Written by Lisa Proffitt | 11th September 2020

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Property with potential: How to buy a fixer-upper

Characterful homes in the country are in high demand with bidding wars in full swing for prime country properties on the market right now. Prospective buyers often have a country house checklist and are hunting for homes bursting with period features like exposed beams and timbers, and original floors, fireplaces and windows.

How to buy a fixer-upper

With competition for these homes at a peak, one option is to widen the pool of potentially perfect properties by investing in a renovation project. You’ll need patience, perseverance and a tight grip on budget, but the rewards could be life-changing. So what are the main things to consider when buying a fixer-upper property? Here are our expert tips.

Don’t be afraid of cosmetic changes: Wallpaper and carpets that were all the rage forty or fifty years ago don’t make a great first impression on a viewing but don’t let them put you off. They are a low cost problem to resolve. The same goes for outdated appliances in a 1970s bathroom. Never underestimate the difference a few cans of Farrow&Ball and a power shower can make.

Number crunch: Think hard about factors that could add to the price and make the property a less attractive investment. It’s easy to fall in love with a chocolate-box-perfect period cottage out in the sticks, but if the access for large vehicles is difficult, or there’s no plumber for 100 miles, the cost of your renovation could sky rocket.

Avoid vast structural projects: A derelict farm house with a range of outbuildings may scream potential, but question how long it has been on the market. Alarm bells should ring if the listing is very old. A few missing roof tiles may not seem a deal breaker but if rainwater has seeped in the building could be structurally unsound, especially if it has a timber frame. Movement cracks are common in older homes so shouldn’t instantly put you off but they do need to be investigated. If you can fit your finger into a crack, get it checked to rule out subsidence.

Don’t rely on pictures alone: Homes in a serious state of disrepair may be listed with just the exterior shots. Even if internal access is restricted, always visit a property with a surveyor to get a feel for the costs involved. The surveyor’s report will detail potentially costly problems such as subsidence, structural issues and hazardous materials like asbestos, as well as the more benign but equally unwanted problems of damp and mould. Never take a gamble on an unseen house unless you have the budget to cover the worst-case scenario.

Think about interiors: Prioritise the critical jobs like re-wiring, plumbing and plastering before you even think about a mood-board. These invisible jobs will cost a huge amount later if you fail to do them properly. In a fixer-upper property the kitchen may very well need ripping out but you don’t need to spend a fortune on a replacement. Start with a basic kitchen that you can upgrade with a bespoke wooden or marble worktop and stylish handles on the units. Reclamation yards are a great source for freestanding cupboards, delivering maximum impact at minimum cost.

Find inspiration online: Houzz.co.uk is an online home renovation and design website where you can lose hours of your life immersed in over 20 million photos of gorgeous homes along with details of local professionals who can turn your dreams into a reality. Printpattern.blogspot.com does what it says on the tin and offers print and pattern ideas for new wallpaper, curtains or upholstery. On Ikeahackers.net people from around the world share their improvements to Ikea pieces, turning a Billy bookcase into a bespoke piece of art for instance or simply changing the colour or upholstery. Etsy.com is always a brilliant destination to find small businesses selling handmade and vintage pieces.

Prepare for the unexpected: Above all, take on a fixer-upper property with your eyes wide open and prepare for the unexpected. You may have fallen in love with the property’s beams and mullion windows but you could be in for some lovely surprises too. Oak floorboards could very well be lurking underneath the patterned carpet or ancient lino. An unexpected discovery doesn’t always mean adding a zero on to the budget.

Are you looking to escape to the country? Why not contact your local Michael Graham office now and let us help get you moving. Check out our homes for sale by clicking here, where you’ll also find listed the three characterful country homes below, all with countryside locations and period features.

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