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Creating Desirable Living Spaces

Historically Investors have looked to purchase bigger properties in order to maximise returns. However, as the housing shortage in the UK has taken hold, there is now a need and requirement for students as well as working professionals to live in the one household, a House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO). In this set up, each tenant has his own spacious room, (sometimes en-suite) and access to kitchen and a communal dining / living area.   The benefits to the tenant are a fixed monthly outgoing to the landlord which will cover rent and all utility bills (paid by the landlord) as well as shared living. The benefits to the landlord are greater returns from an average sized house compared to a single family let. HMO’s can range from 3 bedrooms all the way up to 24 and more. Optimum bedroom numbers will be 4 (usually below the threshold for licencing – council dependent) and if licenced, then 6 bedrooms and above.

Where landlords have come unstuck is where they have been greedy or become postcode driven.  Landlords want to receive the best returns possible as there are potential downsides to mitigate, such as void periods. The allocation of the number of bedrooms into an HMO should be agreed at the pre-planning stage and the size of all areas including bedrooms are considered. The HMO has to be spacious, all space has to be utilised to its fullest potential, the decor has to be hard-wearing and often contemporary, no wifi blackspots, proper soundproofing.  Many landlords try and cram in as many rooms as possible to maximise their return, often inadvertently contravening regulations. This makes for an unhappy household and a regular turnover of tenants, which reduces returns. When designed properly, an HMO is a place of sanctuary for the tenant and a place they want to continue staying in for many years.

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We are used to seeing average numbers given as an indicator, average house prices, average salary, average speed, etc. Averages by nature help us to attach a metric to a wide range of variables that makes it easier for us to understand that set of variables and easy to compare one set of variables to another set. Certain postcodes are similar, postcodes are metrics used by investors who don’t have the benefit of local knowledge.  We often hear of statements, I want to invest in L6 or L7 (Liverpool), this assumes that all properties in that postcode are desirable and will fulfill your investment needs. This is not the case, both of the postcodes mentioned have suitable properties for investment and unsuitable properties. We really need to go down to street level to identify the suitable streets and even then we still need local knowledge to confirm our decision or otherwise. We cant always rely on the Estate Agent as their interest is tied to the vendor’s interest and their own commission and not the investment return of the investor. (NB. This is one of the reasons we hired a Liverpool Letting agent who has lived in many of the cities HMO’s. We have practiced what we preach.)

We have created and converted many HMO’s over the last few years and we follow a very simple principle – are we creating somewhere that we would want to live?  If the answer is no, either to the location or to the property itself then we look elsewhere or we re-examine the configuration.  Is it better to  increase the communal living space and reduce by one bedroom ? Looking to the long term and prioritising the comfort and desirability of the property resulting in no voids, high demand and above average rental income rather than cramming in another bedroom and creating a disgruntled household.

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When working on HMO projects we often assume the role of  architect proposing designs, ideas and suggestions for the architect to draw up. We have reconfigured terraced houses (see below), semi-detached houses, public houses, hotels and commercial spaces into Functional HMO’s

We always look to maximise space and create a desirable property, we have started to convert 2 bed terrace houses into 4 bed Multi-Lets. Again through re-configuring the interior and being creative with the space, we are creating a space that people are comfortable living in and are in the correct areas. These projects create a good living space for tenants and generate excellent returns for investors on very little investment.

Complete Renovation Services

Renovations come in all shapes and sizes and are undertaken to add value (capital appreciation) or to ensure that the property can be rented out easily with minimal maintenance requirements for several years. Previously a lick of paint and mowing the lawn might suffice for an uplift in value, Estate Agents are well aware of this now and look to reduce the price of a property in need of refurbishment, only by the estimated cost of the works, thereby eliminating the market for the resourceful ‘doer-upper’ / flipper.

Real capital appreciation comes from utilising and creating additional space.  Space can be added through extending the property itself either: a single or double storey extension, a conforming loft extension or through the reconfiguration of an out-dated layout to fit with modern requirements. These developments all take time and money to achieve, but combined with the refurbishment of the same property they add considerable value usually more than the sum of the parts.

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Our approach is to visualise the property in its current format, make designs and suggestions. Once the rip out and strip back to brick has been done then we reappraise the designs to see if they can be enhanced or indeed anything has emerged that materially impacts the original designs.

The Electrics are evaluated to assess whether they need a full rewire or just partial and whether a new Consumer Unit is required. Dependent on the condition of the walls and ceilings and desired appearance of the room we will either skim or install vaulted ceilings. Bathroom and Kitchens will generally need updating along with new carpets and flooring. All woodwork (skirting boards, arcatraves, door frames, doors will need replacing and modernising. Occasionally the roof and guttering will need attention and possibly a damp proof course installing.

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Once the shell has been reconfigured and built, then we start to apply the finishing touches, the colour pallete, the flooring, the tiles, the feature wall, the overall finish, this is where we set the house apart from others. We use contemporary colours and styling reflecting modern trends and tastes. The use of barn doors, lighting, breakfast bars, islands all help to create the desirable communal living space.

Dependent on workload and size of house, we can turn some refurbishments around in as little as 21 days. Loft conversions and extensions add to the build time.

A Tradesman For Any Size Job

A stitch in time saves 9.  Yes we agree with this and its why we advocate full rip out and full refurb when purchasing older properties. However, invariably there will be always some maintenance requirements ranging from a blocked toilet, a lost key to no hot water. Some of these are urgent other less so.

In order to be able to service the wide range of maintenance requests we receive, we have to have the right tradesmen available to fix the issue and we do. We have electricans, plumbers, joiners, plasterers, bricklayers, roofers all on hand to resolve issues as they arise.

Each client has a dedicated phone number and website to enable jobs to be logged, once received we categorise the job urgent or otherwise and then schedule the work with the relevant tradesmen. Once we have client approval then this information is communicated back to the originator and/or the landlord and the work is undertaken.

A follow up phone call a few days later ensures that the job has been fixed and everything is back in working order.

This outsourced service is invaluable for portfolio landlords with multiple properties and also for letting agents, who are overwhelmed with maintenance requests, helping to eliminate hassles and centralise the maintenance function.

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The maintenance team also undertake a landlord’s legal requirements such issuing Electrical Certificates, Gas Safety Certificates, checking Smoke Alarms

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Building Commercial Success

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Membership and Compliance

As Contractors, landlords and property sourcers, we take our responsibilities and industry memberships seriously. Below are the bodies that we are members of and affiliated to.

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