Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian have very generous proportions, including high ceilings and large windows. Not surprisingly, demand is very high among tenants, and splitting period houses into flats can be very lucrative. Read on to find out how to get started.
Know your market
Not every Victorian conversion will be sold or let to a professional. Your property’s location dictates your target market is and it makes sense to pitch your property to the group most likely to buy or rent in your area. Contrast the properties found on the websites of West London estate agents like Domus Nova to those of agents in parts of South London; the buildings are similar but the quality of finishes, fixtures and fittings differs greatly. Don’t waste money or cut corners in such a way that your property will not suit your market.
Now the hard work really begins. The approval of the local authority will be required in order to complete your conversion if you are planning on letting out your flats. There is some leeway if you want to create shared flats, which could come under the house’s ‘permitted development’ but in this instance always consult a professional. The speed (or lack thereof) and bureaucracy of the process has many pulling their hair out. The cost of the application can quickly rise above £1,000 (that’s what it would cost to create three flats), and dealing with period property can be more complex as the chances of needing listed building and conservation area consents are greater.
In order to get your application approved, you will be required to meet certain minimum building criteria. Failure to do so can see the building control officer refuse to sign off the project once it is completed. In conversion projects two of the main sticking points are the provision of adequate fire safety planning and soundproofing. But unless you have bedsits and student accommodation in mind, the bare minimum is not what you should aim for. Period properties often come with period features, like beautiful wooden floors, sash windows, ceiling roses and tiled entrance halls. Do all you can to preserve and make the most of these features for the good of your asking price.
While some property investors are cash buyers, many people fund their conversions through finance. Because they are secured against a property, mortgages offer quite possibly the best rates you will find for any loan (especially when considering the amount being lent) and you should speak to mortgage lenders to find out what they can offer. If you are converting a property you already own, consider remortgaging on a buy-to-let mortgage (banks are rushing these products to market) or get a secured load to free up the capital required. For your peace of mind and the lender’s, have a scheme drawn up showing the costs of the project and the expected returns. Their feedback can be a valuable part of the development appraisal process.