Posted 22 Mar 2024

Property In Need Of Renovation: Buying A House To Renovate

buy / house / renovation

The key considerations when buying a house to renovate, plus the property renovations that add value to your home.

There’s plenty to think about when purchasing property in need of renovation – I’ll share my advice around buying a house to renovate in this guide.

If you’re a fan of Grand Designs but don’t want TV cameras following you around all the time, taking on the property renovation yourself could be something you’ll really enjoy! When it goes well, it can be a very creative and rewarding process.

Potential advantages include:

  • Creating your dream home: Instead of settling for what someone else has designed, you can craft a space to perfectly suit your needs and tastes.
  • Paying a lower purchase price: The lower upfront cost of the house can free up more funds for the renovations themselves.
  • Having more choice over location: You might not find the right home in your dream area, but you might find a fixer-upper that you can transform into your dream home.
  • Increasing the value of your home: With some smart renovations, you could significantly increase the value of your property, making it a great investment.

Alternatively, you may just want to renovate one aspect of your current home. You’re not looking to buy a new property, you just want to redesign a room or add an extension to suit your preferences or add value – my guide covers these renovations too.

Naturally, there’s a lot of art and science involved to ensure that the property renovation process is a success.

Buying a house to renovate – key considerations

Here are some of the key things to watch out for when buying property in need of renovation:

  • Location, location, location: You can renovate any aspect of a property, but the one thing you can’t do is change where it’s situated. Make sure the property to renovate is in the right area for you – research the street and borough against the criteria that matters to you.
  • Nasty surprises: Be thorough in your due diligence. Seek the support of an architect, contractor and so on to find out in advance a) how much work is required and b) how much it will cost.
  • Planning permission: Some aspects of your property may need planning permission – that can take time and a favourable outcome isn’t guaranteed. I recently wrote this guide – do you need planning permission for a loft conversion?
  • Time: Work out how long it will take – then add plenty of extra contingency time too, to be realistic. Can you spare enough time to oversee the project?
  • Budgeting: When planning your budget, be comprehensive. Think about all potential costs for a) buying the property – stamp duty, solicitor fees, etc. and b) renovating it.
  • Funding: Make sure you have enough funds for the project. Seek approval for a renovation mortgage well in advance.

Risks to prepare for and try mitigating include:

  • Running over budget
  • Running late, so you can’t move in when you expect
  • Underestimating how much renovation the property needs
  • Failing to add notable value / achieve a return on investment (ROI)

It can be daunting, but if you’re ready to take on the challenge, here are some of the key steps to prepare for:

Buying a house to renovate – checklist

If the property only requires relatively minor renovations, take a look at my first time buyer checklist. Even if this house to renovate will be your second or third property, many of the steps in this checklist still apply.

For a more comprehensive renovation project – including transforming a derelict property, or redesigning a house from scratch – here is an overview of the steps involved.

  • Find the property – often, auctions sell properties in need of renovation
  • Carry out assessments and property searches – find out how long they take
  • Purchase the property
  • Carry out a property survey
  • Take out renovation insurance
  • Apply for a house warranty
  • Apply for any planning permission needed
  • Choose an experienced property agent
  • Hire contractors e.g. an architect and construction company
  • Make a schedule of works
  • Organise waste removal
  • Address any access issues
  • Keep energy efficiency in mind – find out how to improve your EPC rating
  • Carry out the renovations – more detail in the list below
  • Conduct a snagging survey

For the renovations themselves, a typical end-to-end process looks something like the list below. The specific steps will depend on the property condition and your exact renovation requirements, but here’s an overview of how to renovate a house:

  • Repair any original features you want to keep
  • Update the plumbing and electrics
  • Make internal structural changes
  • Address the ‘first fixes’ – ducts, boilers, central heating wiring, alarms etc.
  • Plaster the walls
  • Complete the ‘second fix’ work – including the kitchen and bathroom fittings
  • Make external improvements
  • Decorate the property

For smaller scale renovation projects, where you’re only redesigning one room or adding an extension, choose the work wisely. Some renovation jobs are more rewarding, or time consuming, than others!

Let’s take a look at the type of home renovations that are most likely to increase the value of your property:

Property renovations that add value

How much value your renovations add to the property will vary based on a number of factors.

These include market conditions, property location, the scale of the renovation and the quality of the work carried out.

But as a guideline, here is approximately how much value you could add to a property through different types of renovations, according to reports:

And if you’re making renovations, it’s worth thinking about how choosing energy-efficient installations can add value too. Research from the Independent has found that the best home improvements that can add value to your property and are also ‘green’ include:

  • Double-glazed windows: up to 10%
  • Solar panels: up to 4%
  • Heat pumps: up to 3%

For major works, when commissioning tradespeople, look for their registration with appropriate bodies such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Also, if you’re searching for investment properties, take a look at these. Fine Living has chosen these properties based on a range of selection criteria including refurbishment opportunities and gross rental yields.

Final thoughts: Buying a house to renovate

For creative home redesign projects, also think about the value that a well-connected property agent can add.

For example, take a look at some of the recent projects Fine Living has supported. The list includes home redesigns, property stagings – and even a ‘floating’ staircase transformation!

I hope this guide has helped you weigh up the pros, cons and things to consider when buying a house in need of renovation.

For some additional guides, take a look at the Fine Living blog. It includes a useful list of 16 questions to ask when viewing a house – whether it needs renovation or not.

And if you’re renovating a property, it’s a very good idea to understand what a party wall agreement is as well as what a share of freehold means.

No matter what your property needs are, Fine Living is here to help. Take a look at our portfolio and please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any queries.


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