Offering on a property that needs work

Q: I’d like to offer on a property but it needs work. What’s the best way to approach this?

A: My advice is to always investigate the cost of works before you make any offer. You need to know how much the works will cost and factor that into your purchase price.

I’ve heard many estate agents over the years give buyers rough estimates for improvements e.g. “you can create a pod room for £20,000” and so on but I suggest obtaining your own independent quotes. Ask a good builder who you trust to visit the property with you and explain to them what works you’d like to do. You may need other professionals to visit as well, such as a structural engineer and architect, depending on the scope of work. Don’t discuss the costs until you’re away from the property and out of ear shot from the agent, as you don’t want them to use any information against you.

Your builder should be able to go through the options and costs – and indeed any constraints. Sometimes, it’s not possible to guarantee whether certain work is achievable until you start exposing pipes and so on – you obviously can’t start stripping back walls until you own the property, so if you really want it and you’ve done as much research as you can, you might need to take a chance.

When making an offer, you can outline your proposed price and justify it with the cost of works you will be facing. The agent and seller can at least understand your rationale and it’s harder for them to argue if you’ve done your sums and disclosed them. You need to make sure that the costs are reasonable, though. One client recently declared that he thought a house I showed him needed gutting and he wanted to put in concrete floors on every level. I had to point out that the house was in fact in very good condition and a low offer based on the property needing extensive work was unlikely to be considered!

If you have a question you’d like Jo to answer please email or tweet her @joeccles.