What’s the best way to buy your first home? To buy the cheapest house in a nice area and make it your own or something ready-made that just needs a few pictures on the wall?
Well, I think it’s all boils down to you as a person. Since moving in to our do-er-upper in 2014, I’m now almost always tired, juggling hundreds of jobs and sometimes it’s been hard to see the finishing line. But most of the time, I have patience and I’m determined to get stuff done; even if it means getting stuck in.
So, if you’re tossing a coin between a wreck and a haven, then ask my top questions below to see if you think you can handle it. It’s definitely not for everyone but looking back at some photos, it’s been easy to forget how much we’ve progressed in three years.
- Do you have time to renovate? Be realistic as DIY can be a slow process and requires effort, research, energy and motivation. But if you have a flexible day job or work from home like I do, it makes it a little easier. But try to a balance as you’ll still need money coming in.
- Can You Live in Mess? There’s often building materials, dust and much furniture swapping. My home office has worked its way through almost every room – even the bedroom!
- Are you good at saving up? You’ll be forever budgeting for job after job and trying to prioritise. We’ve often had unexpected setbacks, like a camper van breaking down, so a lot of projects have been held back.
- Do You Like to Keep Up With the Jones’s? I don’t normally, but when you know yours looks a letdown between two pretty houses (and one of them has a for sale sign), then it’s easy to feel guilty. What you might not realise is, yours may look a stunner inside in comparison, so don’t be too harsh on yourself.
- Do You Always Want to Look Your Best? If this means updating your wardrobe frequently, well, most of clothes had paint on them in the early days or tears, so be careful. It gets in more places than you think! Oh and you’ll have very little time for make up.
- Do You Have Expensive Furniture or Precious Belongings? So many things broke or got dirty and it could be a long time before it’s safe to buy anything nice and new. Hold off on new carpets, flooring, breakables. Our first kitchen cabinet kept falling off the wall and all my drinking glasses amongst other things broke. We now own plastic beakers! Oh and another shelf collapsed which broke our laptop.
- Do You Make Rash Decisions? You really need to take your time and live in your home for a while before you can work out the best layout for you. I discouraged my fiance from ripping out a staircase without planning ahead and we also nearly went for a poorly designed kitchen until we realised that blocking up a doorway and opening up another gave us maximum space. There is a blessing to putting things off sometimes.
- Do You Need Lots of Sleep? It’s all hands on, even if you’re having to oversee builders who don’t always care about your stuff or they have rose tinted glasses, thinking their works amazing. I’ve often found people bragging about their standards have actually been rubbish (which led me to do my own DIY half the time). You need your eye on it ALL THE TIME and always question what work they’re doing before stages progress and tell them what you want. It’s more exhausting than I thought it would be – particularly if you’re new to it.
- Do You Know Trustworthy Local Tradesmen? This is something I’m not great at either. Up in my hometown, Doncaster, I know someone for most jobs (as do my parents) but if you’re new in town, knowing who to trust is like a lottery. Ask absolutely everyone you know (even staff at the post office who see almost everyone) to find reliable people and ask who to avoid.
- Are you as motivated as your partner? I used to DIY in the day and be exhausted when my fiance got home from work. But he’d been revving himself up all day to DIY at night yet all I wanted to do was eat, bath, relax and sleep. When you’re not on the same page, it can be really demotivating.
- Are You House Proud? If you have serious renovation jobs to do, then this probably isn’t for you. But if all you need to do is cosmetic work, then I’m sure it would be no problem at all.
- Do You Want Jobs Doing ASAP? Good builders have long waiting lists, so be cautious to anyone knocking on your door (because they can see you’re house needs improving). Someone available for work tomorrow could be because they’re not very good, they’re not qualified and perhaps trying to take a chance on getting work. (I have a “NO COLD CALLERS SIGN” in my window from Money Saving Expert, which has cut out most). I don’t give anyone a chance if they’re knock on my door. Not-interested!
- Can You Live With Updating It Only One Room At a Time? This is definitely my best advice to prevent burnout and see quicker results and I wish I’d listened to it when it was given to me. I dived in and wallpaper stripped everywhere (since I had it in my hand) and after a month or two, I was shattered.
- Have You Thought About Your Family’s Future? Almost everything gets put on hold. Your house is likely to be a danger zone, so really think if you want to put things off for a few years, like a wedding, family or getting a pet. It’s not a good family environment to be in.
- Finally, be aware that mate’s rates don’t always pay off. They’re often not skilled and it’s very awkward if you don’t like their work and can potentially cost you more money and your friendship.
Whatever you decide, I hope you have fun finding a lovely home. There’s definitely one thing that must be said: you’ll learn new skills for life and it can be so rewarding. There’s so many jobs that look more difficult than they really are, like tiling, building decking and so much more.
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