Diary Of An Accidental Renovator
Hello! I’m back after a short break in order to crack on with the renovations at @theharbourdeckhouse and also to celebrate my 50th birthday. If you’ve read part one and part two of my series: How To Climb The Property Ladder, then you’ll know that so far, we are up to the part in my life where we bought a period cottage in Northamptonshire. I also got you to answer a few questions yourself if you were thinking about following in our footsteps and making money from property. In part three I continue with telling you about our renovation history and about how to create a lifestyle that people can buy into.
Creating A Lifestyle
The best thing you can do when renovating a property, even if you know you’re not going to live in it, is do it with all your heart and soul. I can’t stress that enough. Loving what you do to a home really shows, just as it’s very apparent when you have had no emotional attachment. If there is one thing that sells a property at it’s best price it’s creating a lifestyle that prospective purchasers can buy into. If you have put every creative part of your being into a home and really thought about how a home is used, then you will be sure to sell at a great price and be well on your way to making money from property.
So, what have you bought? What type of lifestyle does the property evoke from the offset? Does it have a view? Is there a link from the inside to the garden, or is it depressingly separate? Our Northamptonshire cottage was surrounded by rolling hills and inside was jam packed with original features. Everything was falling to pieces, but we would fix all that. I’m a huge fan of mixing old with new. Just because it’s a period property doesn’t mean that it can’t have all the modern inventions of the age. There is no reason why you can’t add those bi-fold doors you’ve always hankered after and that boiling water tap of dreams!
In the photos above you can see we added bi-fold doors to the back of the cottage to create a better link to the garden. We also mixed traditional and contemporary design together (this was 2005, so give me a break if you think it’s a bit dated now). The dining room led onto an open kitchen, so there was a flow from one space to the other and then onto the garden. Whilst designing it, I kept in mind the lifestyle we wanted to create for ourselves. I wanted to be able to cook and talk to people at the dining table at the same time. I wanted our guests to feel like we had brought the outside in and visa versa – hence the bi-fold doors.
We created a house for entertaining in, a home to be shared and enjoyed by all. The living room was a cosy place to relax after supper, but we made it easy for us to pop back into the kitchen to get drink top ups. We chose furniture carefully, so that hopefully it wouldn’t date too much – we still have the armchairs many years later. The decor and furnishings also said: “yes, I live in a pretty period cottage, but I’m not afraid of mixing it up”. It was a house that catered to many tastes and many generations, that helped us so much when we came to sell.
Who’s Going To Buy Your Home?
We also thought about who might buy our cottage one day. That is something you should always have in mind if you want to climb the property ladder. We knew it would be a family and therefore, it was imperative that we create a third bedroom and another bathroom. It was built directly over what was the breakfast room and rear hall (which was eventually combined into one dining room). We added an en suite bathroom to the new bedroom too. There are always lots of friends to stay, so a third bedroom would come in very handy, but one day it would also be a room for someone else to either use as the master suite, or give to a teenager.
My hubby and I created a home that had the best of both worlds, modern convenience and a sense of space even though it was hundreds of years old. When we came to sell it (due to work commitments and a relocation) we brought in four estate agents. Always and I mean always get at least three valuations! They don’t cost you anything and the more you get the better picture you will have of the real value. If we had believed the first estate agent’s valuation, then we would have ended up selling for a third less than we actually did!
An estate agent needs to “get” your home. They need to understand what you’re about and what you have tried to present. Indeed, they too need to buy in to the lifestyle you have lovingly created. Not everyone will though, however hard you try. Just because an estate agent sells houses doesn’t mean they have any taste or understand the market. In fact, I’ve met many an estate agent in my time that literally didn’t have a clue about property and style, they simply saw three bedrooms and based the valuation on that.
However, there are many inspired and educated estate agents that will understand your home and they are the ones you need to sell it. So get as many in as possible to get a good mix of quotes. We knew straightaway when we had found the right agent for our cottage and we knew before they gave us the valuation. They just understood the lifestyle we were trying to sell and that meant that they would be great at selling it to people with the same viewpoint. We ended up selling our home for way over double what we bought it for just two years later.
It was a timely sale as well because soon after that there was an almighty housing market crash, in which Northamptonshire house prices reduced by as much as thirty percent! We were so lucky, we had no clue the crash was coming, I don’t think anyone did. Making money from property can be a risky business. We were so lucky.
The move was an absolute nightmare. We hadn’t found a house that we wanted to live in, but my hubby Mr C had found a house that we could renovate and then either sell on or rent out. I never even saw it before we bought it. I don’t quite know how that happened and I really can’t remember, but I would never in a million years allow that to happen now! He must have drugged me! Needless to say I absolutely hated it and it was haunted, but more about that in next week’s blog post. It did, however, become a really great earner for us and Mr C did know what he was doing.
The house purchase in Guildford, Surrey, would not complete before we moved out of the cottage though, so I needed to find somewhere for us to rent for two weeks. All of our belongings went into storage and on a very wet summer day we travelled in two cars down to a barn near Godalming in Surrey. It wasn’t a barn conversion, no no, it was just a barn! It’s all I could find for such a short rental time and Airbnb did not exist.
There was a mini kitchen of sorts (a two pan hob and a microwave) directly next to a bed and a toilet. There was a makeshift wall next to that, which had holes in it and we could see a tractor on the other side! I promise I’m not making it up. It was the stuff of nightmares at the time, but oddly it has become one of our funny stories. What was worse though was the fact that the house purchase was delayed and we were not able to extend our stay in our luxury barn, so for two more nights we had to decamp to the local YMCA. I can say with some authority that it is not, in fact, fun to stay at The YMCA and, much to our dismay, it is also not filled with hot gay men!
In next week’s post I will tell you all about the haunted house and the gorgeous Victorian cottage we bought next. I will also get around to telling you about our points system for choosing the right house in order for you to start making money from property and much more. Thanks for reading.
I just love what you do and how you write, it’s very funny. You’ve been my entertainment this morning while lying in bed on a dull wet Saturday morning but you have brightened it. Simply, thank you.
Tess that’s made my day. X
So interesting JP! the barn sounds a complete nightmare. We will be downsizing this next year or two and Im dreading it as it had to be the forever home. We need to get it right ! Good luck with your renovations .
Good luck to you too!
Once again very informative, especially about the estate agents. Never would have thought that mattered. Stay at the ” Barn” must have been an experience.
It sure was! Thank you xx
Really enjoying reading this post and the previous two… So with you on the fact that you have to make scarifices and its hard work. The house we currently live we have renovated from scratch and have done nearly everything ourselves and at the time our children were 3 and 8 months. And what you say about heart and soul is so so important, we bought a holiday home to also rent out in 2017 and it has paid off, always booked and everyone who stays loves the Hamptons theme and all the attention to detail – selling a lifestyle!
Sarah Thank you so much and I’m glad what I wrote has resonated with you. Sounds like your holiday home is lovely!