I have been known to like property shows, and for a while we were watching a fair bit of the Canadian “Property Brothers.” If you’re not familiar with it, the show features twin brothers helping people into new homes by: searching for houses that sort of fit the bill; narrowing the choices to two run down options, which are each given catchy names so they can easily be referred to; performing CG makeovers to help the couple choose; and then doing the actual renovations (with maximum drama for the cameras, naturally). I hate the drama, but love the before and afters.
I have always (truly, as a child I used to dream of this) wanted to turn a sad old house into a warm, inviting family home, and somewhere along the line I talked my husband into this folly too.
We only owned our previous house (a two bedroom 1980s townhouse) for 2.5 years, and I’d like to think we made it more of a home (and got some good before and after shots!) but there wasn’t much wrong with it to start with. Perhaps we made a mistake in buying such an "easy" project, but it was a good practice run.
Some before and after shots from our previous home
I always keep half an eye on the local property market just in case… And back in November last year, I spotted the listing for the new place.
It was pretty apparent from the photos that there was plenty of work to do, but actually the most striking thing about the photos was that they showed the house as fully furnished… Only it wasn’t. Apparently this is a new trick in the real estate world; use a design programme to add furniture to unoccupied houses to make them look more homely. I’m not convinced – to me most of the photos look downright weird due to odd light patterns – but it gave us the working title, a la Property Brothers, for the house: Fake Furniture.
The fake furniture can't hide the damaged walls and awful curtains, but the fake rug does cover the worst of the carpet, and strategically placed ugly fake art conceals test pot paint swatches on the wall.
We visited an open home but the listed price seemed steep, the real estate agent told us two previous offers at the asking price had fallen through after getting building inspections done, and it looked downright awful. It was clear that one corner of the house needed repiling; the kitchen was abysmal and its ceiling showed water stains and was sagging; the house had no indoor/outdoor flow; a room downstairs (potentially a bathroom) had never been completed and was open to the foundations and ground beneath the house; there was no certainty around consent on the whole downstairs addition; every room (save the upstairs bathroom) needed repairs, painting and reflooring at the very least… And the two offers which had fallen through made us suspect the building report flagged some other costly repair requirements. So we walked away.
But then in March I noticed it was still on the market, so I contacted the real estate agent. She was able to provide some additional information on the property from the vendor – the roof had just been replaced; two heat pumps and two ventilation systems had recently been installed; the leak in the kitchen ceiling had been fixed (the ceiling still needs to be repaired but no further damage is occurring); and compellingly, the work downstairs was consented (despite the unfinished bathroom).
So we did what anyone with a young baby and an overdeveloped sense of ambition would do; we put in an offer.
Predictably our low offer resulted in a bit of negotiation, but we reached a mutually agreeable number, subject to finance and building inspection, and in due course satisfied the conditions.
Fast forward a couple of months, and we now live in what we hope will eventually be a welcoming, comfortable family home... But that’s still a long way off.
I'm hoping that by sharing our experiences here (and of course the obligatory before and after shots!) that we can learn from each other - I'll share the tips we pick up along the way, and hopefully you'll tell me your best advice (and let me know when it looks like we're doing something daft!).
First on the to-do list: getting the downstairs bedrooms comfortable so that we can have a small sanctuary in the chaos while we work on everything else!