HMO Renovation cost for large victorian terrace house

Converting a 6-bed HMO in 2018

We wanted to take on this project because the house had already been converted to some extent and some other work recently completed:

  • Fire system in place with fire doors
  • Recently re-wired with modern RCD breaker box
  • Inside of the property in reasonable condition
  • Upto 6 large bedrooms without doing any house re-arranging or building stud walls
  • External walls recently re-pointed
  • Existing HMO licence recently inspected and approved by the local council

The previous owner had run it without success, we partnered with a local agency with the aim to provide contractor only tenancy, for this we would need to make the standard of the accommodation much higher.

As we lived quite far away from the property we also needed it to be low maintenance the main aim here was for at least 5 years low maintenance. Some letting agents we spoke to said it could be letted out as is, but we opted not to fall into the trap of constant maintenance issues and unhappy tenants.

Before we purchased the property we spent a lot of time researching some of the costs involved in renovating a large property to HMO standard. I came across a few posts with actual costs, here’s a breakdown of what to expect and some of the problems you might need to overcome.

This was a large 6 bed stone built victorian terraced house with high ceilings, and across 3 floors, based in Cumbria in the North West.

Roofing/Chimney – £9000

There was a number of damp issues starting to appear in the house largely down to the roof, we had to get new tiling front/back and on the rear kitchen extension along with new guttering/fixing throughout. Initially we where expecting to pay £900 to put the roof right, from previous examination in the summer, but it came clear after the purchase went through in December that much more work was needed including replacing two velux windows which where rotten.

Finding the right roofer who was able to understand our low maintenance goals and give an honest view of what was needed to meet them was a challenge, we finally came across Richard at Richard and his team where extremely helpful in taking the time to explain the work that was needed, and clearly has a passion for the craft that he does.

The roofer also explained the huge chimney stack was tilting, whilst probably not urgently needed there’s little point getting a new roof to have the chimney stack collapse at a later date on top of it, so we opted to get this taken down whilst the scaffolding was up, again think about your long term goals for maintenance.

Kitchen – £7000

We opted for an Ikea kitchen personally love their stuff, some of it can be a bit breakable but their kitchens are better than Wren and others especially from the look and feel for the price.

The kitchen itself came in at around £3000 but there was a lot to do in the kitchen stripping it out to the brick and applying some tanking to some of the rear walls. Overall for the amount of work done and getting a new kitchen the cost is pretty reasonable.

Bathrooms – £13000

A lot of work was needed here, the house had two existing bathrooms one small and large, after exploring lots of options including en-suite the most sensible option was to drop one of the bedrooms and convert it into a bathroom. Much larger investment would be needed to add extra soil pipes, water tanks etc. Each was completely stripped out with some re-skimming and patchwork. Fitting new larger showers and suite.

A major mistake here was that the contractor quoted on a labour only basis, this not only created headaches with the supplier where wrong items where delivered, but aside from the obvious bathroom costs, the materials like plaster,plumbing etc came to many thousands, doing this again I would opt for an all-inclusive fee, it also puts the responsibility of dealing with the suppliers on the contractor.

Carpets – £3000

It’s a large house and we fitted new carpet to every room and landing.

Furniture – £5000

Again opting for Ikea, it made sense because we can get a consistent look across the house by getting everything in one place, it’s also cheap for a reasonable quality. We looked at fusion furniture and others who claim their furniture is unbreakable etc.. Some of that stuff isn’t the most inspiring furniture. I always believe in creating a home you would like to live in rather than buying the most basic of basics.

For under a £1000 each room that included:

  • full length mirror
  • large wardrobe
  • 3 set drawers
  • bedside cabinet
  • bedframe with mattress,pillows and throw
  • standing lamp
  • ceiling lamp
  • 3 of the larger rooms had a desk and chair

It took around 2 days per room to build all the furniture.

Other costs

Some other costs that came in that might get overlooked

  • Skips £1000
  • Kitchen appliances £1300
  • HMO licence £450
  • Painting/Materials and tools £700
  • TV’s and wall mounts £1300
  • Boiler move £800
  • Fire certificate £250

Total for the conversion came in around £50,000 this was without having to install fire doors, alarms or re-wire, re-plumb it would have been a whole lot more had those things not been done already.

As part of the project I made a simple excel calculator to work out all sorts of figures to check that I had the capital available and that the project was viable, see my BTL calculator

Clapham & Collinge – Legal services for Buy to Let customer review

We recently used Clapham & Collinge in Norwich to purchase a buy to let via a Ltd Company. The service they provided was thorough however there was some issues throughout the process, and we did not find the customer service very friendly. (law firms reading this have a read through this article)

In total the mortgage took nearly 6 months (note there was no-chain either end), mostly I believe to the fact of Clapham and Collinge taking their time with every detail (which can be a good thing) even though it was known to be a family sale, they also did walk us through the company legal side reasonably well. That said this still seems a very long time even though we where very prompt with our responses.

We also had a gifted equity deposit this caused a lot of confusion after several phone calls and emails over two weeks from us, and calls from the sellers solicitors they finally understood the concept of a gifted deposit, even though they knew this from the outset, and instead of requesting additional deposit funds from us, adjusted the completion statement correctly.

Finally when we did complete, we found out that additional charges of £600 where applied these where not on the completion statement, they did send an engagement letter which had the charges in there but we thought these formed part of the initial quote.

In their brochure they quote

“We offer fixed fee quotations which means that we are honest and upfront with no hidden charges. The disbursments can change but your member of staff will always advise you of this and obtain your consent.”

We feel they did not highlight this in non-lawyer terms that there would be additional charges for the business part of the transaction.

We highlighted this to them and the only response they could give was from a graduate, so much for being in experienced hands and customer care.

They also waited till after the exchange to do company checks. So after waiting nearly 6 months , if something was wrong with the ltd company setup, it could be a big problem to correct it, this seems the wrong order to do things.

In summary they would not be my first choice in future, the initial quote they gave did not include the business legals and checks, the additional charges seemed like hidden charges to us. Had we known this we would have used another supplier who came in cheaper. Wether this was down to our broker who recommended and obtained the quote or down to Clapham and Collinge is unknown.

We’ve also used solicitors who conduct their business via email/online it’s much more efficient, one we recommend that we’ve used in the past is Beaumont legal. They give an updated email status every step of the way which also has the outstanding steps, and avoids a lot of the unnecessary letter writing.

Brand management and proposition development

Maximise the impact of your offer by positioning your business, product or service correctly

Use a proven framework, including brand values, to help focus your decisions

Stand out from the crowd and stay top of mind by creating the right name for your business, product, service or portfolio.

Need any of the above then visit Ascendit

Magento vs in-house solution

I recently came across a business who decided to move away from Magento to using their own in-house solution, albeit without the features of Magento, but something they are willing to invest the time and money in building into their in-house platform, their primary reason for doing this? Because they could not find a full time developer in their area and for their budgeted salary, and this they felt posed a long term business threat.

This is something many business’s consider when first starting an ecommerce shop, which platform to use, outsource or insource, opensource or bespoke?

It’s a choice that can only be worked out by looking at how much time you have, your budget, and technical resources you can allocate to a project.

I can see how some business owners might get frustrated with Magento, something which could be considered a niche area. The stats website builtwith suggests around 1% of the top 1 million websites are built with Magento, at first the seems rather pathetic but the huge variety of platforms out there makes this number pretty reasonable. Shopify for example only has half this figure or IBM Websphere a mere 0.2%. Not that being popular should be the only reason to choose a platform.

There are less developers than there are for standard PHP but it’s no different from using Ruby,Shopify or requiring an iOS developer to develop an app a specific ecommerce platform is a specialist area that’s a no brainer.

And then there’s the logic of building a complex ecommerce system in-house that only those developers know, what happens when the founding devs leave the business? Your left in an even worse situation. Having a community around your business gives you some extra security, tried and tested code, security patches, accredited professionals and documentation.

Magento is one of the few applications that gives you total control of your shop in an unprecedented way. Allowing all sorts of configurations that the initial Magento team probably never even dreamt the platform would be used for.

And here in lies the issue, when you do have a heavily customised platform especially one with 3rd party extensions, it can be become cumbersome in updating and supporting. In this case there are lots of areas of the site where products are only shown if some other conditions are met, this kind of logic on top of Magento’s default requirements for a product to be visible on the site creates a lot of support queries. As a developer you will often get the query of “why is this product not showing” and 99% of the time it’s because a field isn’t set or a in a particular scope a field isn’t set, the product is out of stock etc. Sometimes you don’t know yourself , I’ve spent countless hours looking into these type of queries. Part of the solution to that is more training for the people who use the backend and serving up a FAQ or decision tree that helps the user figure out why.

The second issue with Magento is that if you do get a reasonable amount of traffic or sales everyday, is that you either need a dedicated Magento hosting specialist or people on your team that know how to manage servers. And if you’ve gotten to that level in comes the caching headache.

But these are problems any platform faces one I feel with a small in-house team will not easily be overcome unless it’s built with a similar flexible design pattern and you have a broad skillset based team. Magento comes into it’s own when you want a site that is rich in functionality but don’t have time to develop whole eco systems to deliver that idea, like templating, multi-currency, multi scopes and hole punching, user authentication and REST Api’s and really why do it unless you have something that’s really taking ecommerce in a different direction.

What does matter is getting the configuration right from day one, finding an experienced developer or agency who has a proven track record of Magento development and scoping out a project development roadmap that looks at how the various parts of the site work together. Limit the use of 3rd party modules to only be used where it will save a substantial amount of development time and make sure they don’t interfere with any custom functionality you plan to have.

3rd party modules work best where you need core parts of functionality like payment gateways, as that’s where substantial costs can be saved not having to develop your own interface as your unlikely to want to customise these at a later date.

After that if you plan on having a lot of features for example customer points, promotions and lots of rules about how the products are displayed it may be better to size up the development costs rather than using a lot of different 3rd party modules as it can take just as much time writing the code that communicates between them.

In my view this is a much better, long term and cost effective route than going completely for a bespoke ecommerce solution.

Starting a digital agency or business a short guide

This article covers some of the basic points you will need to cover if your thinking about starting a business, this guide is orientated around a business offering digital services but could be applied to any business.

There are probably thousands of digital agencies in the uk all competing at different levels from small teams to the much larger players. So in a market that has in recent years seen significant saturation at least at the lower end , how does a new agency carve out it’s piece of the pie?

To give you a little background I helped start an agency a couple of years ago, and in this short yet critical time period we learn’t a lot of lessons along the way, in this post I’m going to share some of the things we learn’t about starting a business specifically one marketing digital services so if your considering starting out on your own this post is for you.

Photo credit beyonddesignuk

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Scraping Google Shopping for Magento or any Ecommerce platform

If you advertise via Google’s product listing ads and sell products that are commercially available elsewhere , it’s key to be competitive on price, one way of doing this is through Google Shopping as all competitors who also advertise on Google are of course publishing their prices and most do. If your business is very price driven or there’s some lines you would like to be competitive on then this is a unique way of keeping up with your competition.

The module can work in a variety of ways or be configured to work in a way that suits your business , I would be able to integrate it into other ecommerce platforms.

The main functions are:

  • Lookup a product on Google Shopping record pricing data
  • Price matching feature beat or match a competitors price – Automatically set the product price
  • Define which competitors you need to match or beat
  • Other conditions e.g not going below the product cost price
  • Works for grouped or single products
  • Trigger other functions upon product save
  • Receive a report of what products where changed, when and which competitor
  • Display competitor prices vs your price on the product view

Integration with Google Shopping API:

As well as updating the prices on your store, it can now also update Google Shopping directly via the Google Shopping API. Without this you may run the risk of the product listing ads being pulled because the prices in your feed are not up to date.

Of course the above runs on auto pilot and can run once a day or however frequently you need it, a daily file can be uploaded/emailed to your site

Contact me to find out more about this or discuss a project you have in mind that involves scraping google for Magento Ecommerce.