What to look for in a Development Property

Property DevelopmentMost people looking to buy a property will want to visit it first. Many will have done some research before their initial viewing – typically, resent sold prices, google street view etc. But what should you look for when you’re at your first viewing?

As a Property Developer you’ll want to be looking for more than a nice view and no signs of neighbors with a pit bull terrier. You’re initial viewing needs to be an initial judgement of how much work this property would require if you where to buy it and how much you think you could sell it for. Get your costs together and know your sell price.

Step 1 – Check the exterior
It’s always a good idea to inspect the exterior of a building carefully. If a property has misaligned brickwork or you see cracks in the exterior this could be a sign of subsidence, which would require further examination by a professional surveryor. If you do see and exterior crack check fo trees or tree stumps that may have caused this to happen.

Is there a damp proof course in the lower brickwork? Do the bricks above seem wet? This might mean that a damp proof course is not in place which might lead to some internal issues such as rotten floor joists or rising damp in the plaster. Whilst these issues can be fixed they all add up to your costs and timescale.

If the property is old they may have sliding sash windows. Check the quality of these. Do they still work? What is the quality of the wood? Replacing sash windows can be expensive so make sure you understand if they are OK or not.

Most importantly of all, check the roof. If you’re buying freehold get up into the loft and make sure the ridge board and rafter are all dry and show no signs of damp. Is there insulation in the roof? Can you smell damp? Is the felt or a water proof membrain between the tiles and the rafters? Take a look outside and check that the rafters are in line with each other. Are there any signs of the rafter twisting or moving? Again any signs of the abnormal then get a profesisonal roofer to take a look.

Step 2 – Check the Drains
Whether you’re buying leasehold or freehold if you’re buying an old property you need to take into consideration the state of the drains as any ground works can be very costly to put right. And even if you’re looking at a flat you may have a share of freehold which would mean you’re responsible (in part) for any maintenance. Find the ‘Man Hole’ and check that the inspection chamber is clear. If it’s full or seems blocked it could be that the drain has collapsed and you’re in for a big bill to fix it. Also check the exterior soil pipe and any connection to an exterior drain. Again any smell or signs that waste is not clearing could mean expense for you in the future.

Step 3 – Check the utilities
Replacing a central heating system and electrics isn’t cheap, so it’s worth spending 2 minutes looking at the main services inot the apartment or house. Are there any radiators? If so, how are they connected? Does the pipework look OK or are there signs of leaking? Again any long term water damage may have lasting effects on the structure of the property.

Check the main electrical ‘consumer box’ here you’ll be able to see all the different circits to the house. The more the safer. If you can only see 1 fuse in the consumer box this might mean the electrical systems needs to be brought up to date to make it safe. Count the munber of sockets in each room, this will enable you to get a quote from a professional when you’re trying to do your sums.

Check the water supply. Are there ay signs of water damange under cupboards or in bathrooms? this could mean a supply pipe has eroded and requires replacement. Check any outside taps to make sure the brick work they’re screwed into hasn’t eroded.

Step 4 – Check the floors
The odd squeeky floorboard in an old house isn’t anything to worry about, but where a floor demonstrates a little too much bounce it may mean the joists are not properly hung, or have become eroded at the ends. Always take back any carpet if you can to the edge and chack the quality of the floorboards, check for signs of damp.

Step 5 – Check the deeds/ lease
You can find a deed or a lease to a property on the land registry. They charge around £4 for each search download. Read the documentation carefully. Are there any potential restrictive clauses or covenants that woudl prevent you from carrying out the work you intend to do? Are there any clauses that you don’t understand? I always get my solicitor to read through any deed or lease before I make a comitment. This way I know exactly what I’m signing up to. To find a solicitor try the Law Society

Step 6 – Check the sold prices
I get so sick of estate agents trying to tell me what a property is worth, I now do my research before I see a property. This way I know what the vendor brought the property for, what their neighborghs brough for and how much I think it could be worth less any cost of development. Zoopla offer a free sold prices service that will help you do this.

Step 7 – Check the buyers
who are the likely buyers of your renovated flat going to be? Professional couples? a family? students? Take a look at the street, look at the cars. Is it near a station? Are there local good schools that attract families? Is there a high level of crime (often exclusive areas attract high levels of burglary, which can increase insurance costs) check out the latest reports from the police crime maps  This will help give you the answers of you you should be aiming to sell the property to once completed.

You’ll probably have a large list of concerns about a property once you’ve gone through the check list. But remember, you’re a developer. You take the properties that other don’t want so don’t be affraid of a bit of work. You need to do the check to find out what the property is worth to you. If someone wants to offer more because they’ve not seen the damp in the roof, let them have it, they won’t make money.

You need to enter every project with your eyes wide open knowing every aspect of the property you’re about to take on. This way you can plan and cost for every eventuality and ensure you sell to the right people for the profit you need to make.