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Should I buy a fixer-upper or a home that is already renovated?

Here’s what you need to know before taking on a big renovation project. We weigh up what makes it worth it, and the hassle you might save if you fork out more for a finished home.

Guest Author
Words by: Matilda Battersby


You've found a house in the perfect location, but it's not the perfect size for you or your family.

As you probably know, there are a few key ways to gain more space in a home.

Most big projects involve going up into the loft for a new master bedroom, through to adding a storey or extending the kitchen.

But, is buying a home for less and then spending money extending it worth the effort? 

Or is it a better idea to buy a home someone else has already extended, but which costs more upfront?

We look at both sides of the argument.

Why you should invest in a renovation project

1. Is it worth buying a fixer-upper?

Buying a home that needs renovation is a great way to add value. Fixer-uppers will be priced competitively and might take longer to sell.

If you can handle the disruption, then it is definitely worth buying a home for less and spending money making it want you want.

You can gain space and boost the value of your home in the longer term.

“Make your home exactly what you want,” says Marc von Grundherr, director of Benham & Reeves estate agency. 

“Get it at a lower cost and design an extension to suit your budget, rather than paying a premium for what someone else has done.”

How much do home renovations cost?

2. What kind of renovations should I do to a fixer-upper?

Attic conversions are one of the most popular types of major renovation.

Adding an extra bedroom and bathroom will add an estimated 20% to the value of a house.

Extending kitchens and knocking through into open plan layouts are also strong options.

"Improvements that add to the feeling of space and make a great first impression will make your home easier to sell,” says Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA Propertymark.

“Making your kitchen modern and spacious can add a premium to the value.”

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3. How much money do I need for a fixer-upper?

There's no getting away from it. Extending a home is going to be expensive. 

The average cost of a loft conversion is £46,000, according to

And if you're looking to renovate a kitchen, a small galley kitchen using low-cost units can be installed for around £1,200, with units costing around £1,000.

While at the higher end, a top-of-the-range kitchen can cost upwards of £14,000, with installation costs running upwards of £7,000.

Talk to an architect and builders and get quotes for their fees and the cost of materials as soon as possible.

When do I need to use an architect?

How to find good tradespeople

Start by prioritising what needs doing, and working out your budget room by room.

Taking it slowly can allow you to save up for the renovations or pay for it as you go.

You could also remortgage a few years after buying the house if the value has gone up. The extra money you can borrow could pay for the work that will add more value to the house.

Should I remortgage to renovate my home?

One way to save money is to undertake some of the renovation work yourself. Even if it’s as simple as painting the interior or fitting storage.  

4. What else do I need to know about buying a fixer-upper?

Don’t spend more than your finished home will be worth

While it’s great to do work on a home, there is a risk of overspending so much that the value of your home can’t keep up.

Look at comparable homes on your street, and how much they sell for once they’ve had a full renovation and extension.

Then, consider how much you will need to spend on your home and what you paid for it.

If those two amounts added together equal more than the sale price of a renovated house in your neighbourhood, look at how you can rein in your spending.

Take advantage of changes in planning permission

You might not need to go through the full planning process to extend your home. 

The government is due to allow homeowners to add up to two storeys without having to gain planning permission. 

As always, the devil is in the detail, so it’s important to seek professional advice before the builders arrive on site. 

How and when do I apply for planning permission?

Get a sense of how long it could take for work to finish

Asking how long it will take to complete renovations is always going to result in guesswork.

There are plenty of moveable parts. From the planning stage to ordering materials and lining up builders and tradespeople.

It will usually take eight to 10 weeks to do a kitchen extension and around four months to add a storey to your house. 

Loft conversions will take at least 2 months to complete. 

How long do home renovations take?

Why you shouldn’t buy a fixer-upper

1. It’s much easier to buy an extended home

The biggest advantage of buying a home that has been “done” is you don’t have to live with any disruption.

Move in straight away and start enjoying the space without the hassle of a construction project.

Marketing manager Harry Jenkins bought a four-bedroom house with a loft conversion and an extended kitchen in south London. 

“My wife was heavily pregnant at the time, so the fact that it was already ‘done’ for our growing family was a big bonus.

“I like the idea of a project but the reality of leading a busy life with young children meant an extended house removed a lot of stress.”

2. It’s less risky to buy a home that has already been renovated

Budgeting is all very well but it’s impossible to know how much building work will cost. 

A pre-extended property might typically come with a higher asking price, but you can feel reassured you are less likely to need to replace rotten beams or other shock discoveries.

“It takes up to a year for the foundations and structure of an extension to settle,” says Simone de Gale, chief executive of Simone de Gale Architects.

“This means that any cracks and structural movements of an extended property will have already taken place before you buy.“

2. You can still add value to a renovated house

Even when a home has been extended, you can still make improvements.

“You can always find opportunities to increase a home in terms of footprint and innovations in design and construction,” says de Gale.

There are always cosmetic and interior design options for boosting the future saleability of your home.

Get an idea of some of the changes you can make without having to get planning permission.

We try to make sure that the information here is accurate at the time of publishing. But the property market moves fast and some information may now be out of date. Zoopla Property Group accepts no responsibility or liability for any decisions you make based on the information provided.