To renovate or not, that is the question………….

Kate and Chris houseTo be honest, it was never really a question for us, my parents have been doing up our houses since I can remember, we’ve always lived in period properties that they have pulled apart and between them can basically build anything so when we decided to sell our new build flat in Hackney and find a house I knew it had to be a period property and that I wanted something we could renovate and put our own stamp on. However, having now (almost!) been through a renovation, I’d say there are a few things you should definitely consider:


Renovating a house is expensive and so you need to consider a few things around cost – it is definitely not all about profit but equally you don’t want to be worried and stressed about money – that’s never fun!

  • Will you make your money back? Is the cost of the house plus the amount you’re spending on the renovation comparative to how much you think the house will be worth once it is done? You don’t want to buy a house, plough lots of money into it then not be able to recover your costs should you want / need to sell it
  • Is there a house price ceiling in your area? For example, we are thinking about also doing the loft but looking at other five bed houses on our street, we might not make back the amount the loft will cost if we were to sell it so we’re going to wait and see what the market does
  • Have you got a buffer fund? Everyone says this, but it’s because it is true – there will be unexpected costs and things you uncover when renovating that you just can’t foresee (no one knows what is lurking underneath that soil & cement)

Where will you live?

I was fairly flippant, I thought it would be fine to live in and renovate. That said, we didn’t really have a choice as we couldn’t afford to rent a house but I have to say it has been stressful! We’ve been without a kitchen since April and had no washing machine for four months and there have been times when I have just wanted to run away and cry!

If you’re going to live in the house then you need to think about a few things:

  • Be realistic, depending on how much you’re doing, its going to be shit for a bit but to be honest you’ll get used to it and will get to a point where you won’t blink when every time you sit on the sofa your clothes get filthy
  • Get used to dust – everyone says the dust is unbelievable, I thought they were being dramatic but it is genuinely unbelievable. However, you will get used to a layer of dust being on everything (even your clothes)
  • Think about how you will cook (apparently a camping stove is useful – we didn’t bother so relied on a microwave and deliveroo) and do your washing – have you got a friend you can bribe with wine for use of their machine?
  • Look at the positives! Its actually quite useful to be around because you can keep on top of everything the builders are doing and also be around to ask questions and make sure things are on track

If you decide to rent somewhere:

  • Try and be close by – you will need to come to the site quite often, definitely a few times a week so having to schlep miles is going to be a drag
  • Think about cost and time, its fairly rare that a build project runs to time and if it runs over you need to make sure the place is available for you to stay on but more importantly you can afford to pay for it

Can you  legally do the work you want to do?

I can’t imagine how awful it must be to buy a house with the hope of doing the work then not being able to but small things can trip you up, so:

  • Is there precedent on your street? i.e. have neighbours done something similar? You can check this by just having a look! But you can also go onto your local council’s website and look at planning permission that has been accepted and rejected – also a great way to get ideas!
  • Do your neighbours have any grounds to object? You need to consider whether what you want to do will impede on your neighbours, often this is fairly straightforward (i.e. you can’t build a big double extension that will block their views) but sometimes its more complex. Building regs haven’t always been as strict and if someone has an extension that isn’t legal (for example our neighbour has an extension with windows looking onto our garden) but has been there for 20 years then they can object to your extension based on their right to light so check their property and when it was built first!

Overall, the decision will come down to what’s right for you and your family so there’s no right answer and if you go for it and build, though it’s painful at times its also exciting. It will all be worth it in the end!

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