Renovation projects are proving to be one of the stars of the show for the housing market during the pandemic.
Some are currently fetching seven figure sums despite often needing substantial amounts of cash spent on them just to make them habitable.
A leading estate agent reported dozens of viewings being booked on such a property within hours of it going on the market, due to its appealing countryside settings in Devon.
A renovation project in Totnes, Devon: Moore Farm is for sale for £1,025,000 and comes with several outbuildings, one of which has planning consent to turn into two five-bedroom homes
People are often attracted to renovation projects because they allow buyers to put their own stamp on them from the beginning.
And of course, there is the potential to make a profit – most look for around at least 20 per cent – through capital gain. And additional income could be generated by turning outbuildings into holiday lets, for example.
Renovation projects also tend to offer plenty of space, a highly desirable commodity amid the pandemic. Such properties with outbuildings mean there can be thousands of square feet of floor space on offer, as well as acres of land surrounding them.
Ultimately, whether a project works comes down to a buyer’s unique circumstances, their budget and the time they have to invest in it. As such, it is important to do plenty of research before embarking on such a venture.
We speak to Richard Speedy, who heads up the Exeter branch of estate agents Strutt & Parker, for his views on taking on a small country estate renovation project.
We then go on to list four such renovation projects around the country with price tags of between £500,000 and more than £1million.
Why do people take on renovations projects?
Mr Speedy said: ‘Buyers are attracted to renovation projects because they like to have a blank canvas that they are able to put their own stamp on.
‘They don’t necessarily want to pay for someone else’s renovation in the past that might not be to their taste – a blank canvass enables a buyer to be more creative and pick the fixtures and fittings they want.
‘Building projects tend to attract people who are looking at a longer-term project for themselves or those who might want to make a profit when it comes to resell – normally they look for a 20 per cent profit.’
He added: ‘A farmhouse in the countryside is simply the most desirable property for many at the moment due to the pandemic and the popularity of space.
‘With Moore Farm – a renovation project in Devon – we have had a variety of buyers including those who want to keep the farmhouse for themselves and convert the barns that already have planning permission for income – either as holiday lets or long-term rental properties.’
What sort of features are people looking for the most?
Mr Speedy suggested that for renovation projects, people tend to prefer Georgian or Victorian period homes that still maintain original features and some character that comes with an older home.
‘People can look past dated bathrooms and kitchens should a home have high ceilings and inglenook fireplaces,’ he said.
‘That said, we do however see buyers who are interested in renovating all types of homes. Even a nondescript 1970s bungalow can be turned into a home worthy of Grand Designs with a little creativity and a good architect,’ he added.
What might have changed in the past 18 months due to Covid?
One of the main challenges to the property market off the back of the pandemic is a lack of stock, according to Mr Speedy.
‘This is especially true in the hottest markets, as it is here in the South West,’ he said.
‘The knock-on effect is that people who might once have been a bit more reluctant to a renovation are now considering them in droves.
‘They would rather take on the work with a property that is in the right location and has the right features now more than ever.
‘A property like Moore Farm might have been on the market prior to Covid for a few months, but within two days of bringing it to market we had booked in more than 60 viewings and it will be going to best and final offers in a couple of weeks.’
What are the potential pitfalls to look out for?
Mr Speedy said: ‘When it comes to buying any property, getting a thorough survey done is the best starting point. This is especially important considering that some of these renovation projects have been standing for 100, 200 or even 300 years.
‘A survey will uncover problems that could cause a headache further down the line such as subsidence or even if the roof is about to cave in.
‘For more substantial building projects, it is also worth bearing in mind that the cost of materials and labour has increased in the past 18 months and could continue, therefore its best to build extra allowances into a budget for this and to get a builder lined up as soon as you can. It’s not unheard of for buyers to bring builders along to second viewings to get an opinion.’
How long do renovations projects take?
Renovation projects such as the farmhouse at Moore Farm can normally be completed within four to six months, Mr Speedy suggested.
‘This, however, depends on the work the buyer wants to be carried out – but with this home the buyers can live in the home while it is being renovated should they choose to,’ he said.
‘Building a home from the ground up does naturally take considerably longer – I would say that normally this should take between a year and 18 months, and a big part of this is laying the groundwork and foundations to be able to build upon it. As the stone barns at Moore Farm already have permission, the buyer can really hit the ground running and get the building project underway.’
Here are Mr Speedy’s top renovation projects for sale around the country, available via Strutt & Parker
1. Five-bed Farmhouse, Totnes, Devon, £1,025,000
This five-bedroom farmhouse in Devon’s Totnes is on the market for £1,025,000, with best and final offers by midday on Monday August 2
The property includes several outbuildings, one of which has planning consent to turn into two five-bedroom houses
The outbuildings could be turned into holiday lets as the South Hams has access to some of the country’s best beaches
Updating required: The main house includes exposed beams and brickwork on the walls, including in the kitchen
Moore Farm dates back to the 1800s and requires updating, but has scope for an annexe.
There are exposed beams, windows seats and fireplaces, including an inglenook in the drawing room with an original bread oven.
It comes with several outbuildings, one of which has planning consent to turn into two five-bedroom houses.
Mr Speedy said: ‘Moore Farm offers a rare opportunity in a great location with a range of options with what people can do. We have had interest from families who have moved into the area and are currently renting, local people who want to upsize and those who want to retire in the countryside with the option of a home that can provide an income for them.
‘The South Hams with it’s rolling hills and access to some of the country’s best beaches provides many with a lifestyle they can only dream of. As such the property here has really been flying off the shelves here since the property market reopened last year. Moore Farm is a prime example of how a property can generate interest extremely quickly and will sell fast with best and final offers.’
2. Five-bed house in Shocklach, Cheshire, £980,000
The property is accessed a private driveway leading to a part-cobbled courtyard with a range of outbuildings that include seven barns.
The outbuildings are includes with this five-bedroom Georgian property in Shocklach, Cheshire, which is on the market for £980,000
There are several outbuildings that could be converted into additional accommodation subject to planning consents
The interior includes some dated features – such as the fireplace surround – that can be updated to create a modern family home
This five-bed Georgian property in Cheshire includes a main house covering more than 3,000 square feet and outbuildings extending to more than 7,000 square feet.
While the main house needs updating, it has the potential to become a welcoming family home.
The property is accessed via a five-bar gate and a private driveway leading to a part-cobbled courtyard with a range of outbuildings that include seven barns. Planning permission for the barns is for two three to four bedroom properties.
3. Barn conversion, Baconsthorpe, Norfolk, £900,000
Pitt Farm Barns is in Norfolk and includes an extensive range of traditional barns that made up a cattle yard and grain store
The property is being sold with a price tag of £900,000, with the seller retaining one of the barns on the development site
Access to the seaside: The property is in Baconsthorpe, which is about four miles from the north Norfolk coastline
Pitt Farm Barns is an extensive range of traditional barns that made up a cattle yard and grain store.
It has planning permission to convert the barns into five homes. The planning permission is for six barns but the seller is retaining one of them.
The property is about four miles from the north Norfolk coastline, which offers sailing walking and other leisure facilities.
4. Six bed house, Rhiwbryfdir, Wales, £500,000
This six-bedroom house in Wales was original converted from two properties, and once again needs to be renovated
The interior needs extensive updating, including the kitchen – but it could be transformed into a beautiful family home
The property is the cheapest in our list, with a price tag of £500,000, despite enjoying spectacular views across the Snowdonia countryside
The property extends across 2,400 square feet and comes with an impressive 22 acres of land and a river frontage
This six-bedroom house in Wales was original converted from two properties. It now needs renovating once again to become a family home.
It extends across 2,400 square feet and comes with an impressive 22 acres of land and a river frontage.