Looking for the right renovation property can be a complex process. Renovations involve time and money but the trade-off is a very unique home. As you can see from the above image, that is a mini digger driving through the front door of my house. I love old houses and it was always a dream of mine to renovate one, so in 2016, I did just that.
Looking back, there are things I would do differently and things I am glad I didn’t back down. I bought the house more with my heart and less with my head and both my partner and I were a bit naive regarding the amount of work to be done. We weren’t afraid of a challenge though. As the saying goes, “forewarned is forearmed” and with this in mind, I want to share with you my “Top Tips” when searching for a renovation property. Anyone can do it and this before and after photo of the outside of our home proves it!
For this post, I’ve teamed up with Perfect Property, Ireland’s most innovative property search engine. I have an obsession with houses and one of my favourite things to do is check out houses for sale online. I could spend hours looking at properties with no intention (or money) to buy but I like to keep an eye on the market in case something interesting does appear.
Their website has some really unique features, many of which I haven’t seen on other sites. They simplify the house searching process. The website design is intuitive with handy filters and an easy to navigate layout. You can immediately tell they considered both the house hunter and house sellers’ needs in their design.
Property Advice Section – with up to date articles on all things property. Posts are laid out like a blog and are informative and relevant to anyone buying or selling property.
- Perfect Room – For anyone who has difficulty visualising the transformation of a living room, kitchen or bathroom, this digital renovations service helps you imagine what a room could look like post renovation. Below is an example of a living room in an older property in Raheny, Dublin 5, for sale on the Perfect Property site. The Perfect Room feature allows you to instantly see the potential in a home, if you struggle to look past dated decor. Here is an example of the living room before and after the transformation.
- Hidden Gem – an easy way to narrow the search for your perfect home. There are more than 30 Hidden Gems to choose from, these include properties with a back garden, large kitchen, garage, attic and more. This allows you to search for your must have features, giving you a much more targeted search.
- What’s Nearby – the site also tells you what’s nearby a particular property, transport links and other amenities. Really useful, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the area.
I used the “Hidden Gem” features to narrow down a couple of promising options on the Perfect Property site. This way I was able to view the properties I thought would make the most suitable renovation projects. But before I talk about that, let me run you through some top tips when you are on your search.
5 things to consider when buying a Renovation Property
- Scale – Decide in advance how much work you are prepared to undertake. There is a big difference between a “doer upper” and a “money pit”! Cosmetic changes can be done quickly and without too much disruption, such as a new bathroom or kitchen and don’t have to cost the earth. These changes will improve the property in a short time frame. Structural work will take time and is expensive. We had a running joke when we started working on our 1895 Victorian home. Everything costs €1,000! Nothing seemed to cost less than that. Taking on structural work requires a decent budget if you want it done right. Also ask yourself if you are prepared for a project to extend over a few years and take your time doing it up.
- Vision – Look past the dodgy extension, the psychedelic wallpaper or the avocado shell-shaped bathroom suite. Don’t be put off by appearances. All renovation properties will require updating. For inspiration, take a look at other properties on the street. Have the neighbours built an extension? Knock on doors and ask a few questions. People are happy to see a neglected house on their road bought for renovation. It improves the look of the street and the area. If you are struggling to see past the orange Formica kitchen, then the Perfect Room feature will help you envisage your new dream home.
- Do Your Homework – Is it a protected structure? Are there restrictions on extensions? What development is planned for the area? Take a look at other property prices in that area. What is the maximum you should pay for the property and then factor in your renovation costs? We brought our builder to several viewings. One property I fell in love with had serious structural issues. I would never have spotted this, as I was blindsided by the beautiful period features. Turns out the house was sinking and required under-pinning. That would have been about €70k out of our budget – A lucky escape.
- The Unexpected – Plan for unforeseen work. Keep this in mind when you are drafting your budget. Unexpected costs always arise with an old house or a house requiring a makeover. 10% of your overall budget is usually recommended to put by. In our case, we found woodworm in our roof half way through our build. This was a major unexpected cost as the entire roof had to be replaced. If you plan for unexpected costs at the start, it will minimise the stress and shock if and when they do appear.
- Make Savings – Managing the project is one way to reduce your costs. It can be difficult to juggle a full-time job and a renovation project but it can be done. Just make sure you attend the site as frequent as you possibly can to keep contractors informed of changes or decisions. Sourcing products online yourself is another great way to cut costs. I found a new sliding door in a local salvage yard at half the price a supplier quoted me. It pays to shop around.
Transform a room, no matter how limited your skills and budget.
For example, don’t be put off by an ugly, impractical, dated kitchen when you view a house. Swapping out an old kitchen for a new one does not have to be a big job. There are different levels of work you can do, depending on your budget but it can be easily improved. Here’s how:
- Paint the cabinet doors, have them sprayed or buy new ones and swap out worktops.
- Paint the room and woodwork to give it a fresh feel.
- Tile your splashback. A nice metro tile will only cost about €20 a square metre.
- If you have a few more quid, building an extension to the rear of the house which does not increase the original floor area of the house by more than 40 square metres and is not higher than the house is a good option to add space and value.
Here is a BEFORE and AFTER of our own kitchen/dining room area. We knocked a wall and extended out to give a more open plan kitchen/living space. To be honest, we could have benefited hugely from a Perfect Room service to help us visualise the transformation!
I hope this post encourages more people to do what we I did – take the leap buying a house that needs some love and attention. The renovation journey always has an end, no matter what the property throws at you. And at the end you have a beautiful home full of your personality and style. Now what’s not to like about that?
Thanks for reading,