It is a big step to move from upgrading your own home to becoming a full time developer.
Henry Beckett and his wife Elena have gained their renovation experience by buying and doing up their own homes, multiple times, but have now set up a company to help others with property projects.
The couple have just completed their first full time development as professionals, a lower main door flat in Dundonald Street in the New Town of Edinburgh.
Henry says the key to a successful project is finding the right property in the first place. “This flat was attractive because it was in a good location but wasn’t making the best of the available space, it was badly laid out.”
Location was important: ”We wanted to stick to tried and tested areas, the New Town, Stockbridge or the West End where there will always be a demand.”
When they bought it, in September 2014, the flat had one bedroom, with an internal box room that couldn’t really be used as sleeping space but was not much use for anything else other than storage.
The central rather dim hall could squeeze a dining table but both the kitchen and bathroom were long and thin and had a cramped feeling.
The couple had experience of applying for planning permission and building warrants to change the layout of interiors in previous projects but they researched what would be permissible, the costs involved and the end added value of any changes. Henry says “A big mistake would be to end up spending more than the value you add by such drastic changes but we knew that this flat deserved much more than redecoration.”
The new layout completely reverses the room order; the kitchen and bathroom were joined up to create a handsome square sitting room at the front, a feature hall runs the length of the flat and leads to the two bedrooms at the back, created from what was the lounge. The middle section houses a kitchen with plenty of space for dining, and spacious bathroom.
The work has been full time, but completed swiftly - Henry says the most frustrating part was the first two months spent getting all the warrants in place while organising trusted contractors from previous projects to start work as soon as possible.
From the first walls coming down at the beginning of December, the whole project, including fitting out and decorating took just eight weeks, with Henry project managing and Elena coordinating the interior design.
The result is a charming property, well laid out and with some great features. Henry says “We decided to add the decking at under pavement level, as we really think an outdoor space is desirable so is worth the extra expense.” The entrance to the flat is down stone steps from pavement level and the gravel, paving stones and decking has created a lovely approach and a spot to take in fresh air.
Inside the fittings and decor are high standard, the couple believe in quality as witnessed by the slate floors, coir carpets and touches such as the slate fireplace with oak crafted mantel above in the sitting room.
The kitchen has Corian workops and fitted appliances while the bathroom has limestone floors, a bath and rainhead shower and a chrome towel rail.
This project was entirely self funded, but it is a showcase for their skills picked up over varied careers. Henry has a background as a finance manager in the oil industry which took him abroad for ten years, followed by running his own catering business and managing Dobbies Food Hall and says that all of these have gained him valuable experience in managing a team and a budget.
For Elena, who is originally from Turkmenistan, interior design was previously a hobby but her good eye for detail and taste is apparent.
As a new company they will look to move on to the next self financed project but also plan to advise and project manage renovations for private clients.
In terms of advice to other developers, Henry believes that experience is key and that unlike a decade ago, amateur developers aren’t going to be successful if they plan small improvements. “You need to make a substantial improvement to a property, rather than relying on market gains. It is not an easy career choice, but when you see the end result, it is satisfying.”
22A Dundonald Street is on the market at offers over £345,000, contact Connor Malcolm Solicitors on 0131 557 3188.