Buying a fixer-upper, or a property that needs some serious renovation, is an attractive prospect for many. Perhaps you have a great sense of interior style and want to start from scratch to put your stamp on the whole house.

Or maybe the fact that the average asking price of a fixer-upper property, which is just below £337,000, is more than £29,000 lower than the current national asking price of £366,000 is what appeals most. 

With the right buyer, a fixer-upper can become the perfect home, with an opportunity to get on the property ladder at a lower price and to make a healthy profit after being renovated and sold. 

However, it’s important to be aware of the hard work and problems that can arise with these types of properties, as a renovation project isn’t always plain sailing. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore 10 of the most important factors to consider before buying a fixer-upper. 

  1. Do your research

This one may seem obvious, but thorough research is an absolute must when it comes to searching for your fixer-upper. If this is the first time you’ve bought a property which needs renovating, then going for that first viewing can be pretty overwhelming.

Make sure that you’re well prepared with a full set of questions that you want to ask the estate agent, and even consider doing a property checklist so you can clearly see the pros and cons of the house and its location.

You’ll need to ask questions such as what is the neighbourhood like? What is the council tax bill per month? What are the local facilities in the area? How much have other houses on the road sold for recently? These are just a few examples, but you can access free property checklists online which are a great way to make sure you don’t miss anything important. 

It’s also a good idea to make a list of your requirements, the things that are really important to you in the property, and also which factors are a no-go. Perhaps being close to a good school is top of your list, or somewhere with good transport links. If you’re looking for a property with your partner, ensure you’re both on the same page before you start viewings. 

2. Be aware of the cost 

The most important deciding factor about whether you can do a renovation is the cost, and putting together some estimated calculations is a very important step. You’ll never be able to predict a completely accurate cost, but you should be able to estimate a ball-point figure to ensure you have enough funds to complete the renovation. 

A standard 3-bed semi property in the UK could cost anywhere from £75-150K, excluding an extension, but this price varies widely depending on the area and scope of project. People may spend less or more than this, as everyone’s house and tastes are different, plus labour costs vary across the country.

Structural issues are one of the most costly problems that can arise with a fixer-upper, which will be identified in the structural survey, so make sure you factor these into your budgets if necessary. 

Some of the most common renovation costs are: 

  • Building an extension

Building an extension is a great way to add space and shape your house to your needs. The average cost for a 20 m2 extension is £48,000 in 2023, however, this will all depend on the design, fittings and interiors. If you have the budget for it, using an architect can be extremely helpful for first-time renovators, to ensure your extension is best suited to the property and your needs. 

  • Building a loft conversion 

If your house has enough space for a habitable loft room, this is a great way to add value to your property and provide an extra floor to use as a new bedroom, office, or even games space. On average, a typical loft conversion in the UK will cost approximately £50K, however, this depends on the type of loft conversion, size and complexity of the project. 

  • A kitchen renovation 

Kitchens are one of the most popular rooms in the house to renovate, as typically a lot of time is spent in this room cooking or socialising. A brand new kitchen can cost from £5K-£50K or even more, depending on the design, size and fittings. If you’re trying to keep costs down, then sourcing your own fitter, choosing less expensive materials and keeping the layout the same are factors which will all help. 

3. Get a Building Survey done 

As mentioned, structural problems can be a costly issue with fixer-uppers, so it’s recommended to go for a full Building Survey to eliminate risks of problems arising further down the line that you may not have budgeted for. This is the most thorough type of survey, and therefore the most costly, ranging from £700 – £1500 depending on the property price. 

With this report, the surveyor will do a full property check to list any defects and advise on repairs and maintenance. You can also ask the surveyor to include estimated costs and timings for any repair work mentioned which will help with your budgeting. 

4. Can you live in the property whilst you renovate it? 

Living in a renovation isn’t the most relaxing of situations, especially if the bathroom and kitchen are being done. Expect dust, mess, noise and the need for a pop-up kitchen in another room if necessary! Depending on how long the renovation is going to take, and whether you have small children to look after, you may want to consider temporary accommodation for easy living.

If you work from home then this may be another factor to consider, as doing a Zoom call with the sound of drilling and banging in the background isn’t ideal.

However, if you decide that you can live in the house whilst it’s being renovated, then you can save on storage costs and rent, whilst keeping a close eye on the work being done. 

5. Test out your negotiating skills 

You might see a diamond in the rough with the fixer-upper you’ve got your eye on, but chances are the property was home to an old person whose next of kin is dealing with the sale, due to the owner moving into a home or elsewhere.

This could mean that the sellers are simply looking for a quick, stress-free sale, and you could shave some money off in negotiations if this is the case. Ask the estate agent about the seller to get some background information, and remember to use information from your Building Survey to knock some money off the asking price where possible.

6. Look for a well-built property 

Even if you’re going to be doing a full renovation, having good solid bones of a house is a great place to start. 1930s properties are renowned for their build quality, as by this period house building had evolved to a point that modern technology was around, and period features remained. This provides a winning combination of cavity wall insulation with original chimney breasts and other appealing features.

7. Be prepared for a certain amount of stress

No one said fixing up a whole house would be easy, and if you’re a first-time buyer it’s tricky to know what to expect. Buying a home is a complicated process regardless of the property, with mortgage stress, lots of paperwork, viewings and unfortunately, often issues in the chain which can result in delays. In addition to this, you’ll now have the added stress of building work and unexpected problems which may pop up along the way. 

Until the builders start peeling back the layers of the house, it’s hard to know the full extent of what needs to be done. Make sure you have a clear idea of what you want the end result to look like, a budget in mind, and a contingency plan if things don’t go to plan. 

8. Take a good look at the plumbing and electrics 

Plumbing and electrics are two of the most important things to look at when you’ve found a property of interest. Bad plumbing can result in water damage which can be a costly repair, and it can even result in flooring having to be ripped up and replaced to fix the problem. It’s a good idea to chat with the surveyor before you have the Building Survey done and find out how much of the plumbing they can inspect in the survey. If it’s not much, you can request a drain survey to check everything is working as it should before you get started with any work. 

Similarly, electrics will need a good look at in an older property before you start the work. Nowadays building regulations have tighter standards that properties must adhere to, and period homes may have old circuits in them which aren’t sufficient for your electrical needs. 

When you view the property, keep an eye out for the fusebox and take a photo if possible so that you can get advice from an electrician about whether it will need replacing or rewiring. 

9. Beware of asbestos 

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibre that was widely used in construction until the late 1990s, often for insulation, flooring and roofing, and it was sprayed on ceilings and walls. Since the danger of it has been realised, it has been banned in the UK, however, buildings constructed before 2000 may still have asbestos in them.

Asbestos only poses a risk when it’s damaged or disturbed, as tiny fibres can be released into the air and enter your lungs when breathing, which can cause health problems further down the line. 

Asbestos is very difficult to identify when you’re viewing the house, however, you can look online to see what the most common floor tiles, garages and electric heaters known to have asbestos in them, so you can recognise these in the property if relevant.

If you do think the property has asbestos, then make sure to budget for asbestos removal, as not only can it be detrimental to your health, but contractors may refuse to work on the property if it poses a risk to their health. 

10. Keep an eye out for damp

Damp can be a very common problem in older properties, one which can be costly to fix if you need to pay for a damp correction course installed in the walls. There are different types of damp to look out for in fixer-uppers, condensation which is the most common and solvable issue, rising damp and penetrating damp. 

Damp can be mia nor or a big issue, and without using a damp specialist it may be hard to estimate how expensive repair costs will be. However, when you’re viewing the properly look out for crumbling spots in the walls, walls that feel moist to the touch and dark patches, particularly in bathrooms. 

There are plenty of tips online on how to get rid of damp and the sooner you spot the problem to fix it before it gets worse, the better. 

We hope this blog post has given you some helpful information, and if you’d like any further information about moving house, get in touch for a friendly no-obligation chat.