Build or Renovate?

Build or Renovate?

Postby Algol » Thu Aug 19, 2010 4:24 pm

Hi All. I own a small site in a North County Dublin village, great coastal location. It was bought in 2006 and I had an architect design a modern home to replace the existing rundown cottage.
It took over a year in all, but we finally got PP.
Unfortunately, by then my job comittments were moving overseas and I had to put a hold on the build. We did some re-jigging to the design late last year, so we still have over 4 years PP outstanding.

With the current state of the Irish economy, it doesn't look like we'll be back anytime soon. I've held on to the site because we love the location. And if we do come back we'd like to build. However, we have to face the possibility that we may not return for many years (I mean a decade possibly). In which case its just costing me money sitting there derelict.

I'm struggling with some mixed emotions on what we should do.
The choices are basically:

1. Sell it
2. Sit on it
3. Renovate the cottage

Selling it is probably the right thing to do - but we've become emotionally attached to it. Its our only property 'back home'. We'd lose money on it immediately, and it'd be impossible to find anything else like it for views over water etc.

We can't just sit on it forever though.

Renovating is a suggestion being pushed by neighbours and family.
The cottage is tiny (living room, bedroom, kitchen, bath) and in pretty bad condition. I'd call it a 4 (on a scale where 10 is comfortable and 1 is a ruin). Investing money in it and renting it might be pointless. The cost of (say) fixing it up, adding a small extension, central heating, windows, wiring, etc etc - I'm guessing could be 80 - 100K.
Rental income would be limited - maybe not enough to justify the cost.

Does anyone have a suggestion? Something I haven't thought of perhaps?
What would you do if you were in my shoes?

Thanks in advance...
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Re: Build or Renovate?

Postby tommyt » Thu Aug 19, 2010 4:45 pm

To start I would suggest ruling out Option 2 immediately as you would be creating wilful dereliction and possibly be subject to legal proceedings from the local authority and lose the site.
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Re: Build or Renovate?

Postby Algol » Fri Aug 20, 2010 6:17 am

Thanks Tommyt, I'm aware that could become an issue alright. It's already an issue in that it's pretty difficult to get insurance cover for the cottage because of it's unoccupied status.

What about the other options?
Have building costs in Dublin dropped at all since I last checked? If I was to go ahead and build the new house we had budgeted around 380K for 2,200 SqFt - so around 175 euro per SqFt. It's got a lot of glass in it, and deserved to be specced well. But that was in the good ole days when we planned to live in it.... if we aren't going to live in it I'm reluctant to over-spend on it.
Could we get it done for much less you think? I realise this is like asking how long is a piece of string......
If we could realistically do it for 250K I'd seriously think of it. Then renting, or even selling becomes more interesting.
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Re: Build or Renovate?

Postby onq » Sat Aug 21, 2010 3:57 am

Hi ALgo,

You can achieve costs of under €100 per square foot for the house proper, especially if you cut your cloth according to your measure.
You should design the building again for the rental market you will need to support your borrowings while you are away.
This means looking closely at what's letting in North County Dublin, but let's face it - the lowest common denominator is always going to be a three bed semi.
I'd be tempted to go in again for a semi-d arrangement and keep both to around 90 square metres in area, with a view to letting separately and then knocking two into one when you return.
If nothing else it will establish a permission for two small houses on the site and perhaps two stories.
It will increase its return as a let, and increase its profitability if you sell.

FWIW

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Re: Build or Renovate?

Postby Algol » Sat Aug 21, 2010 7:50 pm

Thanks ONQ.
I'm afraid it would be impossible to get two houses on this site. It's just too small. Added to that are the access and off-street parking issues, plus open space. Nope, believe me, I know what'll fly with the planner and that won't.
One 3 bed semi would be possible, although a traditional pitched roof would breach the vertical limit he put on us (current plan has a flat roof for this reason) so going after a re-design would just open a whole new can of worms.

Beyond all that - this IS an architecture forum, and I would've thought you guys would be aghast at the idea of binning an 'interesting' design in favour of another pastiche structure.
No offense meant there - I know you're trying to suggest solutions that will work.

Honestly, the site location is so good I'd rather sell it as is than do a 3 bed semi on it. If we build the house it'll rent - I have no doubt. This is a high income area (if there still is such a thing in Ireland) and I think it'll bring in a good tenant.

The structure isn't anything really awkward. It can be block built, two boxes basically. The stuff I'd have to drop would be all the expensive finishing inside. It'd be IKEA for the kitchen and furnishings. And no fancy bathrooms or heating systems.
But at least it'd get done.

The windows are what worry me. And the roof. Both could be very pricey.
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Re: Build or Renovate?

Postby DOC » Sun Aug 22, 2010 8:53 am

Algol wrote:Have building costs in Dublin dropped at all since I last checked?


Have you gone out to tender to get an accuarate price of what it might actually cost?

I would suggest you do this first before deciding what to do with the house/site, it will not cost very much (if anything) to get the job priced. Do you have working/tender drawings and specifications? If you don't, I would suggest you at least invest in these so pricing will be accurate/relatively true. Do you still have your architcet on board? If not - get another one.

If the overall structure is relatively simple, you'll find prices very competive. A lot of builders are now looking for projcets that will tide them over the winter/next 6 months. If you're going to rent the house for a number of years you can keep internal finishes such as bathroom fittings, kitchen, etc., to minimum cost and always replace them if you return to live in the house.

With regard to materials (windows, roof, etc.,) I would suggest there are always cheaper alternatives that will retain in essence the 'ethos' of the design. You could out to tender with what you want and if you have a good architect, and at the end of the tender process, a good potential builder selected, all, including yourself, can sit down together and see where potential savings might be to try and get to your target budget.

I would strongly suggest this route as you seem to be enthusiastic to get the house built - at the end of this process, if it's still all costing too much, then at least you have another small 'asset' of a set of working/construction drawings which would aid any purchaser.

Just re-reading your original post - it may cost you half the money to (properly) rennovate the original cottage than build the new house, even though you may get maybe 4 times the area in the new house - economies of scale and ease of build being factors.
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Re: Build or Renovate?

Postby onq » Sun Aug 22, 2010 11:18 am

Algol wrote:Thanks ONQ.
I'm afraid it would be impossible to get two houses on this site. It's just too small. Added to that are the access and off-street parking issues, plus open space. Nope, believe me, I know what'll fly with the planner and that won't.
One 3 bed semi would be possible, although a traditional pitched roof would breach the vertical limit he put on us (current plan has a flat roof for this reason) so going after a re-design would just open a whole new can of worms.

Beyond all that - this IS an architecture forum, and I would've thought you guys would be aghast at the idea of binning an 'interesting' design in favour of another pastiche structure.
No offense meant there - I know you're trying to suggest solutions that will work.

Honestly, the site location is so good I'd rather sell it as is than do a 3 bed semi on it. If we build the house it'll rent - I have no doubt. This is a high income area (if there still is such a thing in Ireland) and I think it'll bring in a good tenant.

The structure isn't anything really awkward. It can be block built, two boxes basically. The stuff I'd have to drop would be all the expensive finishing inside. It'd be IKEA for the kitchen and furnishings. And no fancy bathrooms or heating systems.
But at least it'd get done.

The windows are what worry me. And the roof. Both could be very pricey.



Algol,

An architect will explore all possiblities when it comes to design.
A commercial architect will tell the client what he needs to hear as opposed to what he wants to hear.
Its seldom you'll find a site on which you can build a decent sized bungalow on that won't take two semi-d's
To be specific, the advice I gave was in relation to the accommodation type, not the design type.
I gave you marketing advice based on what usually gives the best return/lettability.
You interpreted this to mean trad design, which seems to be interpreted by you as pitched roof tweeness.
I think you;ve been reading too many design magazines though, because there is no such thing as a pastiche structure.
Pastiche design, yes, but its only call that by people who cannot draw curves or decorate a building, still running away - more than 100 years later - from the excesses of the Victorian bourgeoisie.

:-)

You, like so many others, seem to fail to realise that the pitched roof form was a response to particular market and weather conditions, using technology and materials of the day, which was pushed well beyond its limits to the parapet-shielded, centre-valley-leaking, double a-frame terrotory of Georgian Buildings - which were the spec houses of their day and which *still* command high prices whatever the market, even in poor condition.

Did you know all those parapets and windows should have lined up? No? There ya go.

We've seen three flat roofs blown off buildings in exposed locations in south Dublin in the past six years, but you go ahead and enjoy the sea view with a flat roof and an overhang, by all means.
Just don't expect anything bac kfrom your architect other than the "exceptionally high winds occurred" response beloved of Jim Pike when the roof disappears.

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"Honestly, the site location is so good I'd rather sell it as is than do a 3 bed semi on it"

To me this comment says you're in love with a sea view.

Having live in Martello Terrace for a year and a half when I was engaged to be married, I can tell you that a sea view fades into the background pretty quickly.
Epecially if you're the one washing salt rime from the windows and watching your car rust away from the salt spray.
Good job a lot of cars are made from aluminium panels these days.

The above comment also tells me you didn't use an architect to design your house.

Proximity to shops, neighbours, parking, schools, amenities are all more important than a sea view.
Have you considered all these things in relation to your life plan, if it involves having kids, sending them to school, allowing them develop and make friends as opposed to having to organise endless "play days" for them?

Is this house really an extended ego-trip for you or will it suit the growing needs of a young family?

I suppose all this is post-facto and too late to make any difference to you.
Good job I don't just write for the person I'm responding to, so.
And yes, *someone* has to build houses with sea views.

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So to clarify, I think you're not looking at this site from a building return point of view.
You're still in love with the site/view and you're going to build your dream house on it.
That means any comments from this forum about either reviewing the brief for better commercial return or even design matters may go in one ear and out the other.

You may really just want to get the job done cheaply without ruining the "look".
This is a specialist skillset that some qualified persons excel at more than architects.
The nearest forum run by architectural technicians is the Planning Sub Forum in the Home and Garden section over on Boards.ie. Several of the posters here also post there.

OTOH if you really *do* want some design comments then post the drawings of the house somewhere and link to it.

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On the matter of design, generally:

If your house is just one more box combination with one side with big windows and a lot of timber cladding, I'm afraid I got jaded with them a long time ago.
For me, the "international style" is just one more means of eroding tradition, history and culture of nations and rebuilding them into the globalist, capitalist utopia the people who gave us this latest recession dream of.

Mondrian-type compositions bore me to tears - there is little of no refrence or context to them - except to other boxes - ergo, my plugs don't fit and after the initial "whee" of opening the largest sliding doors in the county, the thrill fades.
One child's finger is all it'll take to get that designer sued to oblivion.

Semi-detached houses don't have to be pitched roof [although in this climate, you'd have to wonder at the prevalence of badly detailed flatt roofed "boxes" around at the moment], not do they have to be traditionally designed.

You can call them "terraced" if you like, since sea views have a tradition of attracting terracing, and you can put flat roofs on them, although a pitched roof orientated to deflect the worst prevailing winds will make far more sense over the life of the building.

If you want hard core boxes in terraced form, look at A2's work in Lucky Lane near Stoneybatter.

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Whatever you do in the end, you have to accept is that should you ever return to it - having let it - it will be a second hand house that other people have called home before you.

I don't think you're prepared for this emotionally, which is why I was suggesting taking a more commercial approach to the building, so you'll fall less in love with it and be more detached in the letting phase.

Building a modern look house particularly suitable to you may affect the letting.
This can be a good thing or a bad thing.

Building something that is cheap to run, may help the letting, but do yourself a favour and ring up five local estate agents and ask them what is letting in the area.

Because if you're building to let, that's a totally different market, and you cannot ride out a recession with an asset in Ireland [possibly still depreciating] that isn't paying for itself until you come back to claim it for your own.

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Finally if youreally want to achieve some savings let me underling Doc's advice but amplify it.

Get an experienced architect [at whatever design point you wish to remain at] to look at the house from a buildability point of view and try to balance all the expenditure.

If you decide to build with a traditional form and materials, I would advise on super-insulating the house now and upping the spec of the windows and MVHR by retrofitting later when you come to live in it - the smell of new paint from making good will help the illusion that the house is being moved inot for the first time.

FWIW

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Re: Build or Renovate?

Postby PVC King » Sun Aug 22, 2010 11:22 am

I note a number of contributors suggesting that you cut cost; the multiple between material costs and the cost of constructing/fitting materials rose to unsustainable levels of double digit multiples during the boom as those with the track record could get massive premiums for reputation. There are now a number of contractors who have over-corrected and offer good value just to keep key staff employed for an upturn they perceive as occuring in 2011/12.

If the cottage is somewhere like Rush or Skerries then I'd say (as an ex-pat) that in the long run values will come back as they are really pleasant places to live. I'd suggest not compromising on the materials but try to squeeze the contractors under the supervision of an architect to enforce quality and sit on it as a buy to let investment. If your yield is 2% or greater over your finance costs then subject to getting an architect who will get you the original design at 2010 construction prices then that you have a very attractive opportunity to take a long view if you have access to finance.
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Re: Build or Renovate?

Postby onq » Sun Aug 22, 2010 5:42 pm

Depressing as it might seem PVC King, I suspect there will be no upturn in 2011/2012.

Any upturn will be slow and torturous, just like the seventies running into the eighties - hell for anyone trying to make money in the building game. Margins will be minimal and quality will suffer hugely as the brightest and best of the new design talent and young entrepreneurs leave the country for Germany, America, China, Australia, etc. Anyone 44 years or younger will be accepted as permanent residents with suitable qualifications in Oz or Canada. Its a numbers game - how much can you give the state in the years you have left?

But yes, now is still a good time to build - before the skills drain - and they are both good locations, two people in know living in the North County swear its heaven on earth and will never leave there. The masterplan for Rush was one of the best small town developments I saw in the boom years. Not perfect, by any means, but better than most.

Under €100 per square foot is do-able in the Dublin area, providing you properly design and mange the job to include buildability from the start and manage the sequence and site properly. The benefit of doing two houses and doing them sequentially is that there will be enough critical mass to achieve some economies of scale that allows re-use of plant and set up works/ multiplicity of building elements.

Or indeed, given the OP's sensitivity to modern design, he could try for a Duplex style arrangement, although depending on how its done ithey may qualify as apartments and may need a fire cert depending on the LA. Happy to stand corrected on that. Heck, he might stack 'em three or four high or more, like that yoke on the Grand Canal basin. Keep the top tow for himself with a 360 degree deck and a hang-glider to go to the shops... lateral thinking.

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Re: Build or Renovate?

Postby Algol » Wed Aug 25, 2010 6:12 pm

Thanks all.
Doc, I think your suggestion to Tender the build is a very practical one. I've already contacted my architect about that. If it's not too pricey to get the basic plans worked up for the process I may give that a shot. It'll certainly help to have a clearer picture of exactly where we stand.

Onq, thanks for taking the trouble to write that analysis.
Regarding the flat roof thing - as I said before - the Planner told us from the outset that he was placing a vertical limit on us based on a neighbouring house. So we can't get two storeys, unless we go flat. If we put in a pitched roof it'll be single storey plus attic space only.
Not to mention the fact that it took nearly a year, several drafts, and quite a bit of money to get to this stage. I could not face going back and starting again from scratch, spending another 6 months and who-knows-how-much on architect fees, without as much as one brick on another to show for the further expense.

If it's like that then the renovation would be a better, cheaper, and faster option.

We lived in a house near this site for 20 years, so I have no romantic illusions about living by the sea. We've already done that. But from my 20 year experience, I don't recognise this awful scenario you paint. My car didn't rust away. My windows needed the normal amount of cleaning. My pitched roof was drafty and had the occasional tile blown off in winter storms. The rest of the time we enjoyed an idyllic setting. We were 10 mins walk from shops and schools. Having breakfast while gazing out over the water did my state of mind enormous good every morning. And when people say gazing into a log fire is fascinating - you should try watching the behaviour of water from day to day. The view changed constantly, from breaking surf to the most incredible glass-like stillness.

And that word pastiche stuck in my mind because it was used pejoratively - by my architect - to describe what you suggest we should build.
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