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Bringing Vacant Properties Back to Life – Our 4 Stage Process

Unfortunately, vacant property numbers are still on the rise. A recent study by Action on Empty Homes show that there are over 268,000 empty homes in England alone, an increase of over 42,000 properties since 2019.

When Orbis Protect first began trading in 1981 as Sitex Orbis, we were the pioneers of external metal screens that are still commonly used today to protect and secure buildings, so we’ve seen a lot of change over the years in vacant property patterns. The biggest spike we have seen for our vacant property services is unsurprisingly due to the pandemic, which has meant a rapid mobilisation of new teams throughout the UK to cope with the increased demand in infection control and relet services.

When people see a house, shop or business being security screened, the first thought is usually doom and gloom as to what must have happened to the occupiers or owners. We certainly share that thought too, but we also look at it in a slightly different way. We see our services as being pivotal for the rejuvenation of properties in order to bring them back to life and in a highly habitable state for new companies, owners and families to start their new journeys. We work with many councils, housing associations and public/private sector owners throughout the UK and Northern Ireland to provide the support they need to get their properties back on the market.

In this blog, we will examine the key stages of bringing a property back to life and fit for new occupants, this will also provide some useful tips for Property Managers looking to make improvements to the habitability of their vacant properties too.

Stage 1 – Assess and Secure

Before any work begins, we collaborate with the customer to assess the property and recommend the best plan of action to suit their needs. As the level of work would vary greatly from property to property, we would never take a ’one size fits all’ approach and would actively seek the best value option for the customer.

One of the first areas we would tackle is the security of the property, there is no point in beginning the maintenance of a property, for it then to be vandalised or burgled shortly afterwards. If appropriate, we might recommend that temporary screens are first installed to keep intruders out of the property, this can also include an alarm system which is linked to our Alarm Receiving Centre to further deter intruders. As owners will usually be looking to get maintenance teams into the property, we find that a Keysafe can be a good option to allow instant access to contractors without the need to be on-site themselves. This is particularly relevant during the pandemic as it reduces unnecessary social interaction.

Commercial security is slightly different in terms of requirements, and alongside screening, there is usually a need for reinforced security doors, CCTV and advanced alarm systems due to the value of the property and to also comply with insurance policies. Additional services such as security fencing, concrete bollards and even security guarding are also often requested to provide that extra layer of protection.

    Stage 2 – Clear and Clean

    Now that the property is secure, the next stage would be to remove all hazardous materials and begin the specialist cleaning process. This could involve decontamination fogging to remove any viral issues within the property or could simply be a deep clean of fixtures and fittings, or even mould removal. We would then recommend shutting down drainage systems and utilities to eliminate unnecessary hazards such as pest issues, flooding or fire, which will also reduce any utility costs.

    Commercial properties tend to need a much higher level of care, largely due to the size of the property. Areas that we are often asked to support are needle sweeps from evidence of drug-use found onsite and graffiti removal caused by trespassers. Fly-tipping removal and pest control is also something we would recommend as the two are often linked, so if there is any evidence of this onsite, then we would certainly recommend tackling this problem as a priority. As more of an aesthetic service, we could also clear communal areas such as gardens or carparks to enhance the appeal of the property to prospective tenants.

        Stage 3 – Repair

        So the property is now secure and clean which means that the maintenance and repairs should begin. These repairs can range from simple glazing repair to more complex roofing and guttering solutions. We would also look to repair any damage caused by any existing flood or fire issues that may have emerged in the past.

        Other areas that could be enhanced for the owner are fencing repairs or minor decoration works to enhance the appeal of the property. As mentioned earlier, a Keysafe is quite vital during this stage as it allows multiple teams to work on the property at various dates without compromising the security of the property or personnel in the event of a Covid case.

              Stage 4 – Maintain and Monitor

              Once the repairs are complete, it is important that all of that hard work is not wasted. We would recommend a health and safety risk assessment to ensure that all works have been completed to the required level and that the property is in a secure and habitable state.

              We would also recommend regular property inspections if the building was to be left vacant for some time, as this could detect any ongoing issues very early on and potentially save a lot of time and cost. Any alarm systems would be monitored 24/7 by our Alarm Receiving Centre and all issues would be escalated to the owner and necessary public service in order to keep the property safe through the long term.

              With a commercial building, any CCTV would also be monitored 24/7 by our ARC team and the customer would have full access to our portal to view their site in real-time. Other alarm peripherals such as boiler tamper, smoke detectors, vibration sensors and sirens can also be monitored as an ongoing service.

                      Bringing your property back to life

                      We hope that this overview has given you a good idea of the processes involved in bringing a property back to life for relet. There are some minor areas that Property Managers can perform themselves as a starting point, however we would highly recommend the use of a professional service for any of the potentially dangerous or hazardous requirements.

                      The areas that we have listed are the most common services that we supply to get a property fit for relet, but we also supply many more property-related services, so it is always worth getting in touch for any needs that we haven’t mentioned here. Each year we manage over 60,000 properties and inspect more than 70,000 properties, so if you’re just looking for some expert advice for your vacant property, we can help with that too.

                      Our company is highly unique in that we really do supply a ‘one-stop-shop’ of vacant property services which gives our customers a host of benefits –

                      • One point of contact to reduce administration of multiple contractors
                      • Lower cost due to all services being under one roof
                      • 24/7/365 rapid emergency response teams
                      • 24/7/365 Alarm Receiving Centre team
                      • 18 offices across the UK and N Ireland gives us a truly national reach

                      It gives us great satisfaction to see a vacant property being renewed and ready for new occupants, which is why our teams are so passionate in delivering the best possible service. If you would like to discuss your vacant property needs with us, then simply get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.

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