Your guide to property development, by ‘The Property Expert’ John Howard

John Howard is a man who was been there, done it and converted/refurbished an array of properties over many decades. While he is an expert at finding, buying and selling properties, he readily admits that the mainstay of his business over the last 35 years has been conversions/refurbishment. So, what simple advice would the man known simply as “The Property Expert” give to new property investors?

“When it comes to property development, you need to be inspired by the project. You want it to keep your interest, whether it’s renovations, refurbishments, rental properties, letting out shops.”

This makes perfect sense but when you hear it from the experts, it seems to have that bit more impact. His award-winning book entitled “Property Investment and Development for Newcomers” is worth its weight in gold whether you are a new starter to the industry or an experienced hand. John Howard also runs a number of one-day seminars which are to the point, informative and detailed, you will be inspired!


Simple refurbishments such as a new bathroom or redecorating are relatively straightforward so this section looks at full-blown refurbishments. These are the kind of projects to get you excited and optimistic, often counting the profits before they have been made!

Here are some of John Howard simple tips about refurbishments:-

• Few projects will come in under budget and on time, learn to live with it
• Ensure all building quotations are on a like-for-like basis
• NEVER use an architect to do the job of a building surveyor
• Architects are great at designing and remodelling projects but man management is not necessarily their strong point
• The best surveyors will charge up to 10% of the project value. If they are as good as they say, this is excellent value
• Use a structural engineer if you have any concerns about the symmetry of the property, floor levels and cracks in brickwork

One thing you will notice about John Howard and his property investment techniques is that he uses third parties where he does not have the necessary skills set. Negotiate a price, get the job done and use them again if they offer good value for money.

Renovation tips

When you read “Property Investment and Development for Newcomers” you’ll instantly recognise the difference between popular property investment TV programmes and real life. The focus on designs and colours in these TV programmes is a little misleading as your focus should be on money first and foremost. This is just a selection of John Howard’s simple but extremely effective tips to finish off your property:-

• Don’t scrimp on second-hand materials, ensure the property is finished to the highest standard possible
• Quality should always trump the price – don’t be afraid to invest
• Do not cut corners with paintwork/decorating
• Keep the colours simple to give a sharp clean look
• Potential buyers WILL look at your carpets, ensure they have been hoovered
• Underlay below a modestly priced carpet can make the carpet feel expensive

It is fair to say that reality TV programmes have encouraged many individuals to invest in property but life on the TV can be different to real life. Don’t scrimp on cost, finish the property to the highest standard possible, make the most of what you have, and keep the colours as simple as possible, giving a sharp clean look. Many people also forget that the garden, and outside of a property, create the first impression to potential buyers. Make sure they are looking their best!

Specific renovations

The book “Property Investment and Development for Newcomers” also gives you a very interesting insight into specific renovations; the type which seem fairly obvious but often go unnoticed. Learn how to:-

• Secure the attic in a terraced house
• Maximise the benefits of insulation
• Improve the look and feel of a cellar at minimal cost
• Use the basement as a potential living space
• Find an electrician to rewire your property

If you are looking to buy, renovate and sell a property within a relatively short space of time it is vital that you utilise all space available. Interestingly, John Howard specifically mentions cellars and the fact that many people start out with relatively minor renovations which very quickly mushroom to expensive changes.

“If the property has a cellar, don’t get sucked into spending too much money on it. Whitewash it so it looks clean. The fact that it might be damp doesn’t matter, it is below ground level. Market it as storage only and you won’t disappoint any viewers.”

Renovating a house to live in prior to selling

The ultimate goal for many property investors is to buy a house which needs renovating, design a dream home and move in prior to banking a significant profit from a sale. This looks so easy on the television, the ideas flow, the funding is available and very quickly you have an offer on the table. In real life, well, it is very different.

“The Property Expert”, as John Howard is known in the industry, has been there, done it and lived to tell the tale. This section includes advice on:-

• Structuring funding
• Managing accommodation costs
• When to bring in third parties
• Making your property habitable
• Focusing on the roof
• Damp-proofing
• Electrical wiring
• Plumbing

If you buy a house in need of renovation, which is not habitable from day one, you won’t be able to get a mortgage. Learn how to use additional sources of funding to make parts of the property habitable so you can live on the premises while carrying out the renovations.

At some point funding may become stretched but remember, as soon as the property is deemed habitable you will be eligible for a mortgage. This will allow you to pay off any high interest renovations loans and leave enough mortgage capital to finish off the project. Keeping costs down to a minimum is not always easy but John has some very simple advice:-

“If you can get a few rooms renovated quickly upstairs, then you can live up there while you do the rest of the house. It’s also an awful lot cheaper than buying a caravan for £20,000 or more and having to live in it for twice as long than you initially thought!”

Other topics covered

Once you pick up “Property Investment and Development for Newcomers” this is a book you will not be able to put down. Some of the other subjects covered in this chapter include:-

• Challenges associated with listed buildings
• Working within conservation areas
• Buildings with enforcement notices

The beauty of John Howard book and his one-day seminars is the fact that he makes everything seem so simple. Breaking down complicated projects into bite sized actions allows you to focus on one thing at a time with the bigger picture coming together like a jigsaw.

For more information on John Howard’s book and one-day seminars, click here.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>