Fixer-upper homes are a pipe dream. The flippers saw to that

Our solution was to pay more for a house that didn’t need major work

BEFORE: Clarence Mangan Road

BEFORE: Clarence Mangan Road

 

There are certain species of househunter you are almost guaranteed to see at every open viewing for a small home in an “affordable” area.

Along with multiple couples in their 30s like us, there are the young parents with a toddler in tow, perhaps another on the way, who might be a little more desperate for a quick sale but still fair competition.

There are the older downsizers, likely to be cash-rich, which gives them multiple advantages, but perhaps less willing to compromise on areas we wouldn’t have thought twice about.

But the one person you absolutely do not want to see coming through the door is the man with the measuring tape. If you’re looking for a fixer-upper, forget all the others; this guy, often straight off another building site still in his steel-capped boots and high-vis jacket, is your real competition.

Last week a house came back on the market in Dublin 8 that we had been to view last summer. Back then, the two-bed end-of-terrace was up for €450,000. Already over our budget, we quickly forgot it, and it sold in August after going to sealed-envelope bids (we know someone who made it almost to the end) for €518,315, according to the property price register.

Within weeks the hoarding was up, and the side garden divided off as the building works began. Bought to flip.

Double your money

With a new double-height extension to the rear, 10 months later it now has a price tag of €695,000, minus the garden, for which a planning application has been submitted for two two-bed townhouses. The builder/investor will easily double their money.

AFTER: Clarence Mangan Road
AFTER: Clarence Mangan Road

Other houses in the area in need of similarly extensive renovations have sold for well above their original asking prices, and some of them are still lying idle more than a year later. The burned-down two-bed house I wrote about previously on the same street sold for €365,000 last July. It is still boarded up.

Another around the corner – one of the first houses we viewed in January 2017, originally asking €275,000, sold for €364,800. Hoarding was erected last year but it is still otherwise untouched.

At the end of May a dilapidated two-bed up the road, empty for decades, was advertised initially with an asking price of €250,000. In an unusual move – probably after receiving a deluge of inquiries – the agent upped the price on myhome.ie twice, to €325,000, then €350,000.

There’s no such thing as a bargain, no matter how bad the house’s condition.

What bothers me almost as much as the impact on prices of builders and investors buying to flip, however, is the results of their efforts.

Full of character

When it came to market last summer, the house currently for sale again was almost in original condition. It still had the gorgeous wooden sash windows downstairs and cast-iron fireplaces. The old toilet even came complete with its original hardwood seat. Yes, the wallpaper was pretty garish and the kitchen needed a complete overhaul, but it was full of character.

Other than the half redbrick facade at the front, none of the original features now remain. Outside, the ubiquitous grey windows have been installed, the pebbledash redone, and a giant front porch built on to the beautiful redbrick (how are these allowed on houses almost a century old, with no planning permission?) The bushes and flowers have been replaced with gravel. Inside, the floors are laminate wood, glossy tiles and silver carpets.

My heart sank looking at the photographs of all the shiny surfaces and catalogue furniture in the online ad this week. It looks like a new build. Lots of people will love it, but I think it’s such a shame, on multiple levels.

We came across plenty of ads for these newly renovated homes while we were looking to buy, though most we couldn’t afford, even if we had wanted them.

We had been searching for a wreck to renovate ourselves, but in the end, our solution was to pay more for a house that didn’t need major work. The higher price wasn’t attractive to a builder or investor, but we won’t have to spend a shedload or wait months to get it done up. We were able to move straight in, and tip away at the interiors ourselves. Surprisingly, the better condition house ended up making more financial sense. We’ll make it our own, but we won’t have to start from scratch to do it.

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