New developments sprout up in our area on a regular basis. I know there is a lot of old housing stock which is getting bought up and refurbished. There are also refurbishments of refurbishments. On our former street in St. John’s Wood, a house that had been completely redone by a developer was then refurbished by the new owners to suit their tastes. The new refurbishment meant chucking out an unused Poggenpohl kitchen in the skip – what a waste of a beautiful kitchen! They could easily have sold the kitchen.
I had a look at another refurbishment/extension in the neighbourhood across from the new development of luxury apartments that I loved. I thought I would share some tips on buying a newly refurbished house. One of the perks of buying a new home is the joy of moving in without having to do work unless, of course, you clearly have money to throw away like our former neighbour. Oh yes, if you do have money to throw away, you can stop reading right here and consider donating to one of my favourite charities, Missing Persons.
Bring a builder you trust to a viewing if you have one.
Your builder will know how well the refurbishments have been done. For example, my builder pointed out that he did not think they would have gotten building control sign off on some of the work that was done because he thought there were some building code violations. The estate agent had no idea when he was asked. Sure, you will find that out in the solicitors exchange of emails but by then you have already committed time and money towards buying the property. And, sure, you can take a view and just go ahead and buy the place. Remember though it may come to haunt you later when you go to sell because a future buyer may not be so accommodating.
I will, however, point out that in my experience no builder likes what another has done. They would always have done stuff differently. It’s the big picture critique you need to hear – issues that may cost you money you hadn’t planned on spending.
See how the doors, drawers and their related mechanisms feel.
In the development I just saw, the pocket doors came right off their hinges. I was told that occurred because I had pulled it too far. Hello?! I have children. They are not going to be gentle with the pocket doors. A properly made pocket door should have a mechanism that stops it from going off its rails or too far out into the opening.
The kitchen was billed as designer and luxury but no brand was named. Although the units looked good enough, when I opened a drawer it felt flimsy in my hand. Designer drawers don’t feel flimsy or wiggle on their tracks. Try and gently slam a closed door. If it doesn’t close gently and slowly, you know you will have hurt little fingers in the future at some point.
I have nothing against cheaper kitchen units – the carcasses are just as well made as the expensive ones in my opinion. In a luxury kitchen, you are paying extra for the hinges and closing mechanisms to be a better quality. Just don’t ask me to pay premium prices for a kitchen that is billed as premium..
Calculate all the extras you will need.
Not putting in closets in a refurbishment not only saves the developer money but also makes the rooms appear bigger. They sell it to you like they are doing you a favour. Wouldn’t it be great that you can put in closets to suit your own tastes?! Whatever. Everyone needs storage. In rooms without closet space, you will need to factor in the cost of adding closets or buying wardrobes.
Once again well-made closets are not cheap. In the development I just saw, none of the 6 smaller bedrooms had closets and the master bedroom’s walk-in closet was not fitted out. A walk-in closet without shelving is just a large single room in my opinion.
Assess if you can live with the design choices that have been made.
You aren’t going to love everything that you see. You will need, however, to live with the most expensive stuff (unless you don’t care about the money). Some examples of small changes that can make a big difference:
- Paint and wallpaper can be changed.
- Shelves can be added.
- Windows can be frosted to take out an unsightly view.
- Door knobs and handles can be changed easily.
- Paint over kitchen cabinets if the colour or wood is not to your taste.
I painted out a wood kitchen to a contemporary white in my summer house because I disliked the boring faux oak. I also hated the fact that the door handles were brass and the internal fittings in the bathrooms were chrome – but still haven’t gotten around to fixing that yet. Basically, your annoying little details need to be minor enough that you can get used to them in case you never do get around to changing them! In my next post, I will share with you several of my pet peeves in refurbishments. These are more substantial changes and will require a lot more money than a few hours work by a handyman. As ever pet peeves are a personal thing.
These are just some things to think about when you are buying a refurbished property which will have a premium price tag relative to its neighbours. Unless money isn’t an option (lucky you!), you need to make sure you are getting value for the price differential.
What can you add to my list? I’m sure there’s stuff I’ve forgotten, or possibly just never knew.