Real estate experts share their costliest mistakes and how to avoid them

In 2021, property investor TJ Atkinson purchased a listed property in Kent for himself: “I wanted something quirky, with some character, that I could make into my forever home. “It is in a prime, central location and I knew I could turn it into a beautiful home.”

Despite his experience and contacts, TJ found that renovating the property was not easy due to its listed status. He had to wait several rounds of applications to get planning permission approved, and the initial architect he hired had no experience in listed buildings.

“I was very restricted in what I could do and change within the property, which took me away from my desired plans,” he says. “I didn’t fully understand the small, intricate requirements that caused so many delays and significant costs.

“Other renovations of this magnitude have cost me between £50,000 and £60,000 previously, while this project is expected to cost almost £200,000 due to specialist materials and workers.”

He estimates his architect’s fees alone amount to £30,000. His advice to others is: “Listed buildings should be left to the experts. It’s an easy way to lose your money. Planning requirements are typically more complex and specialized.

“Don’t fall in love with properties. Even residential properties should be considered through investment lenses only.”

‘Not investigating my builder cost me twice as much’

TJ also made a mistake with a refurbishment project in Erith, Kent, in 2019.

“I saw an opportunity to add value to the property by adding a loft extension,” he says.

But the builder to whom he gave the order subcontracted the work to another builder who did not fully understand what was wanted and, when he understood, asked for more money.

“I made a mistake by paying the builder 50% of the work in advance. When he asked for 25 more pieces two weeks later, I refused, he abandoned the job and refused to complete it.

“As they still had keys, they returned to the property and left the taps running and blocked the bathtub and sinks, causing the property to flood and ruin the floors and walls.”

TJ had to find another builder to complete the job, meaning it cost twice what he expected.

Your advice to avoid finding yourself in a similar situation?

“Make sure you have contracts with your builders, go and see two or three of their previous jobs and talk to their previous clients (without the builder being present). That way you can learn more about the builder, his attitude, work ethic, etc. And not paying 50% in advance.”