From Fixer Upper To Dream Home: A Guide

Friday, October 18, 2019

If you are planning on purchasing a fixer-upper to transform into your dream home, you are not alone. With more volatile property markets, more and more people are trying to outperform the market than ever before. While the early noughties saw mammoth price rises year on year, this boom is now stagnating. In some areas, house prices are actually falling year on year. If you are looking to scale the property ladder, but you don’t have the readies in your savings account to purchase your dream home, you will need to create it yourself.

Buying a fixer-upper could mean purchasing a home that needs cosmetic work only, or it could mean buying a derelict shell of a building that needs complete restructuring and remodeling. It’s up to you which route you follow, depending on your experience, the time you have to dedicate to your project and your budget. If you are excited by the thought of making your own dream home from scratch, you probably can’t wait to get your hands on a little patch of bricks and mortar.

When considering where to buy, what sort of property to buy, and how much to spend, you need to think about your mortgage, your renovation budget, and your lifestyle. Can you afford to live out of a suitcase and amongst the dust and a building site for the next six months? Take a look at how you can transform a fixer-upper into your dream home.


The most important aspect of buying a fixer-upper is that it allows you to buy in a location that you may not have been able to afford previously. If the ceiling price for fully renovated show home like dwellings in a swanky part of town is well out of your price range, you may be able to afford a fixer-upper in the same location. A fixer-upper that becomes available in a sought after location will be hot property. If the area that you like the look of has low crime rates, excellent schools, superb amenities, and exceptional transport links, then you will have your work cut out to secure the property.

You need to put yourself in the best position to move quickly. Ensure that you have your mortgage application accepted in principle, have a property lawyer organized, and ensure that your money is ready to move. By appearing as the best and most responsible borrower and buyer, it could be your offer that gets accepted. Alternatively, you could head to one of the many property auctions across the country to explore purchasing at auction. This enables you to collect the keys within one month of the auction, and you can get cracking with your scheme of works.


Applying for a mortgage can be a stressful time. To ensure that you maximize the amount that you are allowed to borrow, you need to steer clear of venturing into the red for at least three months before you apply. You must be a responsible borrower. Forget purchasing a big-ticket item just before you are due to apply. Stick to a strict personal budget, pay your credit cards on time and ensure that you clear as much debt as you can prior to applying for your mortgage.

Structural Concerns
Fixer-uppers tend to be older properties that need a thorough inspection of their structural integrity. If the property that you have purchased is not safe to enter, it may be suffering from heave or subsidence. This is not a game-changer necessarily, but it does mean that you cannot begin work on the interior until you have had the foundations of your new pad underpinned. You must make sure that you have a quantity surveyor to assess the safety of your site before you start renovating.

Ensure that you check your roof for leaks and damp seepage. It’s vital that you have a watertight and weatherproof dwelling. Ensure that you fix any slipped tiles, replace any rafters with rot, and ensure that any skylight glazing is replaced as needed. Check your windows and replace any glazing if there are any drafts or damp is entering the property from dodgy seals or fascias. Once you have a structurally sound property, you can then begin to embark on more exciting aspects of your project.

Ensure that all gas, electricity, and water utilities are connected to your new dwelling. When you are instructing tradespeople on-site, they will need access to the mains. It is crucial that you begin to hone your budget for your scheme of works. While you are creating your dream home, and you don’t foresee selling up any time soon, it is still important that you don’t slip into negative equity. You want a home that surpasses any ceiling price but you also don’t want your new pad to descend into a money pit.

Budgeting involves a stringent inspection of each potential room. You need to list every single job that needs completion, from major works like extensions to the tiniest of jobs like installing skirting boards. When you have a comprehensive list, you need to add labor costs and then a ten percent contingency. This is vital as there are always unforeseen expenses that crop up. Budgeting can also be honed and money can be saved if you decide to do some of the work yourself. Head on to a plastering course and take a look at YouTube to have a go at tiling the bathroom. This will allow you to take a more meaningful role in renovating your new home, and you’ll feel prouder knowing that you laid the laminate or skimmed all of the ceilings.

Take your time when planning out your renovations, and consider project managing yourself to save money.

The most exciting aspect of creating your dream home is the decor. Don’t follow trends just for the sake of it and make sure that you express your own personality through your decor. Don’t take your guide from the covers of glossy interiors magazines if you cannot bear the style. If you love all things minimalist, don’t go for ornate florals just because it’s on-trend. Instead, consider the theme that you want for your new abode. It’s vital that you can create a home fit for purpose.

The kitchen will be the hub of your home. Consider the style that you want for your cabinetry as this should reflect the ethos of your entire pad. If your home is cozy, cottage-like and quirky, a simple shaker style cream kitchen could be perfect. Alternatively, if your home is all white walls with modernist flair, then a high gloss kitchen could be more your look. Think about an extension or knocking through to the dining room to create a more open-plan space fit for twenty-first-century living.

Don’t neglect the exterior of your pad. If you are fortunate enough to have a garden, ensure that you create a space that is usable all year round. Install a large awning or roof over your patio, so you can enjoy a spot of al fresco dining in all weathers. Make sure that you have zonal areas in your garden to make it fit for the entire family. Have a well-coiffed lawn, a herb garden, a patio, a dining area, a scented alpine rockery, and some flora and fauna.

Living Space

The living room that you create needs to be fit for purpose. If you love kicking back in front of the TV to watch your favorite box set or movie, then you should go for comfy sofas. Forget form over function, and opt for a large leather recliner or an L-shaped corner sofa with scatter backs. If you adore all things vintage, scour your local auction houses and thrift shops for mid-century classics. Reupholster and upcycle and you could have a little piece of social history in your living room.

Make sure the finish of your pad is exceptional. Skirting boards should be perfectly fit, the gloss work on your home shouldn’t be blotchy, you should have carpet laid by a professional and your plastering needs to be skimmed so it is sleek and smooth. Create the interior decor that you have always wanted to live in. Go for the 1960s inspired wallpaper, Danish mid-century sideboards, and retro kitchen styling if you are a vintage fiend. If you are after a more sophisticated look for your home, go for the richer walls with damson, crimson and duck egg blue hues. If your pad is a period property, exploit the original features that are already there.

Renovating your own home and creating a pad that is truly unique and one of a kind is fun, stressful, but ultimately hugely rewarding. Follow this guide, stick to a budget, go for the decor that you love and want to surround yourself with, and you will transform your fixer upper into your dream home.

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