Hi. I’m interested in buying a property – 1930, detached but it hasn’t had any work done on it for 60 years. The floor slopes and there are substantial cracks in the external walls (so likely subsidence), and banks won’t give a mortgage. It would need completely gutting and re-modelling, even the walls and window openings would need modifying to make the most of the views. The seller says he has commissioned a structural survey which says it is salvageable and could be renovated at a cost of £100,000. (I haven’t seen it myself). I described it to a property developer acquaintance who told me that Building Control Regs are such these days that it’d probably make more sense to demolish it and start afresh than try to renovate it. It’s not listed but it’s quite distinctive and it seems a shame to erase it. If it’s being gutted aren’t you almost starting with a clean slate anyway? Has anyone got experience of this dilemma? Thanks

  • Adam

    Hi Susan,

    I’ve been in this position before. The key to deciding which road to take it to think long and hard about what sort of building you want to live in when all is said and done.

    If it is a characterful home you want then you should opt for the refurb. You can usually save all but the worst structural issues but be prepared for it to cost plenty and for the building to dictate certain elements of the design and layout. You can achieve a lot with steels and engineering but some things just wont be possible if you keep the existing structure. Your friend is also right about the modern building regs. They demand quite a lot in terms of insulation and other elements that can be hard to integrate into an older home without diminishing aspects of its internal charisma.

    If you’d prefer to live in something bespoke that suits you then you should demolish. The benefit here is freedom to design your home as you see fit (to take advantage of those views for example) and to enjoy the benefits of modern building technologies. A new home can also be characterful but runs the risk of being chintzy unless done with great skill and expensive reclaimed materials over the new structure.

    If you do decide to go down the demolition route then don’t fall over the same hurdle that I once did. An awful lot of planning departments won’t allow you to demolish a building and build something bigger in its place. Not as a rule of thumb anyway. If you apply and get permission for the additions you want first and then apply to demolish you’ll find it should get through with minimum fuss.

    Good luck with it. Sounds like it could be fun either way.

  • Susan R

    Dear Adam, thank you for a very helpful reply. Your point about PP is interesting, something I hadn’t considered. There is nothing inside the house that you would want to preserve, it’s only the mix of brick, cob and timber walls that make the shell interesting. The internal layout is all wrong – the staircase blocks the best view and should be at the back of the house. All things considered it should probably be demolished but I fear the cost and scale will be out of my league. Another thought occurs though – if the house is renovated and underpinned, would its card be marked as regards buildings insurance and future sales potential? If it’s demolished I’m assuming that wouldn’t be a problem as we’d be dealing with new foundations. Thanks.

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