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Thinking of buying a fixer upper? 10 top tips for your next home extension

22nd October 2019


Top tips for potential rich properties extensions

A look a potential rich properties top tips


After seeing this amazing property on Rightmove in Kendleshire, we were inspired to write our top 10 tips when looking for a fixer upper.

A quick google of fixer upper comes back with the phrase “potential rich properties” which we think is a perfect summary.

James Dean, Managing Director of Western Building Consultants, a multidisciplinary RICS and CIAT accredited Architecture, Surveying and Engineering practice, shares his top 10 tips when looking to purchase a “fixer upper” for remodelling or an extension.

1 – Look beyond the décor and curb appeal: sometimes an old fashioned house can be difficult to visualise as a modern sleek home. I always start by analysing the estate agent’s plans to see what floor area is available and what opportunities exist for remodelling/ extending. House exteriors can be drastically remodelled on certain properties to get that wow factor and ultimate curb appeal. Also bad décor doesn’t always mean bad condition, well looked after ceilings, windows and electrics are always a good sign of proper maintenance. If a house has been properly maintained you will have more money to spend making it your home! A decent building survey from us will help identify any large maintenance costs.

From this fixer upper

From this…

Remodel of exterior house this, generating curb appeal for the right house

2 – Check the loft out! (or get your surveyor to): the loft can be a fantastic place to add a room at a relatively low cost (compared to other home extensions) loft rooms can make great character filled spaces especially if you can leave in some of the old timber work such as the purlins as a feature. Your looking for ridge heights in excess of 2.3m ideally to meet building regulations as a key measurement, why not ask us to check it out for you?

An image of a modern loft conversion

An image of a staircase going into a modern loft conversion

Loft conversions in bristol

Lofts rooms can make fantastic bedrooms

3 – Look for convertible built volume:

Garages, outhouses, lofts or even conservatories can be great areas to convert into habitable space at minimal cost compared to building a home extension. When working out the value of the building the valuation would have discounted these areas as they would not be consider habitable space. If you convert them in a smart way they could add real value and most importantly space to your home! It is important that these areas are structurally sound to convert, if commissioning us to do a building survey do ask your surveyor to comment on the conversion and any additional investigations required.

4 – Look for opportunities in the current layout-

Remodelling and not extending can be the most cost effective way to achieve a beautiful home, such as making an open plan layout, bringing light in using roof lights, adding external large doors to link internal rooms with the garden, knocking down partitions or dividing the space up can sometimes give you the desired outcome without a home extension.


Remodelling of existing extensions can be a good way to improve your property

Cedar cladding remodel of extension

Home Extension Remodel

5 – Make a list: looking for a house is difficult especially if what you want appears to be beyond your budget, I always recommend to make a list of rooms or features that that you a)Need immediately b)Nice to have in time and c)Don’t want. By categorising these you are able to quickly understand if a property might meet your immediate needs, you can also then start to consider how you could meet more of your needs by altering or extending in the future. Be prepared to compromise on the nice to haves and don’t be prepared to pay for what you don’t want or be prepared to walk away if you can remove it cost effectively. Our architects and technologists go through a similar exercise with you when helping you to design a house.

Barn Conversion Class Q Architect and designer

Believe it or not even some barn conversions come under a form of permitted development rights called class Q.

6 – When making a list consider timing and big life events and make multiple lists!: Sometimes we need to consider how long we might own a property because moving is expensive. I once walked away from an apartment purchase as a realisation that a one bed loft apartment wouldn’t be suitable for me in 3 years when I planned to have kids. The smarter option was less flashy and more space. The same can also be said for extending and remodelling if you take on much of the DIY yourself and can’t afford that extension for a number of years ask yourself realistically how long will this take? (Then add a bit of time) because if you only plan to be somewhere say 5 years but it will take that to make it how you want it, is it really the right place for you? It might be prudent to make two or more lists, what does my 3, 5, 10 year property look like for me? You can then base your purchase around which house suits which timescale.

7 – Sometimes take the long rough road: Renovating and building is stressful you’ve probably watched grand designs. But sometimes taking on a project might mean you get to that 10, 15, 20 year house sooner and can enjoy it for longer. It might be possible to purchase a house that meets your needs with no work but it’s likely that it won’t suit you for as long. Sometimes buying that property that you will make perfect in time is the right choice.

8 – It’s not just an investment: Our houses are usually our single biggest asset but often people don’t balance their decision making between their head and their heart. Remember, your home should be just that and you need to love it. If you think you can then it’s probably worth trying! If you have a long term view for a property (10 years plus) then some of the financial aspects also become less important as houses have historically always climbed in value over this timescale and its a significant proportion of you life to enjoy the space!

9 – Home Extension Opportunities- Think about what you can do with an extension and where the opportunities exist, side extension, rear even a garden room? With extended Permitted development rights you might not even need planning permission. You should always consider the effect on neighbours and if any specialist areas such as green belt or conservation areas might reduce your opportunities. Speak to one of our architectural team and they will be able to help advise what might be permitted.

Modern house extension, connection to outdoors, kitchen space, architect, Bath

10 – Beauty and practicality in balance: when thinking about a home extension or altering a property always consider the functionality of the space, product designers say balance form and function, the same is true for houses. Sometimes beautiful spaces are impractical. To get around this design in flexibility, for instance sliding partitions can turn an open plan space more cellular when required. Think about thermal comfort and the surroundings lots of glass can look stunning but overheat in summer and be cold in winter if not detailed correctly. Also think about what the resale implications are especially if a quirky design is what you want. My top list of things that people always ask us for include- secondary bathrooms/en-suites, utility rooms and open plan living/kitchen garden spaces.


Please do get in contact with us if you have purchased a new house or if you are thinking about purchasing one to see how we can help.

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