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My buy-to-let renovation mistakes – and success

August 29, 2015
The new kitchen looking through to the new utility - I love the big & sign.

The new kitchen looking through to the new utility – I love the big & sign, bought for £14.95 on eBay.

Regular readers of Gorgeous Yorkshire will know that Sharon has already posted about her buy-to-let property – it was inspiring, informative and it really put big ideas into my head.

So, when the opportunity arose, we – that’s the husband and I (Stephanie) – went for it, and back in February we bought a two-bedroom stone mid-terrace house, just on the outskirts of Harrogate town centre. Buy to let, here we come (albeit without a clue).

The kitchen before was old and tired and the utility not really fit for purpose.

The kitchen before was old and tired and the utility not really fit for purpose.

It definitely needed a new kitchen, but I think we imagined that, apart from that, we’d just do a quick paint job and be on the letting market by April. My husband had taken redundancy from the paper we both worked on and this buy to let was to be his new source of income.

Well, it’s almost September and, finally, we’ve finished – it was put on the market last week. So what took the time?

Frankly, we made pretty every mistake you see on Homes Under the Hammer, and plenty more. It turns out that buy-to-let renovating is not as easy as it looks.

The wood-burner was already there and the windows were double-glazed. We fitted new slatted cream wooden blinds, recycled a light fitting, replastered and redecorated.

The wood-burner was already there and the windows were double-glazed. We fitted new slatted cream wooden blinds, recycled a light fitting, replastered and redecorated. PS: Update – the husband wants me to point out he did all the paper stripping.

We did know it needed a damp proof course, which cost around £3,000, but what we didn’t realise (or remember, as we have had experience of damp proofing in our current house) was that you have to wait several months before you can decorate fully, certainly wallpaper. Also we hadn’t counted on the fact that damp proofing is quite so disruptive to the walls, especially when you have papered walls, as these were. So, the damp-proofers took off all the paper and plaster to a height of about a metre, on every wall on the ground floor, did their injecting, and then re-plastered. But the join where the new plaster met the old plaster and painted wall paper just wasn’t going to work, so we decided we’d have to get a proper plasterer in, and so it was that we had the living and dining room stripped and re-plastered, although we had to wait several weeks before painting. It set us back months – a classic buy-to-let mistake. In the hall, we decided it would be too expensive to re-plaster the lot, so we went for the “sand that join and whack on lots of paint” option – and it’s pretty good, if not perfect.

Completely new kitchen with units from Magnet - a special mention for my paint rubbed and oils doors as, frankly, I don't think they have received the recognition they deserve as yet.

Completely new kitchen with units from Magnet – a special mention for my emulsion rubbed and oiled doors as, frankly, I don’t think they have received the recognition they deserve as yet.

The kitchen was a lot more fun. A friend recommended a professional fitter and general renovating expert to us, and he organised buying and fitting the kitchen from Magnet – cream shiny plain units, with hob and sink and cooker hood, plus plastering, rewiring and white brick tiles. It cost around £5,000, which we reckoned was money well spent. We bought a new fridge-freezer, slimline dishwasher and wash-dryer. There’s a funny little room, down two steps at the back of the kitchen – I assumed it had been an outside loo, but someone suggested it was probably a coal hole – for the washer-dryer and also the boiler, and I have to say it was pretty horrible, with a damp concrete floor, nasty walls, lots of dusty, cobweb covered pipes and a single bulb light. Not the sort of place you wanted to enter and very visible from the kitchen and dining room as there is no door, nor can there be one due to lack of space to fit and open one. So we decided to bite the bullet and get it sorted. Our kitchen fitter suggested hiding all the pipes behind a new plasterboard wall, tanking the floor and building a new cupboard to hide the boiler plus boarding in other pipes, using an offcut from the kitchen worktops to create a ledge over the washing machine and finally replastering. So that’s exactly what we did – well, he did – and it cost around £1,000. A lot of money for a tiny utility room but it feels like a place you don’t mind doing your laundry now, especially since we decorated and put down some silver vinyl and our lovely & sign (cos it’s a little extra room).

The dining room before, just after the damp proofing. Mess!

The dining room before, just after the damp proofing. Mess! After, below.

The dining room after - my Peeling Planks wallpaper has been a talking point, and it did cost £50 a roll, but the best bargains are here too - the £20 grey utility lampshade from Sainsbury's and the curtains I recycled, making them longer by adding a grey linen tablecloth (also from Sainsbury's) cut in half and hemmed onto the bottom. Can you tell?

The dining room after – my Peeling Planks wallpaper has been a talking point, and it did cost £50 a roll, but the best bargains are here too – the £20 grey utility lampshade from Sainsbury’s and the curtains I recycled, making them longer by adding an old grey linen tablecloth (also from Sainsbury’s) cut in half and hemmed onto the bottom. Can you tell?

My Peeling Planks wallpaper – £50 a roll – on the chimney breast in the dining room has caused controversy, comment and debate. Husband, son and decorator not convinced, and it did make the chimney breast look like a MASSIVE edifice at first, but it’s striking. Rules for a buy to let – make in expensive, hard-wearing, easy to replace and neutral. Oh, and do your rewiring before your decorating as it plays havoc with new paint and wallpaper.

I’d love to be able to tell you that we decorated ourselves, but we didn’t – the walls are quite high and there seemed to be so much of it. We decorated our own house, which is twice the size, but that was over a number of years, and we wanted to be on the market before 2020. For the walls we chose Stone White matt by Crown, which we got specially mixed at the Crown Decorating Centre in Harrogate because they don’t sell it any more in Homebase. We wanted Farrow & Ball really but decided it costs too much, and the decorating centre can mix anything, so we asked for similar to F&B’s Wevet eggshell for the main woodwork with F&B Dove Tail for the chimney breast in the lounge and other accent areas throughout, like the fireplace in the tiny bedroom, the ceiling in the utility, the front and back doors and the bath panel.

The small bedroom has a lovely old fireplace, which we painted in white and Dove Tail. Plus we decorated this room ourselves!!

The small bedroom has a lovely old fireplace, which we painted in white and Dove Tail. Plus we decorated this room ourselves!!

Actually, we did do a lot of painting ourselves – the bath panel, all the small bedroom, the fireplace and cupboards in the big bedroom, the back door etc – and we did all the bits like curtain pole fitting and slatted blind fitting. My husband’s proudest boast is that he fitted a new proper lock in the back door, carving out the wood and everything. Mine is the doors, which were not very nice orange pine. I sanded and rubbed them with a mix of grey-white emulsion and water, half and half, and then oiled them. I think they look good.

The main bedroom was fine. We weren't crazy about the pale green walls, but it's restful so we left it. We repainted the fireplace black and painted the cupboard doors in Dove Tail - we used a lot of Dove Tail.

The main bedroom was fine. We weren’t crazy about the pale green walls, but it’s restful so we left it. We repainted the fireplace black and painted the cupboard doors in Dove Tail – we used a lot of Dove Tail. The curtains are recycled from the living room.

We got new flooring fitted in the hall and dining room – it’s laminate but hardwearing and very thick, and we thought a bargain at around £700. We tried to match the wide boards of the laminate with vinyl in the kitchen, but bought vinyl that was way too deep – so the dishwasher wouldn’t fit on top of it under the worktops. The wonderful kitchen fitter came back and sorted, but we learned that thick vinyl is actually a major trouble-causer.

The back yard before was a bit of a mess but, after a bit of persuading on my part, we kept the Yorkshire flagstones.

The back yard before was a bit of a mess but, after a bit of persuading on my part, we kept the Yorkshire flagstones.

The back yard with new decking and recycled furniture. The shed is a bit ramshackle, especially since we lifted it to fit the decking, but could be handy for tenants.

The back yard with new decking and recycled furniture. The shed is a bit ramshackle, especially since we lifted it to fit the decking, but could be handy for tenants.

My husband’s favourite “room” is the back yard, although I was the one who convinced him not to waste money getting it all reflagged but instead get the Yorkshire flags cleaned and repointed, which we did, although we also got decking for the seating area. It all cost around £700.

The bathroom was fine. We simply painted the side panel (in Dove Tail) and replaced the bathroom mirror.

The bathroom was fine. We simply painted the side panel (in Dove Tail) and replaced the bathroom mirror.

We did loads of other stuff (including getting a new wooden loft ladder; there’s a big loft, boarded, plastered, carpeted and painted with a Velux window) and all in all, we spent around £20,000 doing it up. I know, it’s hilarious. But it has been a lot of fun. And, we put it one the rental market last week and a let was agreed within days, deposit paid! We are officially landlords. And property developers. Sort of. But next time, we’d make sure we did it a lot cheaper. On the plus side, I’ve got one roll of Peeling Planks left. You have been warned.

The front door, painted in - you guessed it - Dove Tail eggshell, with the new flooring, new decorating and the arrow coat peg, which we bought from Little Lights at the Harrogate Antique Centre.

The front door, painted in – you guessed it – Dove Tail eggshell, with the new flooring, new decorating and the arrow coat peg, which we bought from The Little Light Company at the Harrogate Antique Centre.

 

 

 

 

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