How to define refurbishment? The ins & outs of upgrading your property

definition of refurbishment

The pandemic forced a lot of people to focus on their properties. The stamp duty holiday led to an explosion in the market, while homeowners across the country re-examined their homes as they ended up stuck inside. The UK property market saw unprecedented levels of demand as the rest of the economy shut down. A record 213,120 transactions took place in June 2021 – before the taping off of the stamp duty perks. This became the largest number of transactions per month since October 1988.

Refurbishment work also rose during the same period. In May 2021, the Planning Portal in England & Wales received 63,497 applications, a 56% increase when compared to May 2020. While the number of applications has dropped in recent months, demand is expected to ramp up again as we move through the summer.

British homeowners can obsess over upgrading their homes, but how exactly do you define refurbishment? What impact does it have on a property and how much is it likely to cost? We’ll explore these questions and more in this blog.

Source: Savills, The Planner, Planning Portal

Definition: what is a refurbishment?

The refurbishing of a property is broadly defined as the actions including installing new bathrooms, kitchens, or general redecoration. Refurbishment tends to increase the overall value and quality of a property.

Refurbish vs renovate vs refurnish: what’s the difference?

From the get-go, investors will want to make sure they’re aware of the differences between the three terms. Some may run the risk of thinking the words are interchangeable and basically mean the same thing.

While refurbishment is generally concerned with increasing a property’s value or prospects, renovation refers to restoring something to a good working condition. For example, an old building with a decrepit roof will need renovating. Whereas installing new sinks in a bathroom will typically be a refurbishment.

Additionally, refurbishment tends to involve the rebuilding or upgrading of assets with new (hopefully better) materials. Whereas refurnishing involves getting entirely new furniture to replace what came before.

Refurbish vs renovate vs refurnish

What types of assets can be refurbished?

While the definition of refurbishment may seem obvious, it can encompass several elements not initially thought of. Most are likely to think of aesthetic changes when they hear the word refurbishment. But the act can also include structural changes. Upgrades made to the wiring, plumbing or ventilation of a property can fall under the refurbishing umbrella.

Having a clear understanding of the type of work that’s needed will help clarify plans. Knowing exactly what specific elements of a property are being upgraded will narrow down what workers are needed, or define the refurbishment budget required.

What are the advantages of refurbishment?

  1. Refurbishment can increase the value of a property, potentially allowing investors to sell on their purchases for a profit. This will be affected by a number of variables however, and investors will need to make sure they factor in the costs of the refurb.
  2. Refurbishment can also create opportunity for buy-to-let investors. Renters may be willing to pay a bit more to live in a home which has been upgraded. This doesn’t necessarily need to involve what’s pleasing to the eye either.

In late 2021, a survey from found 98% of respondents would prefer to live in a home optimised to increase energy efficiency, reduce energy costs and minimise environmental impacts. Some 53% said they were prepared to pay more for a greener property, which just over half of these willing to pay up to 10% more in rent.

While the ongoing cost of living crisis may have dented some of this demand, investors are likely to be forced to embrace the benefits of refurbishment. Over the coming years, landlords will need to ensure their properties meet new minimum energy efficiency standards. Under current proposals, all newly rented properties will be required to have an EPC rating of C or above from 2025. Existing tenancies will have until 2028 to comply. A lot of upgrades could be on the horizon across the UK.

Source: Landlord Today, Financial Reporter

How does the refurbishment process work

How does the refurbishment process work?

While defining refurbishment is straightforward, understanding the process from start to finish can be tricky. There is a lot of variation in how refurbishment works are done, and no two cases will be the same.

The requirements for a new paintjob will be completely different to installing upgraded plumbing. At the very initial stages, investors will need to plan out what refurbishment they’re after. They’ll need to ask themselves if they’re planning an extension, knocking down existing walls or adding additional doors etc.

A lot of refurbishment work will need planning permission, which should be sought from a local council. Each local authority will differ, but they should be able to clearly tell you if permission is needed and if it is, they’ll point you in the right direction.

Where substantial plans are in the works, such as loft conversions, building control services will be needed. These services are provided by local authorities across England and Wales, ensuring building regulations are complied with during the project(s). They will ensure any changes made are structurally sound and safe from the risks of fire etc.

Once all the planning is clearly laid out and all the compliance boxes are ticked, investors will need to go out and find builders or contractors who can do the work. A good place to start would be to get recommendations and referrals from reliable associates. However, there are several resources online for those who are not sure where to start, such as

When the work is ready to get started, a contract should be written up. This may help keep the ongoing work stick to defined refurbishment plan and timeframe. In an ideal world, building work would finish ahead of schedule without any hiccups and come underbudget. But, making upgrades to a building – one which may be 100s of years old – can be notoriously difficult. Buyers will need to be prepared for unexpected problems and unforeseen costs.

Source: Planning Portal, Citizens Advice

What are the costs of refurbishment?

Given the variation involved, it can be difficult to define the average costs of refurbishment for investors. For 2022, wooden flooring (per m²) will have an average cost of just £30, but up to £900 could be spent on replastering a single room. Therefore, fully planning out a project and negotiating with contractors is crucial.

Investors will also need to keep an eye on their taxes. Refurbishment can increase value, but this may result in higher tax bills too. Capital gains tax may be due on properties sold for a higher value than what they were bought for. Additionally, if rents are raised after an upgrade, income tax costs could also jump.

There are a number of allowances and tax deductibles available to those who invest in upgrading a property. As such, investors will likely want to seek out guidance from tax experts or accountants ahead of time.

Source: Check a trade

How to finance your refurbishment?

When taking on refurbishment projects, it is important to understand your financial options. Specialist lending can help complete renovations in a timely manner, as funds can be with you in as little as 3 days. The challenge is finding a lender with a proven track record of financing renovations, refurbishments, and conversions. Alternative finance such as bridging loans can provide the breathing space to buy, refurbish and refinance or re-sell the investment asset at a higher value. You can also raise finance for the works through a second charge bridging loan. Read more about second charge lending on our product page here.

We’re experienced in refurbishment loans. We work alongside the property owner or their broker to meet their deadline and ensure the project is completed on time. For more information about our specialist finance products, get in touch with a member of our team.

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Speak to us on the phone, via chat or email about your case, however complex it might be. We have a friendly, dediciated team and one of our underwriters will be happy to help you with your query. We will try our best to say yes to you, instead of finding a reason to say no.

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