First time buyers taking on a property project

First time buyers

Taking on a property project

Last updated: 08/04/2021

If you’re looking to buy your first home, you can get much more for your money by purchasing a rundown property and doing it up yourself. 

Taking on a ‘project’ can be a good way to add value to a property. It also allows you to create a home that fits your needs and preferences exactly, rather than shopping around for the closest match. 

If you’re looking for a project, there are a few things you should look out for when house hunting to make sure your do-er upper is worth the money. 

Make sure you understand how much renovations would cost

In theory, renovating a property to fit your tastes seems like a great idea, but have you worked out how much it would cost? 

Big structural changes such as extensions or merging rooms are typically very expensive, whereas cosmetic renovations like redecorating could be done on a tighter budget. Make sure you have a think about the changes you’d need to make in the properties you’re looking at or have a builder come and see the property to give a quote before you buy.

The most important part of a renovation is making sure that you can add value to a property, so you don’t end up out of pocket. Renovations can be costly, so make sure you work out exactly how much you should budget. Projects very often go over budget, so make sure you allow a little extra for contingency. 

Find out if planning permission would be granted

If you’re planning on making big structural changes, try and find out whether they would be permitted before you sign any contracts. You could buy a property with big plans for an extension or conversion, but this could be denied by the council’s planning office. Avoid this disappointment by carrying out some research to find out whether planning permission would be approved.

Some properties may have planning permission already granted, you can search using the Gov website for previous planning decisions. If not, it can help to look at what changes other homeowners in the area have been permitted to make to their properties.

Is the house accurately priced?

If you’re looking for a do-er upper, then the property should be priced lower than a newly renovated house of the same size. You want to ensure you have some budget left over from the house purchase to begin renovations. For this to work, the price of the house has to accurately represent its state. If you’re buying a run-down, old property, then the price should reflect this.

The most important part of a renovation is making sure that you can add value to a property. Buying cheap and adding substantial value should mean that if you ever choose to sell, you will make a profit. If you find the perfect old property with the foundations to make an excellent renovation project, but it’s on sale for more than it’s worth, then keep looking. 

Look for a property with a lucrative layout

Cosmetic renovations are far less timely, intrusive and costly than structural renovations, so choose a house with a good layout to minimise the work. Look for a property that you feel you can add lots of value to without significant structural renovations. If your property has lots of small rooms, rather than large open spaces you may be restricted by the layout, so look to renovate somewhere with good foundations. 

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Ask yourself if you can live in the property while you renovate?

Depending on the type of renovation the house requires, you might not be able to live in the property while you are doing it up. If you have somewhere you can stay long term while renovations are being completed, this may not be a problem. However, if you plan on staying in your home, you need to consider whether it’s possible.

Choosing a do-er upper is only the start of the journey, you’ll now need to complete the purchase, move in and begin renovating. Have a read of our guide to choosing the right mortgage for you, so you can get started with the next step of the home buying process. 


Click on the sections below to explore what you need to know at each stage of your home buying journey:

Couple looking outside

Buying >

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Moving >

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