Top tips for buying a renovation property

I think when we set out to buy a house together we were pretty naive. I thought a double glazed window lasts forever (apparently the average life span is only 10 years?) and that any problems would be detected on the survey. What could possibly go wrong?

I thought our house would be a lick of paint, new kitchen and bathroom. We had enough money for a budget kitchen and planned to change the bathroom in a few years but I had overlooked any other major problems with the house. On the day we got the keys, we walked in door and we were shocked! The dining room floor was completely collapsing.  The window seals were gone and they are pretty much falling out. When you look at the back door, even when it’s closed, you can see the garden through the gaps round the edge. The ugly UPVC front door sticks so bad! I’ve been stuck outside in the rain with two babies, kicking it in temper a few times, desperately trying to get into the house.

On top of all that we quickly discovered that the boiler is original and was fitted in 1981 and electrics appear to have been fitted by someone who’d had a skin full.

Due to the house only being built in the 1980’s, I really didn’t think it would have many issues. I’ve always desperately wanted a big Victorian house, which I would have expected to have issues, but this house was fairly modern and on first inspection, seemed fine. I would do things very differently next time.

1. Second viewing

Visit the property more than once. The first and only time I visited I was looking at room sizes and what I could do with the space and layout. I was planning where I would build cupboards, which walls I would knock down, where I would position furniture. I wasn’t looking for issues or asking the correct questions. 

Have a look at the fuse box, the heating systems, check the taps work and the toilet flushes! Have a good walk around everywhere and make sure no floors are collapsing and there are no sign of rotting joists etc. Look for signs of damp and mould in the house. We had damp and mould in our dining room, all the joists were rotten and the floor collapsing. It sounds small, but with a 10 month old baby and another on the way this caused us major anxiety. We didn’t inspect the rooms properly and this was something we didn’t notice until we got the keys.

2. Ask lots of questions 

Like when was the boiler fitted and have they had it serviced regularly? How long have the windows been in? What work have they done to the property and do they have any guarantees or certificates for the work?

Have they had any issues since moving in? Does the property sit on a flood plane? It’s also worth asking about the price of the bills and what council tax band the house is to. This will help you work out affordability for a mortgage and calculate what renovation plans you can afford to carry out.

3. Take someone else with you to view the property.

I’d say have a viewing with someone who has a little knowledge about houses or renovation would be helpful, if my parents weren’t 350miles away, I would have taken them along for a viewing as they’ve done up a lot of properties over the years. A tradesman of some sort would be perfect. Someone with fresh pair of eyes, someone who is not as emotionally involved as you. Hopefully, someone who will be able to think clearly and help you spot any issues with the property.

4. Research

Look at the types of property and the issues a house of that period may have. Our house is apparently full of artex ceilings which commonly contain aspestos. It appears properties like ours are full of aspestos, something I really didn’t know about properties of this age until we stumbled upon the problem. Talk to people with similar properties or research online what type of issues it’s likely to have, so you can start to budget and know what you are letting yourself in for!

5. Surveys 

Surveys are important particularly if you are buying a period property but ours didn’t pick up a lot of the issues.  It barely picked anything up and the things it did highlight we don’t actually see as a problem. It didn’t mention aspestos, the windows and doors being completely useless or the dining room floor collapsing. I think a second viewing, asking more questions and doing our own research would have been just as valuable. 

6. Remain positive 

Don’t let this put you off, remember if you’re getting the house for a good price in order to renovate, you’re likely to make money.  Like Kirsty & Phill suggest “buy the worsst house on the best street” and I think we would have bought our house no matter what. Houses in our area sell FAST, we’d lost out on other properties so felt that we couldn’t spend too much time making the decision. I loved the space & room sizes, it had the 4 bedrooms I desperately wanted, was in the area I wanted and within the catchment area for one of the best schools in the town. It ticked every box, so we just went for it and it’s all worked out in the end!

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