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Have you bought a property that needs doing up?

(20 Posts)
Caterpillar0 Wed 17-Jul-13 20:18:30

And what was your experience?
Did it work out well or was it more stress than it's worth, say to live in somewhere while you do it up bit by bit?
We've been house hunting in London for a while and this is our latest idea (there have been many). We've found a house that needs modernising - new kitchen, bathroom, paint, carpets/wood floors. It would be great to turn it into something I'm thinking, but at the same time what would we be letting ourselves in for? High stress and an uncontrollable budget? I'd love to know what others' experiences have been with doer uppers (is that the term?)

lalalonglegs Wed 17-Jul-13 20:42:03

I've done it several times. I think you need to go into it with your eyes open and, if you're buying a doer-upper, it's probably not just going to be the "fun" stuff that needs work: everyone likes planning a new kitchen, choosing bathroom taps etc but, if they are really dated, then chances are the stuff behind them needs work too. So you could well be looking at new plumbing/heating/rewiring/replastering etc. Be very sure about what you are taking on and what you are prepared to take on and what you can practically take on - would you be able to live on site during works etc?

Yes, it is very stressful and finding a half decent building team means kissing a lot of frogs. You will be let down (especially in London) and a wise person once pointed out that you have to sacrifice one of the following: price, speed, quality. Try not to sacrifice more than one of them though.

bodingading Thu 18-Jul-13 11:47:46

My top tip for renovations in London is to go up to Manchester and hire crews job by job. It's cheaper to have 'em commute, even with b&b costs, for things like plumbing, electrics, plastering, kitchen fitting and decorating. Roofing not always cheaper.

You do need to be hooked into the trade to find the crews, though. Get recommendations and don't be afraid to junk people if they're no good, even if you've spent quite a lot of money with them.

Mandy21 Thu 18-Jul-13 12:51:57

Do you have children? We're in a house that is structurally sound and the basics are there - plumbing, electrics, roof etc but absolutely everything needs modernising and re-doing. We don't have the money to throw at it to get it all done in one go, doing it bit by bit, some of it ourselves etc and its quite tedious living with that (3 years now). AS others have said, don't underestimate how big a job just basic redecoration / flooring / plastering can be! Throw children into the mix (i.e. never having a good chunk of time to devote to DIY etc) and its even harder.

Not sure I agree with bodingading though - we're not far from Manchester and estimates for jobs are not disimilar to estimates my sister has had in SW London!

fussychica Thu 18-Jul-13 13:27:09

Several times, abroad and our current house in UK. Replacing fixtures and fittings doesn't take that long but if you are extending it's another story. I've managed for several weeks without a proper kitchen but a week without a shower/bathroom was pretty awful even though we did have a loo. Luckily when we did the most major renovation we only lived up the road so didn't have to put up with any of the hassle - if the builders didn't turn up one day it wasn't the nightmare it would have been if we'd been living there. Good builders, a clear budget, a 20% contingency fund and sense of humour are probably the keys to success.

worldgonecrazy Thu 18-Jul-13 13:36:13

Yes, it was fine though we didn't have children. Our house needed floorboards, rewiring, replumbing, replastering, new bathroom and didn't have a kitchen. I managed a month with no hot water and 2 months with no kitchen.

Work out how much it's going to cost, then double that figure.

crazyhead Thu 18-Jul-13 14:41:12

We're nearing the end of a renovation in London - new electrics, plastering, every fitting and fixture changed, two walls down to create family bathroom and kitchen diner, cloakroom in, decoration of whole place, garden totally redone, fireplaces in, stuff to plumbing - list continues.

We have a toddler and I am pregnant and we both have quite demanding jobs. It will have taken us 10-11 months from hellhole to pristine, and I'd say we've worked 20-30 hours a week if you count researching, dealing with trades, DIY, garden, trips to Homebase etc. At any one time, we have both been working through a couple of A4 sheets of jobs.

For me if it is worth it is mainly about money - be very careful about the purchase price and your own ability to come up with funds. In terms of budgeting, I thought about 50k and I'd say it will have cost more like 60k - but that's including rather nice light fittings, curtains, carpets, paint - so I'd say we'd have spent at least 5k on those on most 'okish' houses that we needed to update. But the point is that is still an extra 10k we've had to come up with! What is hard is how you bleed £200s on everything - I never knew how much radiators cost, say, and every big job unveils issues.

There is a difference between dated/can be done gradually and utter dump that needs addressing immediately - ours was the latter and you need immediate funds for that type, think about what yours is.

For us it has been very stressful - I never wanted a doer upper and I will be so happy when the very last trade has left the house! However, a combination of rising prices and having managed to buy at a good price/work hard to keep costs down, mean that we'd have to pay the best part of 100k extra (obviously including the renovation costs) to buy this done up as it is now, so it has been worth it because we couldn't have found that money.

And it is done to our taste and beautifully new whereas I found there were a lot of scruffy places going for an absolute mint.

Sorry for the essay!

Caterpillar0 Thu 18-Jul-13 17:00:54

We do have kids - 2 under 2. And can only do things gradually due to budget constraints. Basically, getting this place is the only way we'll get a house and garden in the location we want. I was there again today and trying to visualise living there with kids before it is spruced up. It's all quite daunting, and then there is the question of the property market - might it slump, leaving us in negative equity in an unfinished house? Eek
It is inhabitable tho, inasmuch as there is someone living there at the moment.

CalamityJones Thu 18-Jul-13 17:07:05

We've just finished. The house was pretty neglected but structurally sound, however it needed replastering, a new kitchen, new bathrooms and every single room needed decorating, floorboards bringing back etc. I love the place too much to leave yet and am relishing being in a place that's 'finished', but in a year or so I think I'll be ready to do it again. It's been really good fun. We did it with a new baby as well.

redrubyshoes Thu 18-Jul-13 17:09:01

Always go for personal recommendations from friends/neighbours and look at the work in their house. My neighbours were a goldmine of information about brilliant tilers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians etc.

If you have found a tradesman through the internet then test them on a very small job such as changing taps or repairing one window to see how they do. I got rid of one guy who did a crap job on a relatively simple job. Thank god I did not take him on to do the whole revamp on Victorian sash windows.

redrubyshoes Thu 18-Jul-13 17:11:42

Also insist on a landline and an address - sounds stupid but the amount of vans I see with a mobile number and a Hotmail address and nothing else raises my suspicions.

impecuniousmarmoset Thu 18-Jul-13 17:13:51

Go for it, but with your eyes open. In our case, it was definitely worth it - total renovation and double-height extension of old victorian house, with two small kids in tow (though we did move out for 5 months). It is our forever house and I love it, even though it still isn't completely finished 18 months later!

But it was a huge amount of stress, and I mean huge, and it completely took over our lives for an entire year - by which I mean we were working on it, either directly or making decisions, poring over plans etc, every evening and every weekend, for all of that time. There were times when we questioned our sanity!

Caterpillar0 Fri 19-Jul-13 01:28:18

I'm really pumped now, after reading what you've all written. But guess what? - the estate agent told me this evening there have been offers above asking and its a sealed bids job. We can't compete with developers and cash buyers so there goes another one. House hunting in london is a bit grim really.What we want is always just out of reach (or out of reach by a long shot!) and that's with good jobs and a bit of savings. How do most people do it, i wonder

Yes, everything. Complete internal structural gutting and remodelling, re wiring, re plumbing, big extension.

New kitchen, bathrooms, new windows, every room re-plastered, decorated, new flooring etc.

6 years and 2 children later and it's not finished. We don't have much time together as a family as DH spends every waking/not working minute on it. Massive planning issues and stress. Septic tank woes. It's cost us 50% more than we estimated. I spent a year living apart from DH with the children whilst the big structural stuff happened.

BUT. Our house is now worth double what we paid for it, and we could never have afforded a four bed in this area otherwise. More importantly we have a family home that we love, suits our needs, and we designed and created. Sometimes I'm taken aback by the transformation smile

Builders about to arrive actually - they're very sporadic now but working on the garden today (they are hardcore, I couldn't work in the direct sun)

Bunbaker Fri 19-Jul-13 07:39:45

Yes, but only the once, and never again. The stress when things didn't go to plan was unbearable.

Mandy21 Fri 19-Jul-13 08:50:46

Caterpillar0 still make your bid. Are you proceedable? Do you have anything that sets you apart for a quick sale (e.g. my H (who is a lawyer) had his firm do the conveyancing). So make your bid in a letter, set out the reasons why you want it (family house), how quick you can proceed, etc. We went to sealed bids on a do-er upper a few years ago, we were in rented, H could oversee the legal work, went to town that we wanted it as a family house for the long term. We weren't the highest bidder but we still got it. (Pulled out 2 weeks later but thats a whole other story!).

Caterpillar0 Fri 19-Jul-13 15:32:35

Mandy21 good idea. I think we'll do that. My hub is a lawyer too. doesn't do conveyancing but who'll know - he at least has contacts. we're chain-free and mad to get moving
i did make a special effort to talk to the vendor when we looked round originally and referred several times to my kids, hoping to make us stand out. maybe that will help.
but then cash buyers - can we compete?!

conversely, i just viewed another house. same road but at the rubbish end (it's a long road). it's actually around the same price but doesn't need work. if someone could tell me now that that end of the road would be desirable one day I wouldn't hesitate. it's so hard to know!

Itscoldouthere Sat 20-Jul-13 10:46:08

Is there anything else that makes one end of the road less desirable ?
Could it be a school catchment thing? Always a hot topic in London.
Often houses that need complete refurbishment can go for as much as ok houses in London, lots of people like to make their mark on a home and see the potential.
Good luck

Nancy66 Sat 20-Jul-13 12:00:07

Yes, with the house we're in now.

lived in rented at first as house wasn't habitable in early stages. But as soon as kitchen was in and we had a working bathroom we moved in.

Expect to go over budget, expect to be let down and expect to hit problems you hadn't imagined or allowed for. Wherever possible get agreements with builders in writing and have a 'penalty clause' in place. Once we insisted on a contract with penalty clause (i.e that the agreed fee would be reduced if work was late) the builders really moved their arses. Funny that.

Also keep your new neighbours informed. Because we knew our house needed lots of work over six months we put letters through neighbours doors apologising for inconvenience (noise, skips etc) and gave them our mobile numbers if they wanted to talk to us or were unhappy about anything. Lots have said how much they appreciated that.

Caterpillar0 Tue 23-Jul-13 09:31:25

so we've had an offer accepted on the property down the road (which doesn't need urgent work). grin

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