Five things I learnt from renovating a house in Kent

Three years ago yesterday, My wife and I made our last and final offer on the house in Kent. This offer went on to be accepted. Six months later, we owned the fixer-upper house we had absolutely never dreamed of owning. (↑ That’s the house up there. ↑)

So I thought now, after 30 odd months of ownership, would be an excellent time to share some pearls of wisdom that we learnt.

  1. When tradespeople offer to help, check out there work beforehand – friends included!

We were offered assistance from the husband of a friend of my wife. My wife knew him and had met him more than a few times, so we had no reason not to trust him. He, however, turned out to be a complete crook who was 100% stealing a living.

He came in to help the builder out (paid by us) to fit the skirting boards and door frames and decorate a couple of the bedrooms. This turned out to be the biggest mistake we ever made. He not only didn’t fit the skirtings correctly; in his paintwork, there was also runs everywhere in every room he touched.

Now obviously this had the potential to turn very nasty (which it did) involving him taking me to court due to me refusing to pay him for his terrible workmanship. Now we settled out of court a week before our court date for about 1/3 of his total invoice. This, however, was still too much.

I checked him out (as part of the court proceedings) and found him to have a terrible reputation and was pretty confident in winning the court case but the stress of it all triggered my IBS which in turn made me quite ill.

  1. Don’t trust anything that comes out of a builders mouth, particularly regarding timescales.

We were quoted by our chosen builder, 4-6 weeks to renovate our house. This renovation involved, moving walls, inserting doors where there wasn’t one, building walls, rewiring, replumbing, new central heating, new windows, hanging new doors and two new bathrooms and a downstairs WC.

We knew that this would probably be nearer two months, which we were okay with as we were living with a very good friend during this time. However – Four months it took before the house was at a point where it was safe enough with my then two-year-old daughter to move in.

We had a lounge, a bedroom and a bathroom. No kitchen, no flooring down in the rest of the house, my daughter slept in with us in our bedroom, and that was it. For the next two months!

  1. Do not make rash decisions.

When the lounge was being rewired, we had HDMI cables hidden in the walls, and power sockets high up for the wall mounted TV. Unfortunately, I  also had the CAT5e cables for the CCTV, and the BT telephone cables ran back to the same place where the HDMI cables terminate. So now we always have to have a cupboard in that position in the lounge, to hide the mess of wires.

If I had taken the time to think about it instead of being put on the spot by the builder, I could have had everything run to the utility room or the garage where I could have put in a wall-mounted comms cabinet and done everything correctly freeing up space in the narrow lounge.

  1. Get a schedule of works, and force your builder to stick to it (if possible)

We didn’t have a schedule of works, we just had a list of things we wanted the builder to do, and he did them in whatever order his team wanted to. Which meant we had an entire house upside down, all with bits started but nothing finished.

  1. Things are not always as they seem!

As mentioned by Mathew – our house is a semi-detached house, next to the unattached side is a plot of land roughly 250m2 that I assumed was council owned.

One afternoon I saw a guy in a suit measuring up this plot of land which I assumed at the time was to try and build on it (There were about 4-5 planning applications for building additional houses in the village on similar plots of land at that time)

This got me worried, so I managed to track down the owner of the area – it wasn’t as I first thought council owned despite the council maintaining it. Once I found the company who owned it from the land registry, I contacted the companies accountant and asked them to pass a message on to the only director.

The director called me within a few minutes and invited me to make an offer. Once we agreed on a price, it was just a case of the formalities going through (although it took longer than the house purchase to go through)

Im very thankful for the chap that was measuring up however, as you spured me on to find the owner of the land and then purchase it to give my daughters a big safe area to play.

Have you done a fixer-upper? How did you find it?

Let me know in the comments below.

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