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Long distance investing


 I am not exactly writing from a far away beach but our long awaited bungalow in Plymouth has its renovations underway. This is a new way of updating properties for me, an 8 hour round-trip has to be taken seriously!

I have previously been content with being a wholeheartedly local investor. This means that when the time comes for repairs and renewals I use a network of local guys and gals, separate trades, to do my work. It keeps the cost down but means that in years gone by I plugged the gaps between trades myself, in the last few years I have discovered a top secret but priceless handy-person team that do these 'in-between' jobs and now project-manage renovations for me. In terms of local renovations I am fairly hands-free.

The disability-adapted holiday bungalow in Plymouth is a different proposition, it needs all the usual tweaks to electrics, re-plastering and decorating, demolition of the garage and drive-widening to accommodate larger vehicles, external insulation (it is single-skin construction), the addition of features such as a hoist, a second wet room bathroom and some door-widening. In addition, I don't have 25 years' worth of contacts in Plymouth.

To decide what was needed Sylvia (business partner Sylvia Mahal-follow her on facebook for updates on our project), and I did a trip down to Plymouth to do the rip out, this would give the builder a clearer idea of what was needed. Armed with the trusty wallpaper stripper, husband and 18 year old son we set to stripping and doing dump runs. No particular nasties this time, other than a few rotten joists and dodgy hardboard cladding in the kitchen it looked straightforward (not forgetting the obligatory trip to A&E with my son after dropping the garage door on his head).

We chose a local contractor with some trepidation. We had heard that costs were escalating due to supply chain problems and we wanted someone with a big enough operation to smooth out any potential supply problems. We came across Jon Rosevear, who runs a mid-sized local building company. He is a quantity surveyor so we felt confident that he could manage supplies with ease and his paperwork was immaculate. A great itemised quote arrived with a clear fee for project management. A bit of digging revealed that he had been in the building game some 20 years locally and had a fine reputation. Best of all he could start straight away, when others were suggesting an 8-12 week lead time. We wanted to be up and running by May to catch those all-important Summer bookings.

We instructed Jon and, so far (3 weeks in) things have gone well. He has prepared a room for us to store the furnishings (disability equipment needs to be sourced second-hand as it is painfully expensive new but great value used, so we need to start collecting it). The 1930s garage (with asbestos roof) has gone and all the pipes and vents to the bungalow have been extended, waiting for the external wall insulation to go on. Kitchen is out and detailed pics of the rotten joists duly arrived together with the (failed) EICR and quote to remedy the defects. Sylvia resides in the New Forest so, as she is closer, she has offered to do regular visits to keep an eye on progress and ferry down the equipment that she is sourcing. All good news so far, I will keep you posted!

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