Improvements for your first house




Improving your first home

Contribution by Sarah Akwisombe from | March 2015
Sarah is an award-winning interior stylist and blogger. Sarah encourages homeowners to have fun experimenting with style.

We had always wanted a property that needed work. From our research, we knew that buying a place that needed updating was a good investment. It also helped that I had a penchant for interior design and couldn’t wait to start remodelling! In February 2013, we got the keys for our 1930s two-bedroom flat in South Croydon.

The flat was in basic working order, but materially it was a shell. We needed a new bathroom, layout changes, a kitchen upgrade, flooring and decoration throughout. For brand new parents living in a bedroom in my parents’ house, time was of the essence. We were desperate to move in! The bathroom, kitchen and bedroom would take priority. Our 2-month-old baby would need somewhere to be bathed after all! We had saved £1,000 towards the works and borrowed another £3,000 from my dad. It was going to be tight, so planning and execution were going to be key.

We got quotes to see who could deliver the most, within budget and in the fastest time. The difference between quotes was huge! We chose the cheapest contractor who could deliver in the fastest time. We ended up using a different contractor for the kitchen again due to time constraints and we learnt a lesson here; if we had been savvier with our first contractor we probably could have got an all-in-price.

We mistakenly left a lot of decisions around finishes and fittings to our builder, which meant that costs started to mount quickly. Our builders were great but there were times that things weren’t finished how we wanted them. But, this was our fault for not being specific enough.

We put some of the unforeseen costs onto our credit card. On reflection we could have been savvier and borrowed from the bank at a lower rate if we had done the proper planning and budgeting before we started works.

Nearly two years on we are still doing bits to the house but still enjoying it! Our learning curve from project managing a large scope of works has been huge, and now when we approach projects at home we put in more work and planning upfront.

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