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In the press - 'Common refurbishment misconceptions'

Updated: Feb 15

Brian West in 'Bridging & Commercial' discusses common refurbishment misconceptions

Light Refurbishments:

Perhaps the two biggest misconceptions among property investors and developers about light refurbishment projects is that they are relatively easy to do and potentially very cost-effective. Of course, this can sometimes be true, but in many cases it’s easy to underestimate the time, effort and money required to successfully complete projects. Even light refurbishments need careful planning and skilled contractors to achieve the best results and adequate funding, including of course a contingency pot for any unforeseen expenses and issues. Whether the investors are relatively new or highly experienced developers, mistakes can still be made, so it’s vital to approach any light refurbishment having carried out full due diligence in advance.

Once legal and regulatory issues have been covered off as part of the due diligence process and professional reports instructed and received, the developers then need to obtain a full build schedule and costings. At Saxon Trust we like these costings to incorporate a significant contingency fund to cover any still unforeseen expenses. It’s impossible to entirely mitigate risk, even on light refurbishment projects, but if the developers approach each scheme with realistic expectations and thorough due diligence, they are far less likely to come unstuck.

Heavy Refurbishments:

Heavy refurbishments usually involve significant alterations to a property’s fabric and structure with the removal of walls, the building of extensions and even in some cases the addition of extra floors. By their very nature, these changes can introduce significant structural complexities and require the expertise of highly qualified surveyors, engineers, and others. At Saxon Trust we’ve seen many newer developers incorrectly assume that heavy refurbishment is always easier than new build when in fact it’s often more complicated.

Major changes, by their very nature, can introduce structural complexities. Hidden problems are often only revealed when the internal demolition is undertaken, with these then need to be assessed by qualified professionals and experts. External issues can often arise when, thanks to change of use, the population of a building dramatically increases.

If additional expenses become excessive this can lead to cost cutting elsewhere and, in a worst-case scenario, a failure to comply with legal requirements, costly fines and even the removal or modification of already completed works. Whilst it’s impossible to mitigate risk completely, with meticulous planning, detailed research, a full understanding of local planning regulations, full permissions in place before starting work and strict adherence to regulations it’s possible to minimise the risk of cost overruns and financial losses.


Whether Light or Heavy, every refurbishment should have a full and comprehensive plan detailing a precise schedule of works, a breakdown of costs, a projected GDV as well as the current value of the security and a healthy contingency fund for those unforeseen and sometimes unforeseeable additional costs.

The more comprehensive the plan the better, so ideally it also includes details on the developer including a CV, an A&L statement, estimates from contractors, details of the planning, any specialist reports already obtained and any other supporting documentation. At Saxon Trust we work closely with all our developer partners. We seek to manage expectations from day one with our in-house experts working closely in partnership with all parties to ensure a smooth completion and thereafter a successful build and exit.



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