Broaden Your Buying Horizons

By on April 5, 2013

A break from the property norm can improve your quality of life as well as your bank balance.

Most house purchases adhere to ‘two up two down’ convention. But by widening your buying horizons you could land up with the ‘ideal’ home that invigorates your mind as well as your finances. True, your average high street bank is likely to turn you down flat on a loan for a roofless wreck no matter how much ‘raw potential’ it has, but there are still exceptions to the rule with specialist lenders dealing in marine finance, renovations and self-build projects happy to target the weird and the wonderful.

Houseboats - growing in popularity as trendy, affordable bases, the average floating home will set you back around £60,000 and can be funded by a ‘marine mortgage’ available from specialist lenders. Purchasers require at least a 20% deposit and loans tend to come with a 15-year maximum term on a repayment basis. The vessel itself is just the start of the financial outlay – there will be residential mooring costs, which will vary according to the river location, a 50-foot boat coasting on average £50 a week to moor. Houseboats are a cheap home option – council tax is payable (for urban locations) but at the lowest banding – A – while maintenance for the vessel comes in around £1,000 a year.

Bespoke Conversions – that crumbling chapel or wind-swept barn might be a luxurious Shangri-la by the time you’ve worked your DIY magic, but at the moment, it’s more down-and-out ruin than stately pile. A derelict shell doesn’t offer the lender much to go on. A small number of lenders specialise in extreme makeovers including Norwich and Peterborough and the Ecology Building Society as well as Buildstore. Loans are paid on a staged basis – first the price of the derelict building or a percentage of its value. A valuer will then come and check that it has reached an appropriate level of building standard before the next sum is released and so on. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings publishes a quarterly magazine listing of old buildings for sale and in need of repair from cottages to castles. 

Outbuildings – these days, garages can be converted into domestic dwellings without planning permission, although you should still contact your local authority before proceeding – as there are exceptions to the rule. The purchase process will require the once over from your solicitor – including informing the Land Registry. If the land on which the garage is built is not registered, your solicitor can carry out a conveyance instead. Don’t forget you’ll need to budget for a refit – how much you spend should be relative to what you except to get back on future resale.

Self-build  buying a plot of land to self-build is one of the few remaining ways to make a decent profit from property. It may sound daunting, but you don’t need to be a DIY guru to embrace the self-build world – good organisational skills and time management are just as, if not more important, not to mention having a little vision. Typical plots sell for anything between £80,000 and £100,000 and many considerably less. The profit from buying land and building a home yourself is typically 30%, added to which, you’ll have a property that is exactly to your spec and finish. Check for land for sale and speak to local agents. Remember that project managing a home from scratch will eat up a lot of your time up – most however, find the hard work more than worth the challenge.

Tricks and Mortar: The Little Book of Property Wisdom by Laura Henderson is out now on

Photo credit: phault / / CC BY