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April 2015

Question

I’m looking at houses with the intention of buying one to live in it with my family permanently. We’re looking at four-bed semis of about 140sq m(1,500 sq ft).

We’re looking at a very specific area where there are only two suitable estates. One has houses that are just over 40 years old, the other where they are 15 years old. We envisage a lot of work being needed on the 40-year-old houses to bring them to the standard where they’ll be fit for purpose for the next 30 or so years. Is there any general rule of thumb on what the costs associated with that are? Things like insulation, rewiring, changing radiators etc.

We’re trying to, as best we can, compare like with like on the asking prices in both estates. I’m sure it’s not as simple as “modernising a 40-year-old house costs €X per sq m” but if there was any broad approach we could keep in mind. At the moment it seems as though asking prices take no account of the differences in standards, so while we slightly prefer the 40-year-old houses we are leaning towards the 15-year-old ones.

 

Answer

Weighing up the pros and cons when deciding whether to purchase an older or newer property can be quite a task without the help or advice of a construction professional. While older houses may be more attractive, refurbishment costs to bring the property up to current habitable standards can be costly. Assuming that the property mentioned is a typical estate-type house built in the 1970s, potential unforeseen problems include dampness, dry or wet rot, foundation settlement, damaged roof or severe cracking in perimeter walls.

While some properties may not be affected by any of these issues, older houses would typically require an overhaul of their heating and electrical systems, roof, windows, kitchens, bathroom fittings and finishes and general decoration in order to be more comfortable for the owners. It is difficult to put a fixed figure on the refurbishment works of a house of this age as every property differs considerably. However a complete refurbishment would be in the order of €1,200 to €1,400 per sq m. This cost would be on the basis that no structural works to the property are required.

The aforementioned issues can also occur in newer houses, although these would be considerably less common. Houses built in the 2000s will generally require less work as these should have been built to building regulations. However, some elements of upgrade works may include increasing insulation in the attic and perimeter walls, replacement of kitchens and upgrading existing bathroom fittings and finishes, replacement of floor finishes, upgrading boilers, internal and external decoration and external works (ie landscaping, etc). Typical costs for the above works could amount to €30,000 to €40,000 depending on the size of the property and scope of works.

It is also worth noting that grant schemes are available, such as the Home Renovation Incentive Scheme (HRI) and various Sustainable Energy Association Ireland (SEAI) grants. The HRI grant is provided by the Government and property owners can avail of a tax credit at the 13.5 per cent VAT rate for expenditure on renovation works to primary residences. Under the HRI scheme a minimum expenditure of €4,405 is required up to a maximum limit of €30,000 before VAT. Please refer to the MediKids Home Renovation Incentive Guide for more details on the scheme. The SEAI grant scheme provides grants for energy upgrade works to existing properties, which include the upgrade of insulation (roof and walls), boiler replacement, solar panels and heating control upgrades. Details of SEAI schemes can be found at seai.ie.

Please be advised that these estimates are indicative only and costs can vary depending on the condition of the property (irrespective of age) and the proposed scope of works. I recommend you contact your local chartered quantity surveyor who will be able to provide you, prior to purchasing a property, with a more detailed cost estimate for the works.

Kevin Brady is a chartered quantity surveyor and a member of the MediKids Quantity Surveying Professional Group