First time buyers taking on a property project
Last updated: 04/04/2021
If you’re looking to buy your first home, you could get more for your money by finding a fixer-uppers and doing some renovation work. Although there are no guarantees, this can be a way of adding value to a property. Plus, you get the benefit of creating a home that fits your exact vision. If you’re after a project property, there are a few things to look out for when house hunting.
If you’re planning on making big structural changes, try and find out whether they would be permitted before you sign any contracts. You don’t want your big plans for an extension or conversion to be denied by the council’s planning office after you’ve already bought your first home. You can avoid disappointment by researching ahead to find out whether planning permission would be approved.
Some properties may have planning permission already granted. You can search using the Government website for previous planning decisions. If not, it can help to look at what changes other homeowners in the area have been allowed to make to their properties.
If you’re planning to renovate a property it’s really important to work out how much it’s likely to cost.
Big structural changes like extensions or merging rooms are typically very expensive. More cosmetic changes (like a lick of paint or light redecorating) can be done on a tighter budget. Think carefully about the changes you’d need to make in the properties you’re looking. You could even ask a builder to see the property to give a quote before you buy.
With a renovation, the best-case scenario is adding value to the property. The worst-case scenario is ending up out of pocket. Renovations can be costly, so work out a budget you can afford and try to stick to it. Projects can often end up costing more than expected, so try and plan an extra pot in your budget to cover any unexpected costs that might crop up.
Depending on the type of renovations you want to do, you might not be able to live in the property while you’re doing it up. You might be lucky enough to have somewhere else you can stay while renovations are being completed. If that’s the case, remember to factor any costs into your budget.
But if you’re planning to live in the home while you do it up, think about the reality of how the work will impact your life – and for how long.
It sounds obvious but make sure you don’t pay over the odds for a house that needs work. Remember, after you’ve bought your new home you’ll need enough money left over to start paying for renovations.
Check out the prices of other houses in the local area. If you’re buying a fixer-upper, you can expect the property to be priced lower than a newly renovated house of the same size in the same general location. After all, if you’re buying a property that’s a bit run-down and needs work, the price should reflect this.
Even if you find a great property with the foundations to make an excellent renovation project; if it’s on sale for more than it’s worth and the seller won’t budge – it’s worth keeping on looking.
Cosmetic renovations are far less timely, intrusive and costly than structural renovations. You might be able to find a property you feel you can renovate and update without making big structural renovations.
If you can choose a house with a floorplan laid out in a way that you already love, that can really minimise the amount of work you need to do. A key thing to think about is the size and number of rooms - properties with lots of small rooms, rather than large open spaces might leave you more restricted by the layout.
Choosing your project property is only one part of your journey to home ownership. There's lots to do before you get the keys! Explore our guide to choosing the right mortgage for you to start thinking about your next steps.
- Use our deposit calculator to work out how to save a deposit for your first home.
- Download our free First Home Steps app for a pocket-guide to budgeting, planning, saving, and buying your first place.
- Explore more blogs in our First Time Buyers hub.