What’s on the radar

I might not be in a position to buy any more houses at the moment, but I never stop keeping an eye on the local market.  When I was at the local sheep auction a couple of weeks ago, I got chatting with with a gentleman down the Strath who was cutting down numbers with his sheep because he’d reached an age where he wanted to take things a bit easier, and he mentioned he’d decided to sell his old house as well.  My ears pricked up, especially when he said he thought it was an old wreck of a place, but the estate agent said someone would buy it as a holiday home.

It seems that we’re getting a bit of a reputation amongst our friends, because the moment it appeared on the estate agent’s Facebook page, someone tagged Mick in a comment!  I happened to be down that way a few days later, so I stopped off to have a look.

A lot of house for £50,000, but in such a state that it didn’t require a home report and, in all honesty, not suitable as a holiday let.  While the house itself is almost identical to Ethel’s (a couple of extra windows, a little bit bigger and it has a small kitchen extension on the back), it’s 7 miles away from the coast, the Strath is midge heaven, and those outbuildings just wouldn’t get used.  If I was looking for something to do as a normal rental to someone who wanted to live in the countryside and keep a few chickens (the back garden is a chunk of field and is huge), then it would be perfect, but this one’s not for us.  Good thing, as less than two weeks after coming on the market, it’s already under offer 🙂

This next one has been put on the market in the past couple of days and I think it may also go quickly.  From the outside, it doesn’t look like anything too special.

But look in the opposite direction, and this is your view.

For a little house, it packs in a lot of rooms – there are four bedrooms in the square bit and then kitchen, bathroom and living room in the extension.  Upstairs it’s got two ‘loft rooms’ and a small room for the hot water tank.  So why is it only £75,000?  Well, it’s a 1965 pre-fab and the whole thing is asbestos, though the original structure has been built round with blocks and then harled.  For a quick ‘get it up and running’ you’d probably want to turn the third bedroom into an en-suite for bedroom two and stick a cinema/games room in the loft rooms if there’s sufficient headroom, but I suspect someone will buy this, demolish it and start from scratch – if they can find anyone up here to handle the asbestos.

The final one I’ve had a sneaky look at recently isn’t actually for sale, but the estate that owns it has sold four buildings off recently, so it’s not out of the question that this might one day hit the market.

It’s an old fishing net store with a flat up above it, and it sits on a harbour, looking back at the main beach.  If you climb that very old set of steps at the far end of the building, there’s a little private beach at the back.  The flat has a separate entrance from a track that goes around the back.

It’s Grade A listed, but the Highland Council is remarkably sympathetic about conversions of these – this is an almost-identical Grade A building at Keiss Harbour, which is run as a holiday let – and I don’t think that middle row of windows was there originally.

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What I’d like under the tree tomorrow

Earlier this week I was in Thurso for the day while my car was being serviced and MOT’d (or, more accurately, not being serviced and MOT’d, because the power steering went on the way in and we decided that was a bigger issue!).  I’d hoped to use the time to have a play with my new camera, but sadly it shipped to me with a faulty battery, so I had some time to kill – and that’s dangerous, because I start walking round the solicitors’ windows and because Thurso is a small place, it’s only a 10-minute walk to go and scope out anything I like the look of in town.  So if I could have a set of front door keys for Christmas tomorrow, one of these three (and the funds to sort it out!) would be more than acceptable 🙂

Candidate number 1 is a bit of a faded grand old lady.  The house has been used as a social club, which closed about a year ago, and so is classed as commercial and there’s no home report.  The price has already been dropped by £30,000 to reflect the amount of work the roof needs and the club hasn’t had the funds to perform much maintenance in recent years, but like many of the late 1800s houses here, she has good bones, and is listed as a result.

Lovely as it would be to put it back to a family home, with my business head on, the only way to make it just about break even would be to do it as four flats.  I’ve not been inside it, but looking at the floor plan, as long as it’s possible to knock through under the fire escape from the billiards room to the function room, you’ve got a fairly easy split into second floor, first floor, ground floor left and ground floor right.

Candidate number 2 is an old drill hall.  I saw this come up for sale a few years ago and I can’t remember what the asking price was back then, but I think in the region of £120,000-£140,000.  Again, a lovely building that needs a little bit of TLC.

This is being sold privately, it’s just a sheet of paper and a phone number in the window, which I haven’t rung (yet…), so I’ve no idea what they’re asking or even what the layout is inside, but it seems that there’s a fairly natural split vertically, making three small houses each with its own big arched entrance door.

Candidate number 3 is a bit of a cheat, because I didn’t actually see the house, I just saw it advertised in the window, but apparently it’s been on the market since August and I somehow missed it.  This is in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere – literally – and is a four bedroom detatched house with large garden grounds and absolutely stunning views over miles and miles of open moorland to the mountains.

The home report is a shocker – partially collapsed ceiling, suspected decayed roof timbers, crumbling plaster, woodworm, damage to the chimneys, damp, corroded window frames, ancient electrics – in short, pretty much everything we’ve found down the road at Ethel’s house, so that doesn’t scare me.  What does is the price.  Bearing in mind that the survey recommends a retention of £25,000 until the ‘water ingress’ (i.e. leaking roof), defective plasterwork, damp, woodworm, electrics and water supply (private supply) is sorted, I think £200,000 in its current state is ambitious.  It sold in 2005 for £203,750 and despite Zoopla giving it a current estimated value of £289,000, I can’t see it going for more than £240,000 in top notch condition.  The roof on its own would be £30,000 to replace (that’s a Pete estimate!) and electrics would be another £8,000 or so.

That said, it’s a very pretty house in a stunning setting, albeit very remote, and I’ll be keeping my eye on it to see if the price comes down once we’ve finished with Ethel’s.  It’s an executor sale, so it’s toss of a coin whether they want fast cash or best price, but I wouldn’t want to pay more than £150,000-£160,000 for it, I don’t think, and I’d probably want to alter the layout a bit.

tigh_achanechan_floorplan

Downstairs I’d leave alone, but upstairs I’d be strongly tempted to make bedroom one, the bathroom and the cupboard into a big master suite with en-suite and dressing room, and then turn bedroom three into a second bathroom, or alternatively, if I wanted to keep it as four bedrooms, carve a bit off the left-hand side of bedroom four and turn that into an en-suite, bringing the plumbing up from the WC/utility below it, though if you went the full length of the room it would unbalance the bay window.

Merry Christmas to everyone reading this and I hope you all get what you want in your stockings tomorrow morning 🙂