Subscriber OnlyInteriors

Fitness YouTuber Rob Lipsett: ‘I bought a Spanish villa on a whim. I wondered what I had got myself into’

An impulse purchase of a four-bed in Marbella in need of renovation, turned into a creative experience for Rob Lipsett

While many of us get our kicks from watching A Place in the Sun and dreaming about owning a property abroad, some people turn those dreams into reality – often buying on impulse.

Dubliner Rob Lipsett did just that when he decided “on a whim”, to view a property in Spain, and on sight, decided there and then that he was going to buy it.

The personal trainer and online coach had been living in London, where he had a one-year lease on a property in south Kensington. At the end of 2020, the lease was up and it was time to think about what to do next.

“I was considering where I would go next which would suit my career and as Dublin was still in lockdown, and London was going in and out of same, I chose Marbella. I had been visiting there since I was 16 so I knew my way around – and with daily direct flights from Dublin, there is also a big Irish community there.”


Another perk for Lipsett is that it has one of the best collections of gyms in Europe and a thriving fitness and entrepreneurial scene.

“On top of that, the overall lifestyle and climate are second to none,” he says.

Upon arrival the 30-year-old, who is also a YouTuber, author and owner of both a fitness app called Gameplan, and a protein pancake company called Fuel Cakes, was told of a four-bedroom detached villa with a pool that needed renovating. As it was going for “an extremely good price” of more than €500,000, he decided to take a look for himself.

“I went to the viewing which was packed with other people trying to buy it,” he recalls. “Property prices in Dublin – to buy or rent – are extremely high, so I quickly put in a down payment to take it off the market and my friend [the agent] was kind enough to reserve it for me.”

The process took about six months until Lipsett got the keys, but it was fairly straightforward, Lipsett says.

“There were some fees, for the lawyer and the broker and a lot of forms to fill out, but I was surprised at how straightforward it was and I could tell that they are used to having international buyers.”

‘In shock’

Lipsett, who featured in the third season of TV’s Love Island, and Linda Smyth, his partner of four years, had fun refurbishing the property, but say there have been a lot of adaptions over the course of the renovation, to both the layout of the house and their budget.

The couple got about 10 quotes for the project, which ranged in cost from about €90,000 to €300,000.

“When I got that one, I was in shock and wondered what I had got myself into,” he says. “We ended up going with a company called and it cost over €100,000 to fully renovate it. The end goal and design inspiration was to make it minimalist, timeless and organised and the main task was to completely gut the place. So, we had to get new plumbing, tiles, walls, wiring, bathrooms, windows and kitchen, literally everything needed doing and there was a stage where it was a complete shell of a house.

“The biggest difference to the place was that we turned the entire living space into an open-plan space by knocking down all the walls in the middle and making the outdoor terrace part of the livingroom, so it doubled the size of the downstairs.

The kitchen has also doubled in size and the couple added in all the new state-of-the-art appliances, which cost €14,000 on top of the renovation.

“I initially thought that was included in the price, so it came as a bit of a surprise.”

In addition to the €91,000 budget for construction works and the kitchen, they also spent a further €4,000 on air conditioning, €20,000 on furniture and about €5,000 on retiling the swimming pool and gardening works.

“I left the design element to Linda and just showed ProBuilder some pictures from Instagram home accounts and said that was how I wanted it to look – that worked out perfectly and they did an amazing job, which from start to finish took about six months.”

There were some hiccups along the way.

“There were a few delays, like the storm which showed us that the roof had a leak in it,” he says. “But there was nothing major and it is better to find out things like that during construction instead of when it’s finished, so there is a positive to everything. Also, because we doubled the size of the downstairs, we got a €5,000 fine from the council for that – I think it was for something to do with declared property space. But I reckon it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission in some cases.”

Next step

All in all, Lipsett is “really proud” of his achievement.

“It has been one of the proudest and most creative experiences of my entire life. I couldn’t recommend renovating [a property] enough and I’ve never felt a feeling like the one I felt when it was finished – it was as if I had created a piece of art. I’ve also had family come visit and that was a very proud feeling too.

With the renovation completed just three months ago, the couple plan to enjoy having it to themselves for now, but down the road Lipsett would like to turn it into an Airbnb business.

“We documented the whole process on Instagram @VillaLipsett and on my YouTube channel, so there is already an audience of people wanting to rent it.”

With just some final touches to be applied to the property, some “last bits of furniture” such as armchairs, sun loungers, art for the walls and a pergola to the upper sun terrace, the house is Insta-ready.

So it’s time to get back to the day job.

“Fun and all as it was, the renovation took up a lot of my time and focus in 2022 as I was very hands-on with it. So, in 2023, I am getting back to business. And my mission will always be to get as many people into the gym as possible and positively impact as many lives as I can through fitness.”

Arlene Harris

Arlene Harris

Arlene Harris is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in health, lifestyle, parenting, travel and human interest stories