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Have I been naive about the costs involved when buying an older property?

(10 Posts)
NotDavidTennant Sat 16-Jan-16 11:13:01

I will try to keep this short but cover all the important facts so as not to drip feed.

We are FTBs so completely new to the world of property. We found a house we liked - it was late Victorian era, there were some signs of damp and the garden needed a lot of work doing to it, but the house itself seemed well-maintained and good condition so we were happy to offer asking price which we thought was about a fair market rate.

We had the survey done and it turned out the condition of the property was not is good as we thought. The damp is more extensive then we realised and there are signs of penetrating and rising damp; a section of the roof is visibly bowing, there are some signs of tile slippage and as the roof was redone only a couple of years ago question marks over the standard of that previous work; and there is a retaining wall at the boundary which is very visibly leaning and bowing out (onto the public highway) and needs to be replaced as soon as possible.

The surveyor valued the house at £5k less than what we'd offered (that works out at a reduction of just over 4%) but privately told me if the problems were as bad as they seemed that we could easily spend £10-20k putting everything right and the property would still be worth no more than we originally offered. The vendor was already maxed out on the property that they wanted to buy so the best that they could offer us was a £2k reduction. The quote to get the retaining wall done in modern materials was £3k (but would have looked ugly IMO) or to have it done it keeping with existing style of the wall was £6k. We didn't hang around to find out about the costs of dealing with the roof or the damp as at this point it was obvious that we would be having to spend many thousands of pounds to get the house up to a good condition without any equivalent reduction in the price.

The reason I'm relating this is due to the vendors reaction: they thought we were ridiculous to pull out so quickly and took the position that it was the norm if you were buying an older house that you should expect to have to spend substantial money on it. Of course part of me thinks: they would say that wouldn't they. But part of me also wonders if, as FTBs, we've been naive to offer on a property of this kind without being able to back it up with a decent budget for remedial works? Have we strung them along? I know that older properties do cost more to maintain, but is it possible to buy one without having to swallow thousands of pounds of costs to get it into good condition? Were our expectation too high?

expatinscotland Sat 16-Jan-16 11:17:30

The vendor was chancing their arm. Fuck 'em. Don't give this a second thought, seriously. Your expectations are not too high. Swerve con artist vendors.

SoupDragon Sat 16-Jan-16 11:23:50

You haven't been naive at all but, then again, they are not unreasonable to do what they've done (just unrealistic!)

A house is worth what someone will pay for it, irrespective of condition. For someone else, it might be their dream house and worth the cost to them.

If it wasn't my dream house, I would also have pulled out going by what you say.

PixieGio Mon 18-Jan-16 23:09:38

We were in a very similar position about 2 months ago. Ours is a 30s semi however it was in need of structural repairs and total cosmetic overhaul, couple of walls knocking etc. We offered about £8k less than asking originally, and got a further £750 off for the survey after the vendor carried out some important works for us (at his cost). We got it for a fair price I think, but we do need to spend about £20k to get it up to where we want it. Moved in last week and although we love it there's so many things we missed - going to try and keep within budget though. I also believe our vendor took us for a bit naive. They left so much rubbish in the house then had the cheek to come knocking on the door asking for their lovely wardrobe back.

NotCitrus Mon 18-Jan-16 23:19:52

A non-maintained badly-bodged Victorian house is a money sink, but then anyone will pay less after getting the survey report.

Probably spent over £60k on my Victorian wreck, but negotiated £20k and some repairs off our offered price after we got the report. A fair deal given how much prices were rocketing at the time.

Any older property will probably need £1000/year on it, and if there's a backlog of stuff not done...

QuietWhenReading Mon 18-Jan-16 23:26:43

I used to own a very old property (early 1800s). It was beautiful and I loved it.

But yes, we did loads to it. And it cost more to do than the same jobs would have done in a modern house.

And there is always Something that needs done.

I was heartbroken when we sold it.

But we been in our new house for 4 years. We've done nothing it.

If we'd stayed in our old house we'd have had to spend minimum £10k on maintenance in the same time period.

emwithme Mon 18-Jan-16 23:48:35

We bought a not-updated-since-the-1970s Victorian house last year (built from stone in 1885, cellar and two stories above, owned by the same family the whole time - only ever transferred previously in wills, in 1955 and 1970). We knew it had wet rot, woodworm and widespread damp, and negotiated £40,000 (about 20%) off the price.

We then got builders involved, to do a full (relatively sympathetic) renovation. Stupidly, we didn't get prices on the works BEFORE we owned it.

We have had to knock the "kitchen" down because it had NO foundations (three bricks deep) and it wasn't handling the foundations for the extension we wanted being built at all. We have found bodge after bodge after bodge, including but not limited to 1970s wiring added to 1940s wiring added to the original 1910s wiring, a window blocked up with a bit of fence panelling and then plasterboarded over, rooms knocked through without any supporting joists.

We have treated the wet rot, dry rot, woodworm, tanked the cellar, taken all the wet plaster off the walls, taken down all ceilings and replaced the lot. We are about 2 weeks from completion and the total cost is looking at around £185k (yes, more than the bloody house cost).

Would I do it again? FUCK NO. Not a hope. I'd buy somewhere where someone else had done all the hard work. Fortunately we've been able to stay in our rented place, because the builders originally told us we'd be in by September (they started in May), then it was October, then Christmas. We are hoping to move in February half term.

MidnightDexy Tue 19-Jan-16 00:21:15

No you've not been naive at all. We're hoping to exchange very soon on a late victorian semi and our structural survey only flagged two issues: front porch (wood, original or at least very old) rotten and needs repaired ( we could see that for ourselves) and the chimney has been bricked up and is sweating on the external wall - needs an air brick added. So its not inevitable that an old house will be riddled with problems and you're right to walk away unless you were getting a huge discount. Your sellers' behaviour smacks of desperation. Should add we are paying full asking price (its london - kind of have to anyway!) But were happy to do so b/c of condition, which was confirmed by positive survey.

JT05 Tue 19-Jan-16 13:10:40

Older neglected houses are money pits, as emwithme describes, we did exactly the same. But it was our 3rd house, so we knew exactly what was wrong and had the money from previous sales and experience , to put it right. Without this life would have been unbearable; living with damp, dangerous electrics etc on a building site is no joke unless you have the finance to get it sorted.

TreadSoftlyOnMyDreams Tue 19-Jan-16 15:41:40

Ha ha. Did you ask them why they were moving from an old, damp property in need of extensive work?

Don't worry about it, they are just hacked off that they might lose the house they want, though the sensible thing would have been for them to approach their vendors and ask for a reduction before allowing the whole chain to fall down.

I've bought two Victorian terrace houses in need of work now and they have both been money pits. Went in with our eyes open and a significant budget the second time.

Surveyors tend to be very conservative though. Having a brand new roof definitely added value to our home when we sold it.

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