead, provide clear instructions. Talk to advisors like architects and construction engineers instead.

Gb – Good Builder

  • Quality Over Cost: Remember, “You get what you pay for.” It’s often worth appointing the best builder, not necessarily the cheapest. Quality matters to avoid future problems.
  • Research Builders: Find builders through local recommendations or online searches. Be cautious with directory sites, as they may not be verified.
  • Good Builders are Busy: A good builder is usually in high demand.
  • Reiterate: Quality should outweigh cost considerations when choosing a builder.

M – Management

  • Expertise: Assess if you have sufficient expertise; if not, consider outsourcing to a Project Manager (PM) and factor this into your initial appraisal.
  • Don’t Micro-Manage: Visit the site once a week; excessive oversight can lead to delays.
  • Agree on Dates: Clearly communicate the deadlines for providing necessary materials or information.
  • Stay Organised: Good project management is key.

Sometimes, slowing down can save you time in the long run. Compromising on these rules may lead to delays and frustration, causing stress and potentially making you despise the project. By following Martin’s framework, you not only increase your chances of a successful project but also reduce stress and save valuable time.

The episode concludes with a Q&A session where Martin and Guillaume address questions on using Property Filter to find deals on the verge of being unmortgageable, how much Project Managers charge for refurb projects, and why it’s not necessarily essential to outsource the schedule of works to a Quantity Surveyor.

For those seeking a comprehensive guide to property refurbishments, the episode recording is available: