The sheer number of empty property in the UK would probably surprise you. According to the Empty Homes Agency’s statistics which were published in September 2016, there are 600,179 homes in England and 203,596 of these have been empty for longer than six months.
On the one hand, this represents a waste of such a valuable resource as housing; but on the other hand, also offers opportunities for enterprising individuals to rescue an empty property and occupy it, let it or return it to the market in a condition that meets modern standards.
If this sounds like an attractive proposition to you, there are a number of considerations you might want to take into account:
Finding an empty property
- when you start to look, you might be surprised just how many properties appear to be empty;
- your local council may be able not only to show you a list of all empty properties in your area, but also who the owners are;
- estate agents and online property auctions may also be useful sources of information;
Help in buying an empty property
- because the government is committed to helping local people bring empty housing back into use, it has already provided funding of more than £2.2 billion in bringing 93,000 dwellings back into use;
- this funding was made available to local authorities, many of which used it to offer grants and loans to individuals looking to rescue empty housing;
- the schemes differ from one local authority to another, so it may be necessary to check what – if anything – is available in your particular area;
- although the property may be empty, you may still want to protect your investment in it and the work that is underway during your rescue operation. Your mortgage provider will also require that you have adequate insurance cover in place, to protect both your interests;
- empty property insurance is specifically designed to provide just this security and is available from specialist providers – like those of us at GSI Insurance;
- as specialists in this type of cover, we are able to provide insurance even when the property is empty from inception – something that is not always available from other insurers;
- short term unoccupied property insurance is available as well as renovation-specific cover. You can read our Guide to unoccupied property here.
- although it is an existing property, you may need to take into account that many alterations – especially those involving structural alterations or extensions – still require planning permission;
- in planning your works, therefore, you may need to take into account the inevitable delay that this may incur;
- planning also involves careful budgeting – building works seem to have an almost inevitable tendency to overrun in terms of costs and time, so strictly marshalling these resources may be a primary aim;
- you may be planning to conduct much of the rescue operation using your own time and labour, but even so, may also rely on contracted help from builders, electricians, plumbers and other tradesmen – choosing dependable, qualified contractors may make all the difference in successfully completing your project on time and within budget.
Rescuing an empty property may not be a project for the faint-hearted – it is likely to require time, patience and not a little financial commitment. Nevertheless, you may take satisfaction from the knowledge that you are adding to the housing pool by returning an empty property to use. Whether you intend to occupy the finished dwelling yourself or to let it to tenants, you may discover that you have made a sound investment.