Over the course of 2022, the average house price in Surrey was £636,000, almost twice the national average and second only to Greater London as the most expensive place to buy property in the UK, and not much less in Sussex and Hampshire. If you’re already a property owner, it means you have a valuable asset, but for first time buyers, it is a sobering statistic and affordable housing can be hard to even define. 

If you are handy with a drill and a hammer, buying a property that needs some work is a compelling option. Even in desirable areas like Guildford, there are bargains to be had out there for £200,000 or less. But how do you tell an investment from a money pit? Here are some points to consider.

Get expert opinions
Understood, if you are considering a fixer-upper, you probably have some basic DIY skills, or at least friends and family who can help. But just because you know a house needs work, that’s no reason to stint on the surveys and inspections. In fact, it is all the more reason to invest a little more. 

For example, replacing a stud wall or even a saggy ceiling is one thing. But if you find structural rot behind it, that’s a whole new subject. Getting water damage properly restored is a specialist task, and if it needs doing, you’ll want to budget for it at the outset. The same applies to other specialist areas such as underpinning if there are structural cracks. 

Check the finances
Buying any property involves some serious financial calculations and decision-making. But with a fixer-upper, there is even more to consider, as it’s not just the purchase price but also the renovation cost that you need to keep in mind.

Where a property simply needs some modernisation and you can move straight in and gradually improve it room-by-room, it’s less of a problem. However, if you are buying a derelict property that needs extensive work, you might have difficulty getting a mortgage. Also, you will need to think about where you will be living while the work is underway, and factor in that cost, too. 

Consider an auction
Often, the best deals on distressed properties are to be had at auction. If you’re new to property auctions, try to attend a couple as a “spectator” first. There is plenty of myth and misinformation about property auctions. For example, you can view the property and get surveys done just as you can with any other property for sale.

Just make sure you take time to understand exactly how the auction process works, and ensure you have the necessary funds in place to pay the necessary deposit and fees if you should come out a winner.

Search diligently
Local searches are important with any property purchase, but especially with older properties. These have had more time to accumulate unusual covenants or orders that might range from a neighbour having a right of way across your garden to a preservation order on a tree that is taking up half the front yard. 

 Is it worth it?
A fixer-upper can provide an affordable way onto the Surrey property ladder. The most important thing is to go into it with eyes wide open. Don’t let the heart overrule the head and always check and double check the numbers.