The HMO that nearly killed me
Well well well, its took me well over a month to sit down and write this blog. Generally, my blogs are about success stories this project has been a success in some respect but some of the issues that arose whilst doing it will make you hide behind a sofa.
It was a pretty stressful one to say the least with ups and downs from the beginning. I like to have 100% ownership on any issues, meaning that as the person running the whole thing ultimately, I am responsible but on this one I can honestly say somethings where just completely unforeseen.
I’ll start with the main elephant in the room! the Rona. This property was sale around December January time and when the dreaded Covid hit in March we were all set to complete. The completion date was actually the day before lock down initially. Of course, all the doomsday reps came out and made me second guess going ahead with this project. Now despite all of the issues I experienced with this one I can honestly say I would choose to do it again. Because at the end of the Day it’s a HMO in an A4 area!
So with Covid out the way, I managed to get a small 5% discount prior to completing. Once complete the property stood empty for just over 2 months. The material shortages had meant that the other site we had running was behind and those builders where coming straight to this house when they were done.
Rip out started, and one of the key value adds to this project was turning the dead space that was essentially storage/ hallway space on the second floor into a fifth bedroom. A small stud wall lay in the way of taking the room all the way to the eaves/ soffits. When we removed the stud wall we found what only can be described as half a tree in a beam holding the roof and floor together. It was a 300mm thick joist/purlin. At first I didn’t see it as that much of an issue, however I soon found out that this beam would impact the actual footprint of the room because it would lift the floor up. With Nottingham council any space under 1.5m high cannot be considered floor space essentially this beam lifted our finished floor level by around 180mm which meant that the room that was 8m2 shot all the way down to 6.7. Following this the fabulous building inspector came to visit and requested underdrawn insulation be put on the sloped ceiling meaning we lost a further 90mm from the ceiling height. Once the dust had settled I re measured the room and the floor space had dropped to a sad 6.4m2. At this point I did question my life choices and assessed how much damage we had done and whether I could revert it back to its 4-bedroom glory. Sadly, we were too far gone with the new bathroom on the floor below plumbed and fitted. I’m sure your sat thinking pfft that sounds hairy it’s not too bad though…. That’s the beginning….
After a good 2 hours on site I figured out that by smashing into the front bedroom I could steal the missing 1.6m2 to get the loft room to 8m2. It would be a pain but frankly I had no other options at this stage. The building inspector revisited and kindly requested that the new Velux window we had fitted and the trusses either side of it doubled up (a normal request) no problem I said passing the message onto the guys. A few days later they called me, the problem was that the ridge was 5.2m away from the velux as the rear of the property’s roofline stretched over two floors. Meaning that the timber they had fitted either side couldn’t go all the way up to the ridge in one continuous piece of timber. Mr inspector wasn’t happy with that. He requested that we catch those timbers by fitting in a new purlin. Ok no problem I said, even though the velux window was no heavier than the slates that we had replaced it with. I purchased two 225mm joists that needed bolting together and sitting into the gable walls. The builders called me early on a Thursday morning and told me that when they had removed a brick from the shared gable wall they had gone straight into the neighbour’s property! That’s right a huge hole in the neighbour’s bedroom. The odd thing was the walls where only one brick thick. No problem I said must be just that wall that’s single skin. Just push the beam all the way through and use it as leverage to sit it nicely on the their side. I will send the decorator around i finished. 30 minuets pass and the guys call me again. We have gone into the other neighbour’s house. F***!
I made it a point to visit the neighbours and look at the damage before sending any one to fix it. What I didn’t know was that the builders sent the guy that had caused the damage to fix it. That’s right they sent a labourer to do the filling and decorating. So when I got there was what only can be described as the biggest bodge. Of course, the neighbours weren’t best pleased. I arranged for a proper decorator to visit an get it all sorted. But a good decorator can’t just drop everything and go and fix this so of course there was a small wait for him to go. In that interim time, the neighbours served me notice under the party wall agreement, saying that the works I had carried out had adversely affected the structural integrity of their house and that their ground floor doors no longer shout properly!
At this point I can honestly say I was lost for words. The timber put into the party wall took almost no weight. I tried explaining this to the owner and that the likely cause of her hardwood doors not shutting was almost certainly due to the hot summer we were having causing them to swell. She didn’t take well to my logic. She demanded that a party wall surveyor looked and also sought legal advice. I booked in a structural surveyor to look at the property for a small fee of £400 he wrote a report for the neighbours. It took a week to come back and it was certainly one of the longest weeks of my life. He concluded that the addition of the new support on the second story had not caused the door issues and that I should pay for the repairs on the top floor and leave it at that. Great I thought so once the decorator had been back for the second time the issue was resolved. All in all, costing me around the £1000 mark. I later worked out that velux window cost me £2.8k to fit LOL.
The house was fighting tooth and nail to stay as it was, I had drainage layout issues because of the way the joists ran and the position of the main drain. But finally, 4 months after the builders first day the end was in sight. A small amount of snagging items where left for the builder to complete I estimated them to take no more than three days. When the main builder messaged me out of the blue and said he wasn’t returning! I had kept £1000 of his final payment back for the snags, so I explained to him that I couldn’t pay his remaining bill until he competed the snags. He told me to keep it and insisted that he want returning.
On top of this the other next-door neighbour had begun complaining to the council about the working hours of the guys on site. The guys where working to the times allowed she had just taken it on herself to be a pain. She even recorded the guys leaving site on the Saturday and the time to try and have the project shut down. I’ve never had this, I had tried speaking to her but I couldn’t get anywhere it was like talking to a brick wall. I honestly think if Covid hadn’t of happened this noise complaint wouldn’t have happened as she wouldn’t of been home all day. I mean the walls where one brick thick after all J
I hate having guys not complete their job, I mean its awkward to say the least but the hard thing is then asking someone else to finish it. It’s not really fair and you always wonder what if they just come by and smash the place up and more importantly why on earth would they not want to finish it, maybe they did a dog awful job and knew the final snags where too hard to complete. Anyone can do building works after all. It’s the finishing that’s the hard stuff. Luckily these snags where mostly decorating related and my handyman cleared them up after three days and £360 later the house was done.
The house was brought for £140,000 and we spent £34,000 including furnishing turning it from a 4 bed one bath property to a 5 bed 2 bath HMO. All in all with stamp duty and borrowing costs it came in at around £182,000. Thankfully the property was valued at £230,000 leaving £9.5k in the deal. We let it all out in 5 weeks.
Key learnings from this one, neighbours and building inspectors can be annoying and very costly.
see the finished article below