Now that the housing market in Birmingham and the West Midlands is starting to grind back into action, we’re seeing more and more clients looking for a professional architect’s advice on a property they’re looking to refurbish or extend, either for themselves or as an investment.
Why getting an architect's advice before you buy a house is wise
With your survey, you have a detailed run-down of what condition your prospective purchase is currently in. If you speak to an architect before you buy, you’ll have a much better idea about what you can do with the property in the future if you’re looking to develop it.
Getting this professional advice is a great idea as it ensures that the house you’re looking at meets your needs and/or has the potential to be extended in line with your investment goals – if not, you risk of buying a property that will be difficult to get a return on. Speaking to a qualified and experienced architect can avoid this, as the professionals will provide advice and put your mind to rest on a whole range of aspects such as:
Planning and Covenant Issues
- Planning restrictions: Housing in conservation areas or private estates like Calthorpe Estates has to adhere to specific rules on external appearances and materials that can be used. Similarly, listed buildings are subject to restrictions on extensions and redesigns and often require input from specialists. However, reputable architects are skilled at negotiating these particular issues.
- Planning history: An architect’s will be able to advice on any existing permissions to extend your building – for example, your Permitted Development Rights may well have been used up with a previous extension, or you might live in an Article 4 area where these rights have been removed. They will also be able to recommend on the likelihood of any ideas you’re thinking of gaining planning permission – and this in itself is worth the cost.
- Party Wall Agreement and Right to Light: Depending on the proximity of the neighbouring property and the location of its windows, Right to Light laws and party wall agreements are likely to be needed, and are essential to being able to extend your house. Sounding out neighbours and technical limitations need to be considered for the investement to be worthwhile.
- Trees: Your architect can also advise you of the likelihood of any Tree Protection Orders on the site you’re looking to buy – this means they cannot be removed without approval, and must be taken into consideration when designing an extension or planning any development.
- Costings and savings: Your architect will be able to give you a relatively specific idea of the cost per square foot of whatever you’re planning to do, be it a complete refurbishment, converting a property into flats, or knocking apartments back into a family dwelling. They can also make you aware of any savings that might apply you project.
- Value potential: If you’re looking for a property to refurbish and sell on, or to buy to let, a decent architect can advise you on local house prices, and recommend whether you’ll get a better ROI for a high-end development or a greater number of units. They’ll also be able to advise on the level of finish if you’re looking to make a profit and reinvest.
Design and layout
- Decoration: If a survey determines that the house you’re looking at is structurally sound but superficially unattractive, an architect’s advice on cost-effective ways to improve its kerb appeal can be helpful, suggesting measures such as repointing brickwork, repairing and refreshing render and paintwork, replacing drains etc.
- Room flow: Older houses sometimes have strange layouts, and it’s certainly worth getting a professional in to sound out potential redesigns and new layouts. Your architect can advise you on what can be moved easily and what might require more extensive works so that you can decide whether it’s worth the investment or not.
- Sunlight: As related to the above, getting input on how the make the most of sunlight – whether that involved re-orientating rooms, integrating skylights or large areas of glazing into extensions – will also help guide your purchase.
Structural and Building Issues
- Neighbour proximity: How close is the house to your potential neighbour? This will shape how much you can extend the property and determine whether you need to consider a Party Wall Award.
- Warning signs: Cracks in the walls could indicate structural issues with the property, movement of the house or subsidence in the soil – getting a professional opinion on how serious these issues are can shape whether this project is for you or not. These issues may be superficial and simple to correct, or may require more serious work to be carried out. Either way, forewarned is forearmed, and you can make a decision will all the information you need.
- Structural walls: Planning to change the layout or want something open plan? You need to know where the supporting walls are in the house and what can be done to ensure that any changes you make are structurally sound before you start
- Damp and flood risk: These issues can affect your ability to resell at a later date. For example, if you’re considering a basement extension, you need to have a flood risk assessment to ensure that it’s both viable and profitable to invest in this way. Similarly, any damp or condensation suggests an issue either with the plumbing or the damp course. Given the seriousness of these issues, a professional’s input is key.
- Utilities and Services: Depending on the age and location of the electrics, plumbing, heating and so on, building regulations may require these services to be replaced and/or moved.
Of course, these are common problems that to an untrained eye can seem insurmountable, and this is the value of a good professional architect’s advice. With their experience not only can they help you interpret a housing survey, they can also advise you on how to fix these issues.
If you’re thinking of buying a property, whether for yourself or to ensure your long-term financial health, come and speak to Lapworth Architects. We can make sure that your investment will give you the return you’re looking for.
Why Lapworth Architects?
Our 20+ years of work mean great design and good relationships with planning departments across the region to give our projects the best chance of getting planning permission and starting building.
Our breadth of local knowledge makes us an efficient and sustainable choice of architect, and we have a vested interest in improving our own built environment right here in the West Midlands.
At whatever stage you’re at with your project, if you’re looking for honest, quality advice from real professionals, chat to us, leave us a message or call us on the number at the top of the page. Let’s talk!