LOOK AT PROPERTY
WITH AN ARCHITECT'S EYE
The best time to start thinking about how you will design your home is before you buy it. Moving in to what you hope will be your dream home only to discover that you won't be able to alter it in the way you planned is truly heartbreaking.
Our pre-purchase advice gives you the advantage of considering your potential new home from an architectural perspective. We will make you aware of all discernible legal and structural implications and whether your plans fit within them, whether they could be altered or whether they are impossible.
Advice will include:
- Neighbour proximity: How close is the house to neighbouring properties? This will place restrictions on how much you can extend the property determine whether you need to prepare a Party Wall Award.
- Planning restrictions: A house in a conservation area will have strict rules specific to that area that govern how its external appearance can be changed, while listed buildings will have restrictions on the fabric of the house, inside and out. Such permissions are typically only granted to reputable architects and may require the services of planning consultants.
- Planning history: Has the house has previously been granted planning permission for works? This may affect the the likelihood of your own planning permission and gives us ammunition in our discussions with planning officers.
- Covenants: There may be legal covenants restricting how you can modify the existing property, for example Crown Estate properties can only be altered if your architect negotiates for a special agreement or if the covenant is overturned through an application to Lands Chamber of the Upper Tribunal.
- Right to Light Law: Depending on the proximity of the neighbouring property and the location of its windows, Right to Light laws (separate from planning permission) may apply to any extension you make. Proceed without being aware of Right to Light and you may find yourself on the wrong side of the law – even if planning permission was granted.
- VAT savings: If the property has been divided into multiple flats, converting them back into a single dwelling could make you eligible for a reduced VAT rate of 5% on the building works if your architect collaborates with a specialist VAT consultant for building works.
- Warning signs: Cracks in the walls could indicate structural issues with the property, movement of the house or subsidence in the soil – all of which could have significant implications on what repair works will have to be carried out.
- Value potential: Analysis of the market and the recent sale prices per square meter for other houses on the street can provide insight into the property’s potential value and the value added by your development plans. We can then tailor your development in such a way to maximise your return on investment.
- Sunlight: The orientation of the house and its windows will have many implications for the interior layout and garden design as certain areas will only receive sunlight at certain times of day. Do you want lovely dawn light during breakfast or a sunset over the dinner table?
- Garden view: A stunning view to the garden when you first enter the front door provides a “wow factor” – if this is missing, can the floor plan be modified to provide one? Would glass walls help to achieve this?
- Flow: If there is poor flow from one room to the next it can significantly impede day-to-day enjoyment and use of the house, requiring a change of the floor plan. If a house doesn’t feel right but you can’t figure out why, a lack of flow is often the reason.
- Structural walls: You need to know where the structural walls are in the house if you plan to change the layout of the house or create new doors. Removing the wrong wall can quite literally result in disaster.
- Trees: Any trees on the site that are within falling distance will need to be reported to planners, and some trees may have Tree Protection Orders which means they cannot be removed without approval, which will require a report from an arboricultural consultant.
- Decoration: If the house is in poor superficial condition (brickwork, render, paintwork, drains etc.) but structurally sound, you could increase its value fairly simply by improving its appearance – an effect known as the “kerb appeal”.
- Damp: An interior that suffers from damp and/or condensation suggests that there is water ingress somewhere in the property which will have to be addressed, which can be costly.
- Flood risk: If the house is in an area with a high water table or in a flood zone it will be more difficult – or impossible – to add basement extensions and you may need to carry out flood risk assessments.
- Services: Depending on the age of the mechanical and electrical services, plumbing, heating and so on, building regulations may require replacement of these services or your plans for the home may not be compatible.
- Utilities: Existing utilities, meters, manholes and drains may not be accessible, in which case works will have to be carried out to relocate them.
After hundreds of successful planning applications and listed building consents, we have incomparable insight into what is and is not possible within London's many boroughs, conservation areas and other local planning peculiarities.
Your home may also have a planning history that can provide insight into what may or may not be approved, while planning approvals and denials elsewhere on the street can tell us the attitude that planning officers have towards development.
You may dream of living in a contemporary, open plan home but if you remove the wrong wall then your dreams could quite literally come crashing down. By considering the structure of your potential purchase, we can tell you the physical realities of your dreams.
We will also hunt for clues that the house is not as solid as it first appears: cracks in the walls could be a sign of subsidence, mould often means a damp problem and rotten timbers could require expensive repairs. These are not issues you want to discover after buying.
Your home is a place to make memories, raise a family and escape the world, but it is also an investment. For most people, it is the biggest they will ever make. Like any investment, you have to choose wisely if you want it to preserve its value or provide a return when it is time to sell.
A development could cover its costs through the increase in value achieved or it could sink a hole in your finances. We look at national and local market insights, projected material and labour costs and site-specific factors to estimate the costs and final value of your project.