Back to the question of what do retired people do when they retire? I know one answer from watching my guilty little secret aka Homes Under the Hammer which I have confessed to in these blogs as being a TV programme I regularly watch at 5 pm assuming we are in one of our homes that has a TV (only 50% of them do). My excuse for blobbing out in front of this programme, on every day at 5, is that I’m trying to pick up tips when it comes to renovating the Derbyshire cottage. And yes, there’s a certain amount of mindless pleasure in seeing what other people have done to their often very sad indeed properties bought for a song at auction. Many of these properties make my late mother’s house look positively palatial, so that’s quite cheering. My point, in case you were wondering, is that many of the buyers and renovators of these properties are retired people looking for a project, otherwise known in my world, as the missing link. They seem to be enjoying themselves although causal comments at the end like, well we’ve had one or two problems, probably conceal a world of pain.
However, if you put together the experience we’re gaining in doing-up a neglected property and the fact that this kind of activity appears to be a bona fide one for retired people, now we’re reaching some kind of conclusion with the Derbyshire cottage, I’m starting to wonder, just lightly and occasionally if we might want to do more. You know, add another business venture as we’re having such fun with running our son’s gardening business. Yes, you’re right, you’ve spotted the flaw in this latest plan. Silly really in a number of ways, more stress being the obvious biggest downside to such a venture. Every bit as silly is that as we’ve taken the house off the market with no intention of putting back on the market for at least a year and maybe longer if we sell the Pateley property to clear our mortgage debts, and so we have worried less about trying to produce the classic magnolia and beige carpet look so beloved of estate agents. They’re still saying this now in the above programme, they call it ‘a nice, neutral look’. As we’ve gone along we have become more seduced by producing a house that looks like what we like, which is quite a long way from what an estate agent might like. OK if we’re going to keep it, and a long way from alright if we’re going to put it up for sale. And even further away from alright, darn right extreme in fact if we were assuming a property developer perspective.
Even from our perspective, the great unknown is how much money to spend and will this amount of cash add value to the property when it comes to selling or add no value whatsoever. In other words money wasted, i.e. lost. The best we could do in trying to make this as scientific an enterprise as possible was to look at the best offer we had when the house was previously on the market, then look at what similar houses in the street are selling for. The difference between the two would equal amount that could be spent and any projected profit. Simple.
In reality the simplicity of this formula, after cleaning, repainting, carpeting and painting floorboards, came down to – should we put in central heating, double glazing, damp proofing, re-wiring (cost £2,000 to £3,000 according to the internet). So far this has gone as follows – yes, no, no and probably. Beyond this the big decisions, i.e. those that definitely cost money and are either sensible improvements or a waste of money because the new buyers would rip them all out and start again, depending on whose advice you took, were whether to put in a new kitchen and bathroom. Our original estate agents suggested doing nothing because what ever we did wouldn’t add value to the house. What we naively didn’t realise at the time, is that they preferred we sell to speculators because a) they got exactly the same fee whatever the price and b) they have a list of said speculators waiting to buy properties cheaply so they can make the same kind of profits I see regularly on Homes Under the Hammer. Bastards. Hang on, I’m thinking of becoming just such a bastard. Hmm, something wrong here.
Anyway with a slightly different perspective (i.e. we may not sell soon / at all) we have decided to spend some money on the kitchen. Nothing flash or fitted, we both prefer the unfitted, cottagey, rustic look. Actually none of these terms quite describe what we’re after but the key thing is to keep as much of what’s there as we can hence keeping costs to a minimum.
Talking of this I will leave you with my 5 rules for renovating a house. They wouldn’t fit with any developer’s approach but they’ve suited us :
- As above, keep as much of what it there as possible and recycle / up cycle. Much of the stuff furniture and objects (like my grandfather’s tools, he was an engineer) which we took out the house and in some cases brought North, have made the return journey. In the absence of the clutter and with the opportunity to stand alone some of these items are really attractive. Like an old fire-extinguisher or a set of wooden shoe trees, for example.
- Keep stuff like the doors and cupboards and modify. We kept the original plywood doors which were quite hideous and got our joiner to sand them down and rout them to look like farmhouse doors. Same with cupboards in kitchen and living room which we then painted a nice light blue. We ‘found’ an old kitchen table in the pantry which looked good with sanded top and untouched legs (which would have been very difficult to sand).
- Clean and paint everything white, we even painted one room cream. Yes, I know it sounds dangerously magnolia but for us it provided the perfect backdrop to all the art we brought into the house. Another ‘tip’ if, like us, you have a lot of unhung art, a plain wall works best.
- Buy one or two smart looking, new items like our IKEA sofa. We like the eclectic look which is just as well, mixing old stuff that was left in the house with modern IKEA items brings out the best in both sets of items. That, as my grandma (whose house this was) used to say, ‘is my opinion and I’m sticking to it’. One ‘signature piece’ we’re hoping to buy is a hand-made sink unit with Belfast sink, that is if the company I found on the internet will answer their bloody phone.
- Sometimes you have to pay a professional person, it costs but they do it better than you can and it’s very reinforcing to come back and find one or two jobs finished and to a high standard. Of course sometimes they don’t come back and that’s not reinforcing at all.
Oh and one other thing – have fun. It’s a long process and it helps if you enjoy the creative / problem-solving challenge as you go along, not to mention the pleasure of spending money. So there we have it, this is how this retired person has spent the last few months. We’re nowhere near finished but the house is now starting to feel like ours. Actually, just writing all this down makes me feel quite weary so maybe property developer isn’t the missing link for this retired person.