Rathgar house seeks a dedicated buyer

Number 80 Frankfort Avenue has a lot going for it. The only drawback is that it needs a lot of work. Renovator Kevin Desmond casts his eye over the property and assesses what’s required to restore it to its former glory


Househunters looking for a period home know that many of those on view are executor sales or “in need of modernisation”, a phrase estate agents use to describe homes that require an extreme make-over.

Most of us are not equipped with the skills to tell the condition of a house from one viewing much less to estimate how much a restoration project is going to cost. When we do find out, many of us balk at the prospect, both because of the financial outlay and the dedication required to get the job finished on time and on budget.

Having an expert at your side, someone to give an honest appraisal of what needs to be done and who can talk plain English, would make the job so much easier. Enter Kevin Desmond, a hobbyist renovator. His day job is with a medical company, but as a fan of Georgian and Victorian architecture he has spent the last 15 years renovating five properties, each to live in, having bought his first for €30,000 when he was just 20. In 2009 he bought his first listed building, a house on Synge Street where he now lives. Over the years and the renovations he acquired a vast amount of knowledge. He’s spent his own money on these homes, has a hands-on approach and doesn’t believe in cutting corners.

Number 80 Frankfort Avenue, a late Victorian listed two-storey-over -basement terraced house in Rathgar, is just the kind of project he relishes. The property was occupied until last October and has been in the same family since 1927. At first glance, the 254sq m (2,734sq ft) house “has potential”. The rooms are well proportioned with fine period features.

But it requires serious attention; it needs to be replumbed, rewired and has to be fitted with its first-ever heating system. The fact that it hasn’t had one to now has helped save the house from too much decay, Desmond says.

The asking price for the fixer-upper is €875,000, through agents SherryFitzGerald. But including the refurb, the project will cost €1.2 million, he estimates.

Is it worth the effort? Desmond thinks it’s a good buy. Looking at the property price register it’s hard to find similar property types on the road but two stand out. In September 2010, number five, a three-bedroom house of similar size, sold for €1.15 million.

Last October, number two, a two-storey-over-basement redbrick in need of complete modernisation, sold for €610,000 – not as fine looking a house but in similar condition.

The reception rooms have interconnecting doors and white marble fireplaces that Desmond, with his beady eye, spots are not a pair. The ornate cornice and coving with detailed plasterwork in both rooms has been chipped.

While some would be tempted to leave it in original condition, Desmond, a self-confessed “perfectionist”, says he would have to fill the gaps because “they would drive him crazy”.

The arch on the return is the most architecturally interesting feature of the house, its shape echoed in the door frame behind it. Above both is a striking stained glass circular window that warms the hall with rich jewel colours.

While the house is in “relatively good condition” and feels “quite solid” it has dry rot and wet rot. The floor joists are also rotten. The floorboards “give” or show movement indicating rot at the room corners. In some of the rooms there are gaping holes in the flooring.

The windows are in relatively good condition but each sash window needs restoring, a task that will “take a carpenter about two weeks to make good on each,” Desmond says.

High ceilings
The room on the return has dual-aspect windows, one on either side of the fireplace, and would make a very grand family bathroom.

There are good ceiling heights in all rooms, 11 feet at hall level and nine feet at garden level. Most of this floor has its original black and white quarry tiles which could be restored. In the space under the granite front steps, currently a bathroom, Desmond suggests putting the water tank and condenser boilers, something he did in his own house.

“Putting them in the attic weighs down on cornicing below. Putting them below also means that any leaks don’t flow through the building.”

In contrast to the rest of the house, the bedrooms are comparatively small. There are three on the first floor with a bathroom squeezed into what was part of the original landing. The really luxurious thing to do there would be to open up the front two bedrooms into a large master bedroom, but it depends on the buyer’s needs.

The garden to the rear is south-facing. From the back the roof appears to be in good shape. Desmond notes that the roof tiles are not original so work has been done on the roof at some time. At the moment there isn’t pedestrian access to the rear. A wall would have to be knocked down to gain access.

To undertake such a project you need a Grade one conservation architect, Desmond says. “It can’t be done cheaply. I think the person who buys this house will want to restore and preserve it.”

While it may be a good buy, the term is relative. “It is not a steal,” Desmond concludes, “especially when you consider the fact that you could be drawing down a mortgage for six to 12 months before you can actually move in.”

At the moment parking is on street.

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