Your Essential Guide to Buying And Renovating An Old Home

Find out everything you need to know about renovating an old home, including tips on storage, purchasing, budgeting and planning.

A Beautiful Home for Renovation

The Essential Guide to Buying And Renovating An Old Home

Although there are lots of amazing new builds available to buy in the UK, many people still prefer an older build. For many, buying and renovating an old home is actually a pleasure and not a chore. Old houses have tons of character and often have unique aspects of decor and architecture that you won’t find elsewhere. For example: you might get an old Victorian house and find original vintage floor tiles underneath temporary flooring that has been placed. Or you might remove the stud wall only to find an original fireplace. Old houses have many amazing secrets. Lots of people buy them for that exact reason.

Aside from the decor and the charm of an old property, there are many bargains to be had. You can buy renovation projects for very small amounts of money, and turn a profit just by making minor adjustments. So for many people, buying an old home is a sound investment, as well as a passion project.

If you’re looking into buying an old home, there are lots of things to consider. Luckily, this guide will help you get a really good idea of everything you need to know before you get started.

Buying An Old House

Choosing the right old house to buy is the hardest part of this entire process. So many things have to be right and aligned in order to ensure you get a house you love, that is in the right budget and most importantly that you can afford to do up. The first thing you should commit to doing, it to look at lots of houses. Even before you have a budget and a plan, go and get a feel for what is available in different areas, what types of houses really turn you off, and which ones seem to be a good fit. Do some research into the issues that you find with different houses to get an idea of the costs to set it right.

The first thing you will want to look out for is a house with ‘good bones’. Many older houses will have their issues and individual quirks. But as long as it has an excellent foundation then you have something to work with. You’re looking for good structure, which you can often tell with a ball. Place the ball in the centre of the room and see if it rolls and how quickly it rolls. The quicker it rolls, the more the floors are bowing. Or it may even be that the property is subsiding. Both are structural issues you may wish to avoid. Your survey will tell you if there are issues with the property structure. But, obviously, you can’t have a survey unless you have put an offer in so it is important to be really keen on the house first.

You need to be really good at budgeting with your eyes. Looking around the property and calculating things like:


  • The amount the house costs
  • Solicitors fees
  • The costs of any surveys or additional checks (some houses require more detailed and expensive surveys)
  • The price of repairs – everything from expensive things like rewiring, to redecorating and doing up the garden
  • Any costs for permits or planning applications
  • Costs for temporary services you may need to use like rented accommodation or cheap self storage


Architectural salvage or replica items? It’s a tough decision


antique fireplace


Another thing you really need to do when you are looking at renovating old houses, is budget according to your preference for reinstating lost period features or not. If you plan to replace original features like fireplaces, doors, baths etc. that have been removed then bear in mind that the cost of older or antique items from architectural salvage companies can often be far higher than the cost of the same item new. Make sure your budget is realistic or be prepared to compromise by using replica period items – that’s a tough decision that may have to be made. But there are some good replica items available – the Water Monopoly, for example, does restored one-off antique baths but also an excellent selection of baths created from original they source in the UK and France.

It is very wise to have some additional cash set aside in case anything unexpected crops up, and they always do with older houses.

Turning It Into A Project

One of the major issues with older house renovations is that a project that is meant to take a few months, ends up taking years. This can be especially true if you plan to live in the property. It is so easily done, unless you have deadlines and goals. It is important to turn the renovation into a project so that you have a realistic end date and expectations. When planning out your goals and timelines try to discuss topics such as:


  • Sit down together and figure out how much time you can commit to the project on top of other commitments like childcare, work and other commitments
  • Are you going to be doing all the work yourselves? If not, you need to find out the kind of availability local workmen and contractors have IE you may have to wait a month for a rewire which could delay other jobs
  • Are you getting the house to a standard where you can live in it, or is it a remodel for rental? If it is to rent out then loss of monthly earnings is a factor the longer the project goes on. You are also more likely to find a tenant in spring and summer when people are looking to move house.


Knowing the details and realistic timescales will give you everything you need to make an initial project plan. You could use some of the project management apps that are available to help you plan the project out. You can both use the same app and adjust it and communicate with it as needed. It really helps to have a coherent plan you can both look at to see how the project is coming along.

Preparing Yourselves

If you are new to house renovation, it is so important to prepare yourselves for this journey. It is very stressful and is full of discovery and excitement, and lots of things you won’t be expecting. Old houses hold so many secrets and, you’re going to be discovering them all, for better or worse. You have to prepare for the journey ahead of you so that you both come out the other end stronger and with a beautiful house. There is no room for arguments in this process! You’ll need to prepare yourselves for:


  • Lots of physical hard work
  • One problem after another
  • Unreliable workmen
  • The need for problem solving
  • Constantly being covered in paint and dust
  • Lots of people having opinions on what you are doing, for better or worse
  • Things not turning out as you expected


A ‘can do’ attitude that helps you to keep an open mind, and a level of enthusiasm regardless of what is going on will help you tremendously in your renovation project.


renovating a period home


What Will You Do During The Renovation?

Obviously you will be renovating the property. But, where will you live and where will all your stuff go? You have various options including:


  • Staying with parents and putting your stuff into storage
  • Staying in your current home during the renovation
  • Moving into your new home during renovation
  • Renting a temporary accommodation for some or all of the renovation
  • Staying in a caravan or similar accommodation on the site of your new property


Obviously which option is best for you depends on your preferences and circumstances. If you have children it may not be suitable for you to live in the property whilst it is being renovated because of safety issues.

It may also be a case of how much is available in the budget for accommodation or how much you want to spend on accommodation.

If you do decide to live in the property whilst you renovate it, you may want to place your belongings in storage. You may want to do this is you stay with a friend or parents, or in rented accommodation as well. It affords you much more freedom and ensures your items are safe and secure. Until a time comes when you can place them in your home. When choosing cheap self storage for your belongings take care to:


  • Shop around as you want the best service for the best price, not necessarily the cheapest option or the option with bells and whistles
  • Visit different cheap self storage units to see what kind of units they offer and which you prefer (IE family owned or franchise)
  • Get quotes on a full house of content and how much storage space you will need
  • Declutter before you size up all your contents so you don’t end up storing things you don’t want!
  • Look for self storage facilities with excellent security
  • Consider how far away the storage unit should be from where you live, and how far you are willing to travel


The less you have, the easier you will find it to fit your life around your new renovation. Some people simply live in one room of a whole house with a camping cooker and portaloo for months so they are on site at their new property. There are always ways to work around your living situation. But you may have to compromise home comforts for a while for the sake of saving money.

Finding People To Work With

One of the things that can set a renovation project back is workmen, solicitors and anybody else you are having to work with and wait for to do their job. Even if you work hard to select the best people, they can still delay things. But it does help to be as selective as possible when you hire somebody to do a job.

With solicitors it will take time and you don’t have much control over that. With workmen though, you do have a lot more control than you think. When selecting people to work on your property take care to:


  • Check ratings from registered websites like Trusted Traders if you can’t directly hire somebody recommended by friends and family
  • Use those same websites to check rough price guides for different jobs
  • Have those you like, come over and do a quote based on what they see. Ask them when they can do the job and how long it will take them.
  • You may be able to get a cash quote that is cheaper than a bank transfer quote to so ask.
  • Check they have all the necessary safety ratings and certifications, especially if they are doing things like working on gas or electric.


You may well get tricky workmen. It does happen and it is annoying and frustrating. But they are in such high demand they can pick and choose their jobs. All you need to do is make sure they can do the job safely and well. So even if they are a bit poor with timings, they won’t make you more work to deal with in the long term.

What Is The Plan For The House?

As the renovation gets underway you will likely be thinking about the longer term plans for the property. You may have known all along it was a rental property, or you may have been deciding if the value will go up enough to justify a resale. It is important to try and make at least a decision for the next year. Because it will influence the way you fit the property out.

If you aren’t going to be living in it, you might not want the best kitchen or your dream bathroom. You may also want more durable materials for a rental than you would use in your own home.

Knowing these things means you can fit the property out accordingly, making it suitable for your family, or for the families that will be renting it out for years to come. To help, you may wish to get a few estate agents to come and discuss rental prices your property could fetch. As well as the potential new value once it has been renovated. That will help you get an idea of what you want to do with the property next.

Your Renovation Is Going To Be A Success

Renovating an old home can be so rewarding, but the journey to get to the point of complete renovation can be a rocky road. Remember to take your time, do your research make a plan. The result will be an effective renovation project that results in a beautifully renovated old home that hopefully brings you plenty of profit, and plenty of pride in your achievement too.





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