Recently whilst browsing Facebook, I came across some images that really caught my eye. A Victorian house renovation that I loved the style of. Clean lines, minimalist and lots of raw, industrial materials. I sent Sam, the developer, a message asking if he would be willing for us to use it as a case study, and fortunately for both you and I, he was willing to share some details.
Sam, can you tell me a little bit about your background and the strategies you focus on?
My background is in construction and I have 18 years management and ‘on the tools’ experience in residential property in London and the South East. I have been full time in property for the past 3 years and I first started a r2r (rent to rent) business in Tooting, South West London.
I was working on my own at the time, doing refurbishment work and wanted to get started in property. I knew from the start that r2r (and tenants in general) wasn’t really for me and after 2 years, several properties and 20+ tenants, that was confirmed! Rent 2 Rent helped me to get started on my goal of working full time in property, I now have just one property left which was the easiest to manage and highest yielding so it made sense to keep. During the last 3 years I have also completed multiple successful flip projects in London that have returned between 20 and 35% ROI.
I promised myself from an early age that my work would always involve something I enjoyed. My strategy was born from this passion and after renovating and extending my own personal properties in S.W London, I realised I had found something special. The properties were purchased through probate, requiring full refurbishment and reconfiguration throughout. I have simply taken great feedback from my ‘beta’ projects and created a refined property product as a result.
I currently have two flip projects in the build phase (one is another Victorian house renovation) as well as looking for a 3rd and 4th . My focus for this year and next is to continue on this strategy as well as converting houses into multiple apartments.
Where is the property, what appealed to you about it, and what condition was it in when you got it?
The property is in Walthamstow, East London and it appealed to me because the area has seen lots of buyers who can no longer afford Shoreditch and Hackney start looking further afield. The connections are great and the area is becoming more and more desirable.
The house itself was structurally sound but needed a full programme of refurbishment. The key aspect of this small Victorian house renovation was that as well as the dormer bedroom, I could add another good sized double bedroom above the rear of the property.
This was vital, as only adding just one bedroom to a house in London will often not be enough to maximise the GDV and ensure the project is viable.
Where did your inspiration for your interior design come from?
Having previously worked on and managed residential build projects for almost two decades I’ve seen lots of good and bad design which means I know how to get the most out of a space without compromising the livability around the home. My inspiration comes from a love of period features and raw materials.
Whilst I appreciate the clean lines of modern buildings I often feel they have no soul or homely feel to them. I prefer to incorporate several different types of raw materials per project and mix them with a contemporary finish. For this project I used exposed timber floors, exposed and painted brick, slate tiles, panga panga cladding and a slab of elm.
The one question I always ask myself is, “what would I do if this was my home?”. It’s obviously important not to go overboard on the finish but just putting yourself in the shoes of a potential buyer can give you a massive advantage.
If they’re in the market to buy a property then you can guarantee they’ve been spending just as much time on Pinterest as Rightmove. How will they feel when they walk into your property if it looks bland and similar to what a national house builder might put together? I am empathetic to my buyers needs and therefore will continue to maximise the GDV on my projects.
The London market seems to finally be slowing down, does this concern you and if so will you adjust your strategy?
In my experience, the £1m+ market has suffered the most in London, which is why my strategy and current focus is based on properties with a GDV of sub £800k. This fits in well with my plan to convert houses into multiple units as single apartments are priced below that threshold and remain attractive to buyers.
Having lived in South West London for the past 7 years I have spent more time on Rightmove than I care to remember! I’m always monitoring prices in my area (online and in person with my preferred agents), refining my model and my due diligence process to ensure the best result for myself and more importantly, my investors.
What should people be looking for when looking for a “flip project”?
Nothing new here! I look to add value by increasing the number of bedrooms by either refurbishing, reconfiguring the layout or extending the property. I feel my construction and design experience really benefits me here.
From looking at the pictures and floorplan online I can see what can and can’t be done from a build perspective and what the costs of the build will be. This means I’m not spending time second guessing build costs or waiting for builders to get back to me with quotes before making an offer, meaning I can quickly and confidently offer on properties.
What are the biggest lessons you took away from this project?
Something that is of value to me and will hopefully be of value to others is when getting quotes, give the builder as much information on the final design and detail as you can eg sockets per room, bath suite layout, lighting design etc.
They will love you if you can go to an exacting level of detail as it removes any guesswork or assumptions on their part and you won’t find yourself with mounting extras as the project progresses. If the builder knows all these details then you won’t find yourself having to go to site every couple of days to answer his questions on layouts and design.
I did this with my builder on a recent project and despite never working together before, I only went to site once every two weeks. The benefits of working this way are huge; more time, cheaper build costs, zero micro-managing, less stress and if you’re anything like me, more time fishing.
Any final words of wisdom for aspiring property developers?
I think it’s really important to stand out from the crowd in some way when designing the finish of a project. Individual touches, bespoke design, paint, lighting. Whatever it is you should have at least 2-3 features per property that potential buyers won’t have seen in any other properties for sale in the area.
In my current projects this includes a reclaimed scaffold board vanity unit from @brixdesignworks, riven slate tiled fireplace and underfloor heating throughout.
High level schedule of works for this Victorian house renovation
Week 1-4 Rip out, steels in, loft rooms constructed and made watertight. Plastering and 1 st fix of loft rooms completed.
Week 5-8 Sash windows replaced. Demolition of existing extension followed by new foundations and brick work. Front of house brickwork steam cleaned and repointed. The existing bathroom floor joists were rotten so they had to be removed and replaced. This was done at a cost of £500 as was the only unforeseen extra I had to account for during the build.
Week 9-12 Tiling and suites fitted in shower room and family bathroom. Kitchen extension roofed and tiled followed by screeding and plastering.
Week 13-16 Second fix carpentry, garden fencing and decking, coving and cornice. Painting started.
Week 17-20 Kitchen fitted, flooring laid, bi-folds installed, finishing of painting.
Week 21-23 Snagging, dressing and sold on the first day of being marketed.