House renovation: a simple first time buyer's guide

POSTED: 19th October 2015
IN: Personal Guides

Home buyers are willing to compromise on their first home in order to get their foot on the property ladder.

According to recent research from Your Move and Reeds Rains, just over three quarters of buyers would be happy to purchase a home with an out-of-date kitchen and 71 per cent would be willing to look past a bathroom that needed replacing. For many, making a property purchase is all about location; 45 per cent of respondents said that they would accept a property in any condition as long as it was within their budget.

For first-time buyers striving to get a foot on the property ladder, a ‘fixer-upper’ could be the most affordable route to securing that dream home. But what considerations do first timers need to take before putting in an offer on a home that will need improvements.

Knowing your project

The first question that prospective buyers should ask themselves is what level of work they’re prepared to undertake; for a three to five year home, rather than a ‘forever’ home, it’s sometimes more financially viable to concentrate on cosmetic upgrades rather than a full-works renovation project.

This should help to narrow down the search to just properties that are realistic in scope. It’s all too easy when viewing a charming period property to be swayed by cornicing, original fireplaces and sash windows, and overlook the practicalities – but buyers could be surprised by the additional costs associated with maintaining an older property.

Depending on how much they’ve been updated in the past, period properties may require expensive work like rewiring. Additionally, if period features need replacing, they do usually come at a premium.

Enlisting the right survey

Although a structural survey is advised for most property purchases, this is particularly pertinent for buyers considering structural renovation work.

There are various levels of survey available depending on the location, condition and status of your property. For an old or abandoned property that will require significant work to get it up to living standard, a more comprehensive survey ensures that potentially costly problems don’t go unnoticed and can be factored into the renovation budget.

Finding trustworthy traders

Whether a home needs just a lick of paint, a new bathroom, a kitchen refit or completely renovating, sourcing the right people for the job is really worth investing some time in. Recommendations from friends and family are often a good place to start for reliable reviews and in recent years, a number of websites have been developed to help regulate the market through crowdsourced local trade reviews.

As a rule of thumb, tradesmen registered with a trade body such as the National Federation of Builders or the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering are officially regulated, which offers a little extra peace of mind.  

If any large pieces of building work are required, such as an extension, there are some ‘best practice’ policies to employ when hiring tradespeople. As a rule, a written contract prior to the work being undertaken and payment terms agreed up front can help to ensure that the final cost of the work doesn’t exceed the price quoted. 

Do you do it yourself?

Of course, the costs associated with hiring tradesmen very much depend on the scale of work to be undertaken. In some cases, this can be reduced considerably if buyers are prepared to take a do-it-yourself approach. However, first time buyers should approach with caution as, although this may look better for the bank balance in the short term, DIY mistakes could prove to be more costly in the long run.

Additionally, undertaking extensive work on a property can sometimes uncover unforeseen problems. Although this isn’t always the case, setting a little extra aside for a rainy day could help to avoid any difficulty or delays in getting the project completed.

Grabbing opportunities

With property prices rising faster than the average salary, a property in need of some improvements can provide first time buyers with the opportunity to see their money go further. Adrian Gill, Director of Your Move and Reeds Rains, explains:

"[First-time buyers] are sensibly adjusting their expectations and preparing themselves for some of the shortcomings that may be present in a first home.

“Indeed, it may even be the case that some first-time buyers actively select properties with faded décor or faulty kitchens, judging that the reduction they can secure on the asking price is greater than the cost of any required renovation work.”

If you’re a first-time buyer and you’d like to know more about securing a mortgage for your first property, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team at Aldermore. 

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