Saving to renovate a fixer-upper home was our right move
Jess and Freddie had always dreamed of living in Kingston, but their budget just didn’t allow for it. However, buying a fixer-upper property has allowed them to turn their dream into a reality.
After successfully completing their first renovation project together, 31-year-old Jess, a former air steward, and her husband Freddie, felt ready to embark on another project – but this time it was to build their dream home.
She said: “For me, renovating is such a great way to approach home-buying. Of course, there are risks involved, but it’s well worth it.”Armed with a strict set of criteria, something the pair realised would help them as buyers, they set out looking for somewhere a little bit out of London that could become our 10-year home.
“We had a tick list of non-negotiables – things like not being on a busy street, being walking distance from a park and a train station.
“But one of our main points was that we wanted to buy a fixer-upper property that we could live in and save for the renovation over time.”
Despite being flexible in their criteria, the couple were also keen to not jump into anything too quickly having been stung in the past when they bought a property that didn’t quite fit their needs. They decided to wait it out until the perfect property came along.
“With our previous flat in Surbiton, we bought it in a hurry, and we were relieved when we sold it. It didn’t have a lot of natural light, which we completely overlooked. We were so desperate to get onto the property ladder that we rushed into buying it.”
However, luckily for the couple it didn’t take long for them to fall in love with a two-bedroom Victorian property in Kingston, near Richmond Park.
“We absolutely fell in love with this place because of its potential, plus we’d always dreamed of living near Richmond park.”
Although their new home in Kingston is a little on the small side, Jess could see the potential as soon as they saw it, prompting them to take the plunge and go for it.
“We found it on Rightmove, which is my favourite website ever!”
The couple got the keys to their new home in October 2019 and have been busy saving ever since so that they can get started with their long list of renovation works.
They revealed that although lockdown has interrupted their plans, the delaying of their upcoming loft extension has actually allowed them to see the property with fresh eyes.
“In some ways we’re glad we’ve waited before committing to the major work, for example lockdown has made us realise that we absolutely need to create a home workspace as working from home is now a part of our everyday lives. It’s also given us the chance to research our plans even more, which has been brilliant.”
As a professional lifestyle blogger, Jess knows a thing or two about interiors. A naturally artsy person, she loves nothing more than being able to transform a blank canvass of a property.
“I think I enjoy it because it’s all about the journey and the creative side of it. Adding my own personality to something is also hugely appealing.”
Armed with a small budget but plenty of elbow grease, Jess and Freddie have been doing their best to learn new skills along the way.
“Lots of the cosmetic stuff we’ve been able to do ourselves. But doing DIY never seems as easy compared to how simple things look on YouTube videos. It’s been a real learning curve so far, as we’ve already taken on more work than with our first renovation.”
Despite doing as much as they could themselves during lockdown, the couple had always planned to call in the experts for the main works.
“The builders are coming in October because that’s when we are extending into the attic to transform the house into a three bedroom and three bathroom property.
“To the naked eye you wouldn’t necessarily see those things, like electrics behind a certain wall, but you need to do everything right, especially with period properties as they can sort of crumble away at the seams if not kept in good condition.
With one renovation under her belt, and another one in progress, Jess has lots of advice for people considering a similar path.
“Definitely have a check list and be picky about either location or property type. Just be aware that you will need to give a renovation project a lot of TLC.
“I’d advise getting a survey too; get it all done properly and understand what you’re going into so there are no nasty surprises. Things always take longer than you think.
Jess also said that she and Freddie were really glad to have a started with a small project before diving in at the deep end with a bigger project, which not everyone can do.
“It was nice to have the luxury of having the flat as a kind of test project,” she added.
“We always knew we weren’t going to live in it, so we learned lessons before doing the same with a proper family home. We spent £30,000 and made £30,000 profit. We did it over 18 months and just really got the taste for it.
“We’re now so happy where we are, and even though it’s been a long journey to this point, and we still have work ahead of us, renovating what will become our dream home is really satisfying.”
If you’re thinking of taking on your own renovation project, but aren’t sure where you can afford, take a look at our Where can I live? tool.
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