So many projects, so little time…

There are so many amazing places for sale around here at the moment that I’d love to dive into, but all my cash is currently tied up, so for the moment I can only drool over them from the sidelines. Here are a few that have caught my eye recently.

St Anns, Cromarty

This is a house with presence.

It’s B-listed, Georgian, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, plus a separate two-storey west wing and a separate bakehouse, neither of which are currently in use. Plus period features coming out of your ears – 12-pane Georgian sash windows, shutters, fireplaces, take your pick…

Offers over £435,000 with Galbraith:

Milton Villa, Pittenweem

Out of my area, this is near my brother-in-law, and sold very quickly. Usually you see churches that get converted into a house, this is a house that got converted into a church.

Downstairs is a bit open plan.

But still the odd feature fireplace and door dotted around the place.

Again, late Georgian and listed, it was on the market for offers over £400,000 and I suspect will have gone for a fairly substantial amount over that. More pictures here:

Balnakeil Manse, Balnakeil

Now this one IS in my area and I’m totally heartbroken that someone else gets the joy of doing it. Eight bedrooms, if you count the attic rooms, two kitchens and 1.8 acres, tucked away behind the Balnakeil Craft Village, this is going to make a gem of a B&B for someone.

Albeit after a huge amount of work.
It was on at offers over £250,000 and the home report said it wasn’t mortgageable due to condition, so someone with pretty deep pockets has snapped this up. Again, more pictures here:

Project 3 is moving forward

I can’t believe it’s now over a year since the idea of going into partnership with Pete was first brought up, but we are finally there and setting off on building our business together. We have a limited company and a business bank account and our solicitor is now getting going on transferring the fisherman’s cottage into the company while I transfer the cash across into the account.

We also have an architect on board, which is a relief, because they’re all incredibly busy up here at the moment. Architect number 1 came to have a look over the summer when we took advantage of an offer he was running for a two-hour site visit and some advice, but was too busy to take us on. He recommended Architect number 2, who said he was delighted to be recommended but felt that because it’s a Grade A-listed building we needed someone with conservation accreditation and he didn’t have it, so he recommended Architect number 3, who came out, had a look and happily bonded with Pete over a love of motorcycles, so has agreed to do it.

(I’m well aware that a love of motorcycles is not one of the key criteria you look for in an architect, but in this case it turned out to be helpful!)

He came back last week and spent five hours on site taking measurements and notes, he’s tied up this week and next, but with a bit of luck and a following wind we should have some initial drawings by the end of the month. He does have a very blank canvas to work with, the house was stripped out decades ago, long before it was listed, and has been used for storage. And when I say stripped out…

It doesn’t even have staircases at the moment, there are entrances at ground floor and first floor level because it’s tucked into a bank, but we’re on ladders between the first and second floor and the ground and first and I HATE ladders. I’m getting better at going up them, but I still hate climbing onto the top of one to go back down. Fine if I’m on the middle floor, I can wimp out and go outside and walk round, but it’s a little bit more of a problem if I’m right up top.

This is what it currently looks like from the outside. It’s a row of three terraced cottages, ours is the one on the right with the cream block-built porch in front of it, which is where the front door is. Lots and lots of work to do here, but it will be beautiful when we’re done.

Tor Aluinn – the costs

When I did the post last year on the costs of renovating Ethel’s House, I knew at some point I was going to have to be brave and do one for Tor Aluinn, and I’ve been putting it off because I absolutely knew I’d overspent on it. Well, I can’t delay it any further, so here we go.

Tor Aluinn was purchased officially for £110,000, but because the problem with the garage being over the boundary was only discovered after this price had been agreed, our solicitors advised that keeping a retention of £1,000 to be paid back to me after I’d produced an invoice for creating parking space was the easiest way of sorting it out, as it wouldn’t affect my mortgage. So essentially we paid £109,000 for it.

Bills – £10,025.57
This was a very, very big ouch and most of it came from 200% council tax on a high band house – that was £6,893.08 over the renovation period. Insurance and heating oil were roughly £1,000 each and the rest is made up of electricity, insurance broker fee, boiler service and keeping the garden in check.

Interest – £5,329.44
As, technically, what we were doing counted as a light refurb (new kitchen, new bathrooms, update the wiring, decorate) we were able to get a mortgage on it from day one.

Materials – £12,231.16
Amazingly, not as high as it was for Ethel’s, although if we’d gone back to brick on all the external walls instead of just the kitchen gable and the front walls in the kitchen and living room it would have been a lot, lot higher.

Tradesmen – £67,121.80
And this is where I start sobbing! The biggest costs in this were new windows throughout £14,199, a full rewire £7,928, plumbing £9,949, roof insulation and oil tank move £3,543, painting and decorating £3,345, carpets and flooring £7,818 and a few other bits of general building work and tree surgery. To be fair, I could have done the decorating myself and saved here.

Subtotal – £94,707.97

Furnishings – £24,904.41
A much bigger bill than Ethel’s, as in nearly £10,000 more when they’re both three-bed houses, but I had three bathrooms instead of one, plus a utility room and we were going for a five star grading, so we needed dressing tables in all bedrooms, a spectacular dining table, more kitchen equipment, champagne glasses, whisky decanter and so on.

Total spend – £119,612.38

And the valuation? Well, by the time I was ready to remortgage in May last year we were in lockdown, so instead of getting someone to come out and tell me what it was worth, I got a desktop valuation done and it came back at £200,000. My plumber, who is also a property investor himself, reckoned that was rubbish and it was worth at least £220,000 if not £240,000. With the way the market here has boomed post-Covid it would be an easy £240,000 now and possibly a bit more – so result somewhere in between a loss of £28,612.38 and a profit of £11,387.62, depending on which figure you take! That’s with furnishings left in, if you take those out it changes to between a loss of £3,707.96 and a profit of £36,202.93.

I’m honestly pretty happy with that entire range, it’s a beautiful house, guests are leaving it great reviews, and over the years that overspend will be inflated away.