Thinking of buying massive empty house, been unoccupied for three years

(40 Posts)
RollingThunder Wed 13-Feb-13 07:46:06

Anyone done similar? What did it cost you? What do you wish you had known before hand?

It was a HMO so sinks in every room, bathrooms and kitchen need to start from scratch, needs serious redecorating.

No idea about electrics, plaster, roof etc yet, will be getting every survey I can think of (any thoughts?)

No building work necessary although may knock down a wall in kitchen to make one big room.

We would have to rent nearby (moving area) so how long did yours take? What did it cost? What did you have to do?

Are we crazy to even contemplate it?

gallicgirl Wed 13-Feb-13 08:00:12

Cost wise, check out council tax because you probably won't get any exemptions as it's been empty so long. If you have a lot of major work to do then you might be able to get some discount or exemption for that. New rules come in to force in April so each council will be different.

MrsJamin Wed 13-Feb-13 08:47:11

If you can cost it all up with a builder before you make an offer, then you will be more likely to not waste money. If you get it at a bargain price and are ready for the extra stress and hassle, you may well be able to make a lovely house your home.

purplewithred Wed 13-Feb-13 08:52:03

It will cost twice as much and take twice as long as your worst estimate, but if you get the house of your dreams out of it it will be worth every penny. Don't forget costs of decorating including soft furnishings and furniture and costs of landscaping And making good after the builders have gone.

amillionyears Wed 13-Feb-13 08:55:09

I think, having watched "Country House Rescues", that that programme would put me off your idea.
I have known people move into very large houses that needed doing up, but move out again in a couple of years.
Dont know if they sold for a loss or not.

Toomuchtea Wed 13-Feb-13 09:04:57

We did this. Be prepared for some nasty surprises, even if you get a full survey done. When we moved in we found that the previous owner had removed all the gas fires, and left open gas pipes underneath all the floors. We had existing coin meters in most rooms, but in a couple, they'd been bypassed and dumped beneath the floorboards, after something peculiar and potentially lethal had been done to them. The previous owner had also started to dismantle a wall, found it was structural, and just boarded over the partial demolition.

We had to re-roof, rewire, put in a boiler and central heating system, put in new guttering, damp proof, treat for active woodworm, remove and replace woodwormy and unsafe timber (going through a floorboard in the hall was fun), replace two sash windows, refurbish the rest, insulate, redecorate, redo the yard and flagstones outside. Replaster some ceilings. Cobble together an "unfitted" kitchen.

We did all this, with the exception of the damp and woodworm treatment, when we moved out, while we were living there. As purplewithred says, it will cost twice as much as you think. Having said all that, it was a great house and I remember it very fondly still.

You can get an idea of which survey to go for by just giving the house a thorough going over yourself. Blown plaster/walls/render will sound hollow if you rap it with your knuckles. Use a finger nail to check the soundness of window panes if they're wooden. Don't be afraid to have a good grab of things, bounce on floorboards to check soundness, look in corners. I viewed a property like this a few days ago and there was a damp problem with the plaster on the stairs and I could see where everyone else who'd gone to view had poked and prodded. (price was far too high, about 50% over market value and the owners weren't willing to shift on price so I guess that's why it's still on the market after a year despite being in a good area.)

Then take a builder, and as PP said, double the estimate. But it will be worth it if it is the right house in the right place. Is there any chance you can get one or two rooms done up first, so that you can move in and save on rental costs?

It's been a while since I did a major renovation, it took 3 months to get the house truly liveable (new floorboards, new wall, new RSJ, new wiring, new central heating, new kitchen, new bathroom, damp proofing, but I was young and had no kids, so standing in the kitchen in a bowl of water to have a wash every morning was no great hardship. It took another 5 years to do the rest of the work - loft conversion, garage extension, garden, driveway and then I LTB and we had to sell the house of my dreams.

Pannacotta Wed 13-Feb-13 09:20:18

Have done similar and I wouldnt recomment it really unless you have huge amounts of spare cash, time, energy and ideally no DCs.

RollingThunder Wed 13-Feb-13 10:09:20

Gallicgirl - will check it out!

Mrsjamin, absolutely are costing it out with a builder first!

Purplewithred, that is how we are thinking about it. The big question is what the builder comes up with in the first place. I am just really scared of something really bad that the surveys didn't pick up could make it unlivable and unsaleable but I suppose that could happen with any house!

Amillionyears, it's not a country house rescue size house, just a very large semi detached!

Toomuchtea, would you mind telling me how much that all cost you?

Worldgonecrazy, we could do some first absolutely and wait for the rest but we have 2dc so would need three bedrooms and kitchen and bathroom at minimum!!! Do you remember how much all the initial bit cost? (I.e. not the loft etc)?

Nb I know the gutters leak and a roof light has leaked down a wall a bit already! So will be looking at it very carefully! We will also have to rent somewhere for a while till its liveable!

HormonalHousewife Wed 13-Feb-13 10:21:27

Well ours wasnt so massive but it was on the big side. Think victorian 5 beds over 3 floors.

We didnt live in the area but were about 2 hours away. We were happy with the builder but he was left on his own a bit. I used to drive over once a week with a 6m old to check progress. I wont deny it was a bit stressful, and your pockets have to be deep.

As soon as you take ownership you wont be liable for council tax for 6 months whilst renovation is going on, then 50% whilst there is no furniture but the moment you bring in a chair or table it will be full whack. Your local council may have slightly different figures so check.

Building regs - a couple of hundred pounds.

We didnt need an architect but from what you describe it might be a good idea to work with one. You will need to loose that HMO look if you want it to work as a family home.

Insurance - extra premiums added for renovation work.

we knocked down a wall, took out a downstairs bathroom, new plumbing, electrics and brand new kitchens and bathrooms. We did up spec a bit, but goot exactly what we wanted.

we thought we might be able to do the decorating ourselves and started stripping a few rooms but it was such a dirty job. We had trouble trying to get painters and decorators as they were put off by the size. It was too big a job. We eventually found industrial type decorators who sent in a squad off men and it took about 2 weeks to do the entire house (and another 2 weeks and £2K to paint the outside.)

refitting the bathrooms discovered a problem with the structural walls which had to be fixed which was something we hadnt budgeted for.

All in all about £100k. Was started in January and finished so we could enjoy our first holiday in it by the October half term. i love it. Its perfect.

RollingThunder Wed 13-Feb-13 11:10:10

Hormonal housewife, ours is six double deb Victorian! What state was yours in? Am a bit daunted by your figures. We couldn't manage 9 months or £100k!

Toomuchtea Wed 13-Feb-13 11:36:48

Rollingthunder it was a four bed Victorian and it was 15+ years ago, so probably not relevant!

However, just had quote for 40 k for the following on a house we were planning to buy, but seller withdrew yesterday. Think we had a lucky escape.

The 40k covered

Scaffolding
Remove and dispose of asbestos roof tiles
Reslate (Spanish slate), recover, battens etc
Leadwork as necessary: flashing, dormer window
Rebuild parapets
Two new windows (wood, d-glazed, exact copies as conservation area)
Refurbish all other windows (18)
Redecorate externally

No contingency in there, so probably add on another 5k for lurking horrors. Also no planning per fees included (conservation area) so those need to be added on too. Also did not include anything for replastering internally due to damp damage.

That 40k did not include tanking the basement kitchen, constructing off road access, replacing stone cills or spalled brickwork, or insulation, all of which didn't need scaffolding and could wait a year or two.

You'd probably be looking at a six figure sum for your house, as the one we were looking at did at least have modern central heating and liveable with bathrooms and kitchen.

Toomuchtea Wed 13-Feb-13 11:39:39

And that's for a 6 double bed Victorian.

RollingThunder Wed 13-Feb-13 12:10:36

Toomuchtea. We have already agreed that if the roof needs doing we are out! So that is a big chunk of your costs. We couldn't manage that (unless price dropped massively)

NB it does have central hearing (though needs new boiler)

footyfan Wed 13-Feb-13 12:33:48

Do you already have finance sorted? The vast majority of mortgage lenders won't lend on a HMO.

I think you'd need to look into them removing the HMO before you make an offer.

We bought a large 6 bed house in a really bad state. It took 9 months and cost £70k to renovate - but we didn't do any work at all. We could have cut costs if we had done painting etc.

Good luck!

HormonalHousewife Wed 13-Feb-13 12:56:01

Sorry didnt mean to scare you or put you off.

We could have cut costs, but as I said we did up-spec everything. The fittings were expensive but thats what we wanted. Cheaper kitchens and bathrooms could have been easily sourced, but we had the budget so just went for it grin

Ours hadnt been lived in for 4 years - oh and they reminds me, if its been vacant for 3 (or maybe 4 years cant remember exactly) or more years then there is reduced VAT applied. IIRC the VAT was 7.5% so thats a big reduction and encouraged us to splash out on the expensive fittings. Your builder might not have heard of this before but if you provide then with the information from HMRC website they should be happy to oblige. We actually delayed the purchase by a month to make use of this rule.

So, it hadnt been lived in for 4 years and prior to that an elderly gentleman had lived there since 1970 which was when I suspect the last of the maintenance was performed and the kitchens and bathrooms fitted.

We replaced everything in terms of central heating and wiring. It has loads of original features like doors and cornices but cosmetically there was nothing we wanted to keep so it was a blank canvas.

If I had have been a bit more on site I'm sure we could have hurried it up by a month or two but not much more than that.

It was £20K but that was 10 years ago, included a friendly builder, us doing a lot of work ourselves, and didn't include windows which we couldn't afford to get replaced with nice double glazing and cheap double glazing would have devalued the house.

Another poster also just pointed out the lending situation is different. Our mortgage was released in stages as we had work done, so unless you've got the equity/cash available to buy the house outright yourself, you may have trouble finding a lender.

RollingThunder Wed 13-Feb-13 13:34:35

OK, well just spoken to the estate agent, who says the roof is pretty new and should be absolutely fine (obviously will get it checked, but its a good sign)

financewise we should be fine - we are moving to a much cheaper area - so would probably be able to buy the property outright, and then just put on the mortgage what we need to do it up.

footyfan - what are the implications of it being a HMO? what do we have to do about it? I don't know anything about that? (goes away to start googling)

hormonalhousewife - ok, thankyou very much for the futher info, ours has had lots done to it much more recently than that, as it was rented out up to 3 years ago. (though still obviously needs lots of work) - very interesting info about the reduced tax rate. (goes away to look this up too)

TheSmallPrint Wed 13-Feb-13 13:44:25

Aren there any planning restrictions on putting it back to a single dwelling. Depnding on the local authority they may not want to lose accomodation.

nellieboo Wed 13-Feb-13 13:50:00

We bought and renovated an ex-HMO about six years ago. A few things which were relevant to us, which you should bear in mind:

- Is it still an HMO? The guy who sold us ours had multiple houses and had to redesignate another one as an HMO as the council I think has a quoto for HMOs - or at least that was the case where we were in London. If it is an HMO, not sure you will automatically be able to change into a single house. We bought it after it had stopped officially being an HMO and already had planning permission for conversion single occupancy.

- We paid reduced rate VAT on most of the building project (5% I think) due to the fact it was a change from multiple to single occupancy which was handy. No one (builder, architect, quantity surveyor) told us about this - I only found out that we could pay the lower rate when a friend who had done something similar told me and I then talked to some accountants.

- On the downside however, the building regulations were much tougher due to the change from multiple to single occupancy - meant it wasn't treated as a simple renovation project. We had lots of issues about height of light switches (meant to be low due to wheelchair access), size of downstairs WC (again, they wanted it huge for wheelchair access) and the fact they said we needed a ramp rather than steps to the house. We ended up with a workable solution, but only after our architect spent a lot of time negotiating with the building regs team.

CheeseMeisterGeneral Wed 13-Feb-13 13:59:01

We bought a double fronted, 6 bed and 3 floor victorian repo (empty one year) 4 years ago. We have so far:

Refurbished all sash windows
Cavity wall insulation
Under floor insulation to all ground wood floors + sand and varnish
Opened up dining room/kitchen and refit new kitchen
Electrical rewire
New rads every room and re site under windows + new boiler
Tanked out cellar and installed play room & sauna
New utility room
2 new family bath rooms
2 new cloakroom toilets
New guttering and paint to render outside
Repair of flashing on roof
Redec to every room in house - inc plastering as needed, carpets etc

Its probably cost £120k and still not quite finished. But we bought it as a steal and it has more than doubled in value. Not many families are brave enough to take on a project your size.

What we have learnt from the experience is:

Don't move in too quickly, have as much of the big stuff done before you do
Consider moving in with limited furniture to start with
Plan a program of works, we a couple of times ploughed ahead and ended up having to double back on a couple of areas
If its for the longer term don't compromised on finishes and fittings. We spent a bit more on the kitchens and bathrooms.
After our chunk of budget was initially spent we then had a monthly budget and ploughed away at the work rather than borrowing any more.

Good luck !

notcitrus Wed 13-Feb-13 14:03:24

We did this - semi empty for 2 years, previously rented out to lads, though not actually a HMO.

How feasible is it to avoid certain rooms while you do them up?
Also don't take anything as true from the agents. We insisted on the heating being put on to prove it worked before confirming our offer.
Then have lived in it and produced kids while doing more when we have the money.

If you have funds to do the really disruptive bits like wiring and new heating before moving in, I really would.

PigletJohn Wed 13-Feb-13 15:55:54

roof, plumbing, electrics, drains, damp before you do anything else and certainly before you move in.

In most cases any damp patches will be caused by leaks or condensation or bridging, or by blocked/absent airbricks. None of these will be cured by injecting chemicals into the walls, although if you invite a damp-proofing company into your home, they will tell you that you need to buy their damp-proofing.

run the kitchen cold tap and see how many litres per minute you get. Very likely the incoming water pipe would be improved by replacing with a new, larger one. You will get better flow and it will not leak. The incoming gas pipe may also need to be replaced. All lead pipes should be replaced.

don't put down new flooring or carpets until you have done everything under the floors.

slalomsuki Wed 13-Feb-13 16:02:17

I agree with all the comments about twice as long and a lot more expensive than you first though or imagined. There will be problems at every turn and it will really frustrate you to do this and even though you will have a great house in the end some of the joy will be tainted by the memories of all the hassle.

We lived in a caravan on site to make it secure and also cheaper in the long run. It also enabled us to check on the building work frequently and make sure they were not doing anything wrong.

PigletJohn Wed 13-Feb-13 16:02:56

oh, and buy a wet-and-dry canister vacuum cleaner, and some spare cartidge filters and the big bags. Your domestic vac will be ruined.

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