Browse content similar to Fiona Power. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
There are nearly a million homes lying lost and abandoned
in the UK just waiting for someone to come along and breathe life back into them.
Whether it's a tired semi or a rambling mansion, we're on the search for Britain's empty homes.
There are abandoned properties all around us.
So we're going to show you how to spot them
and maybe even make one of them your next dream home.
Today I'm out to persuade these house-hunters
that a disused dwelling could be the doorway to their ideal home.
I'm quite happy to lose a bedroom to get an en suite.
We follow the UK's empty-property officers, bringing forgotten buildings back into occupancy.
And we'll be looking around once-neglected buildings that have been restored to their former glory.
Taking on an old empty building may not be the first thing that pops into a home buyer's mind,
but it could be exactly what they're looking for.
Fiona Power moved to London seven years ago after her husband died,
but now she's ready to return to the countryside.
This flat suited me while I was working, but I've retired now,
and it doesn't do it for me in the same way as it did then.
My dream house, it would have to have big rooms, or the potential to create big rooms.
A lovely kitchen-breakfast area.
My luxury item would be a conservatory or a sunroom.
Fiona's daughter, Caroline, and her husband
currently live ten minutes round the corner, and she's helping her mum with the search.
I'd really like to be with my mum to offer the support and also stop her
doing anything impulsive, because she's quite an impulsive person.
I think it would be good to have someone to bounce ideas off.
I think an empty home with locked-up potential might be exactly what they're looking for.
-Hi, Fiona. Hi, Caroline. Nice to see you.
-You're moving from a very flash riverside dwelling,
and you're looking for something...
I am looking for something that is bigger.
I actually moved from a rambling five-bedroom house
which I had no problem furnishing and filling,
and I'm looking forward to the challenge of the project of doing that again.
And where do you want to be?
I'd like to be somewhere in the vicinity of Chichester.
I know the area reasonably well.
But I also want somewhere that has got very good rail links to London.
Budget wise, what would you ideally like to spend?
Taking into account all the refurbishment
and any rebuilding work that might need doing, I've got a budget of half-a-million pounds.
That's offers around.
-But maximum? All in?
-We'll have to have a look and see what we can find you.
OK, so Fiona wants a minimum of three bedrooms, so Caroline can come and stay.
A good-sized garden with enough room for a conservatory.
And somewhere on the south coast, preferably in the Chichester area.
And all for a total budget of £500,000.
Now, Chichester is pricey, so I think a property lying vacant
and ready to be loved again might give Fiona much more for her money.
Which is why I've brought her here.
Eleven miles down the coast in Havant is this large detached house
sitting on a quarter of an acre of mature gardens.
It's on the market currently for £475,000.
-Let's see what you think.
As vacant houses can be harder to sell than those that are occupied,
this 1930s house has been lying empty for four months.
It has four bedrooms, one large reception room at the front, and another at the back.
You could open it all up, have this as a bit of a snug. But it would be quite a cosy space.
And these curious little round windows.
They are a little bit hello sailor, though,
-Well, you're down by the coast. Come on, Fiona! But no, I think there are possibilities here.
But next door is the kitchen.
Come and have a look at this.
Maybe put your creative hat on.
It's very reminiscent of the kitchen I had in 1970!
Well, yeah. There are probably collectors that would go for that.
It's a bit small, really.
I have visions of having a nice kitchen-breakfast room, sort of thing.
You could go that way with the whole thing.
A sunroom-type breakfast room, going out across the back.
Yes. Loads of light.
Upstairs, as well as the four bedrooms,
there's a small bathroom and shower room, but plenty of space for something much grander.
Right, now. This is the biggest, bedroom wise.
But of course it doesn't have the en suite.
Yeah, I noticed that immediately.
But it could have one very easily.
Knocking through there?
Knocking through there. Come and have a look at this.
-That's quite a good size.
-It would be a great size, for an en suite.
In here, what about this as a dressing room? Currently a sort of sewing area.
I'm quite happy to lose a bedroom to get an en suite.
And certainly when she comes I don't get a look-in in the bathroom!
To give Fiona a clear idea of costs, we asked a local architect
to pop round and look at some of the things we discussed.
She priced up knocking through from the master to create an en suite,
and extending the kitchen out into the garden.
-To give you a rough idea, around about £25,000 to £30,000.
-I thought it would be more than that.
-It's a pretty good ballpark figure.
So that's £30,000 on top of the 475 asking price.
But that is, like everything else...up for negotiation, exactly.
So, what do you think now you have had a look around inside?
I can see it would make a super kitchen breakfast-room, yeah.
It's exactly the sort of property I'm looking for.
-There you go. The only obvious thing to point out is I suppose...
Yes, exactly. I was being a bit polite there.
-You can't avoid it.
-I can see it would be a lot more expensive in a quiet location.
Well, exactly. So, the search isn't over yet. Let's go inside.
I'm glad Fiona isn't put off by the prospect of taking on a bit of a project,
as the rewards can be immense both financially and aesthetically.
Interior designer Georgina Cave found this out for herself
when she took on the restoration of this Victorian garden flat in west London
that had been lying empty for some months.
By the time we came to buy it, it was a better price, so that was nice.
It was empty. Even better.
And I walked in and I thought, "Yes, I can make this work."
I could see exactly what needed to be done.
Georgina had to be very creative with the layout to maximise the living space for her two teenagers.
I wanted them to have really good-sized bedrooms. And their own bathrooms.
I like the fact that I can shut off spaces so if the kids have got friends over
they can just get away from us as much as we can get away from them,
and that everyone has got their freedom within the property.
It's not even that big.
Our bedroom is just sort of quite intense and dark, but really cosy and lovely.
And I love to bath, and my husband loves to shower, so we made the walk-in bathroom.
It's just gorgeous.
The outlook over the garden, that's what I love the most.
And being able to work here in the day
and just have daylight coming in at me is just glorious.
All the living space, I realised, could be overlooking the garden and the lovely monastery beyond.
I think if we'd bought the property fully renovated like this,
we'd have been spending at least another £250,000.
It was absolutely everything I thought it would be, and if not better.
It reflects my personality and I hope my family's personality really well.
And it's a real home.
Tracing the owners of empty homes and getting them to do something about them
is the job of the local council's empty property officer.
Dave Carter's beat is the 30 square miles of Enfield, north London,
where there are over 1,000 long-term empty properties.
Today he's paying a visit to one of his longest ongoing cases.
We are going to a property which has been very problematic for me for a number of years.
It's been subject to arson attacks and local youths have been breaking in.
The neighbours are getting exasperated
and we need to try and sort this problem out as soon as we can.
The property in question is this large three-bedroom semi.
The owner, Vince Marciano
bought it 17 years ago for £85,000,
and despite spending about the same on renovations, has never finished it or moved in.
Initially I thought I'd buy a house that needed some work doing to it.
But you don't realise how much time and money you actually need.
I've got a family to bring up as well, you know, and I've got to work.
I've got to pay the bills there and have got to try and pay bills here.
What starts off as a good idea ends up being an absolute nightmare.
Dave has given Vince plenty of time to fix the house up himself,
but unfortunately, after 17 years of good intentions and broken promises, his patience is now at an end.
Given that he's got four weeks left,
it's about time I paid him a visit just to see what progress he has made.
I'm going to really have to go through the house piece by piece
and see whether I think he is going to meet that time frame.
Because the work has been dragging on so long,
Dave has been forced to reluctantly take action and issue a deadline.
If Vince doesn't finish the house in a month, the council will take it off him.
-Are you busy?
Nice to see you again. What have you got to show me?
-Loads? Come on, then.
I've had all the ceilings taken down.
-You're still working on the electrics.
The electrics are done, there are just a few bits we are trying to tidy up.
-What about the walls?
-They're going to be skimmed next week.
-And the floorboards?
-The floorboards will be the last thing to go down.
-Can we have a look outside?
-All the rendering is being done in one go, once the windows are in.
-That guttering's not pretty, is it?
And your flat roof, have you got new felting up there?
-That's started. That's just got another layer to go on it.
-And the tiling as well?
That's just got to be repaired, yeah. Cos the lead flashing was stolen from the roof.
OK, let's go upstairs, then.
Right. So it's still exposed up here.
We've pulled this down because it got quite bad, with that downpour of rain.
If you look, that's where the lead has been taken out.
I'm going to be honest with you, Vince. I'm not happy.
I can see you have made progress, but I think there's an awful lot of work still to be done.
Do you think you're going to get this done in a month?
The decorating will be done.
It will get to the stage of just being decorated. It will be done.
-Are you sure?
-It will be done.
-As it stands at the moment, I think...
I would certainly advise
that we can't give you any more discretion.
Get help to finish it off quick.
I can get help. I can get 20 people down here.
Probably get it done overnight. I haven't got the money to cover that.
But I don't want you to force me into a position where ... I don't want to take the house off you.
I don't like coming down hard. We've got on well over the years, but if it's not done,
I'm going to have to make some serious decisions, and they may be decisions that you don't like.
So, the ball's in your court. Let's see if we can get it done.
At the end of the day, it's got to be down to the last minute.
We're going to come back and make a decision on
the day as to whether we're going to give him a little bit of extra time which he is saying is all he needs.
I hope the council don't take it off us.
We've got this far and I've put quite a lot of money into it.
I'd rather get it finished rather than close it up again and leave it.
So, with just four weeks left and the clock ticking,
will Vince be able to at long last finish his house, or will Dave have to reluctantly take it over?
We'll find out later.
If you think you live near a building that could be vacant, then why not contact your local council?
They in turn can notify the empty-property officer, who will investigate further.
Fiona Power is quitting her riverside flat in London
and wants to upsize in her retirement and moved to the coast.
She's looking for a house with a minimum of three bedrooms
so her daughter, Caroline, can come and stay.
She wants a good-sized garden with enough room for a conservatory,
and somewhere probably on the south coast, close to Chichester.
She's got a budget of £500,000,
but as she's looking in a prime area, I'm showing her houses in need of a bit of TLC
in the hope we can clinch a good deal.
The first house was close to the sea and seemed full of promise.
They are a little bit hello sailor, though, aren't they?
Well, you're down by the coast. Come on, Fiona!
Let's hope this next one is just as inspiring.
Seven miles from Chichester, it's a 1930s semi with a very big twist.
Right, then, here we are, in the rain.
-What do you think?
-It's a semi.
-It is a semi.
-But, you get both halves of it.
So in fact, you get two semis, and it becomes a detached property.
-How about that?
-OK, yes, it's getting more interesting.
It's on the market for £500,000.
What, for both?
For both. But there is a twist. I shall reveal all later, as to how you may afford the whole thing.
OK. And we've got a few ideas for you. I'll be patient.
Bear with me, Fiona. Bear with me. Come on, let's get out of the rain.
It's been empty for seven months, ever since it got too much for the elderly lady who lived here.
But her daughter still lives next door, and is now keen to sell them both.
Come on in.
Now, then. 1938, this was built.
These doors are absolutely original to it.
-Actually, I like those.
Now we have to remember that all that we see in here is duplicated next door.
-It's like one of those kiddies' inkblot pictures.
-I can't quite imagine these doubled up, unless that chimney goes all together.
Mum is clearly struggling a bit, what do you think, Caroline?
I just think the garden is amazing as you walk in, so I can imagine it
might be quite nice to sit with your gin and tonic and look out...
Well, wait until you see the back garden.
Because the back garden is very similarly kept.
-Bearing in mind this has been in the same family for
Yes, pretty much. Let's go through and see what you make of the rest of it.
Now, the lobby area, obviously, again you've two of them.
And, you don't need two sets of stairs.
So that would mean that you could extend the living room out, and have that bigger living room?
It would answer your question in terms of it not being a thin box. Because all this could go.
Yeah, I can see that would work.
Losing all this would also create a lot more space upstairs,
so the current twin bedrooms could possibly be made bigger, or even benefit from an en suite.
Add the two identical bedrooms from the other side of the semi,
and Fiona could end up with a large, three to four-bedroom detached house.
Now, this is currently something of a dining area, I suppose.
I'm sure you're going to show me the kitchen in a minute,
but it looks small, and I could see it being knocked in and possibly even into the room on the other side.
-Have a really big kitchen breakfast room.
Well, let's have a look at the kitchen, it's right through here. You're right, it's very small,
but a fantastic example, if you're into historic kitchens, of a very early, fitted kitchen.
-But you don't want a historic kitchen.
No, this would be a perfect utility room.
Yeah, well, if you went for a kitchen area here.
But, when we get outside, you'll see there are two wings -
this is one of them, and on the other side there's another one that pushes out.
-There's a lot of wasted space in between the two.
-Extend out and up. Again, we can think about how much that might cost you.
But, there are all kinds of possibilities with this.
But it's where it is and the plot that it's on which is quite exciting.
I'm just seeing pounds signs at the moment.
Yeah, there are a few of those to contend with, but we'll see.
To price up for a sunroom extension and combining the two halves
of the house into one big one, we asked a local architect to measure up and give us some costings.
He also suggested another little scheme that could potentially pay for the whole lot - and more.
In terms of trying to afford any work on this one, here's the clever bit.
Behind that old shed there, the garden goes round,
incorporating a very old farm outbuilding, effectively.
Now, our architect has suggested that, because of the premium on
building plots, that could, potentially, become a building plot.
Now, the idea, and again, it's local knowledge and I can't vouch for it personally,
but what he's suggesting is that,
because you'd effectively convert two properties in to one,
the idea is that there's still potentially scope for one other dwelling on this site.
He's saying it could be worth in excess of £200,000 as a plot.
Which would pay for all of that.
More than. He's saying around 100,000 to do that.
-I would have actually said a bit more.
-Depending on what you wanted to do with it. But, that's the idea.
Yes, it's asking price is £500,000, it's at the very top end
of the budget, but, if the plot idea is feasible and viable,
you could well be within striking distance of having
the money to convert it, and actually making some on the side.
So, plenty of food for thought there,
but will it prove a bit too much for Fiona to take on as her retirement project?
We'll find out later.
Back in Enfield, one of Dave Carter's longest running cases
is about to be resolved after 17 tortuous years.
Four weeks ago, he paid a visit to Vince Marciano, and gave him a final deadline to get his house finished.
I don't want you to force me into a position where I've got to take... I don't want to take the house of you.
The month is now up, and there have been some obvious developments.
Well, I've moved in,
I'm living here. It's causing me a lot of problems at home, put it that way.
This just needs decorating and a bit of skirting and flooring.
Four weeks ago, the house was still practically derelict.
This is one of the bedrooms, which is all prepared.
This is going to require plastering of the ceiling and painting of the walls and a bit of skirting board
and some floor covering. This is the front room.
This is going to need a bit more work as far as plastering the front bay.
This just needs decorating as well.
They should see quite a difference, because we've been working day and night.
And we've been finishing about 12, 1 o'clock.
It's only decorating, the heating system will take probably
four or five days to put in.
The kitchen, once it's here, will be placed and fixed into position.
But despite the improvements, it's still far from finished and Dave is clearly expecting much more.
Ideally, we're hoping it's going to be all ready and furnished and occupied.
The bare minimum is a fully functioning kitchen, bathroom and heating system, really.
But we're expecting a lot more than that.
Vince is hoping that he's done enough to earn a stay of execution.
But after 17 years, will it be too little, too late?
I'd like them to give me three months and that way, I guarantee they'll be done.
But whether they will or not, I don't know.
-Hi, Vince, nice to see you again.
Because this visit is so crucial,
Dave is joined today by a council senior surveyor and an enforcement officer.
-You've got to bring all the plumbing into here, haven't you?
-It is actually on, though.
They meticulously tour the house, ticking off everything against the schedule of works
Vince agreed to complete by this date.
-This isn't fixed, is it?
-Yeah, they're on.
-They're not connected.
-I know that.
-Be careful of the plaster.
Having finished the tour, the three head off to make their final decision.
I'm just lost for words, really, because I was hoping I would be able to come out of the house and say,
well, in my mind, I'd be able to say one way or the other.
And I still haven't got that. There's still no kitchen in there, there's no bathroom.
He's claiming that he's living there, he says he's working on it 24 hours.
It's just such an enormous decision, taking somebody's house away from them.
I'm hoping it's just not a final decision and they'll say, "Yeah, you're OK to finish it."
I just hope they don't take it off me.
The authorities have given Mr Marciano a schedule of works to complete within three months.
If he falls behind at any point, the building will be purchased from him and become council property.
Dave hopes for a favourable outcome and will continue his mission to take on other neglected properties,
irrespective of what state they're in, and bring them back to occupancy.
Angel Guerra did exactly that when he fell in love with this 200 year-old church in Uxbridge
that had been abandoned for nine years.
I never got any keys, there were no keys.
It was all boarded up, it was a derelict building.
There was even a safe in here with no keys
and I couldn't throw it away without opening it, so I became a safe-cracker for a day!
As with any renovation, he first had to submit plans.
Only this was no ordinary project.
We had to wait for the Church Commissioners to deconsecrate the ground.
It took over a year to actually complete the deal.
The restoration, basically, started with the roof.
I thought I'd put a new roof on because obviously I don't want any water coming in.
A lot of stuff had been taken away.
The original features. But whatever was left here, I've kept.
I've saved all the pews, used them for different things.
Hand rails going up to the bedrooms, that's made out of the tops of pews.
The font was a really interesting piece which I didn't really know what to do with.
So I decided to have half of it in the passageway and half of it in the toilet as a sink.
So I made a little water feature on one side
and a sink on the other side, which seems to have worked out quite well.
It took him nearly 10 years to finish, and he has no real idea
of how much it's now worth, as he's no intention of selling.
In central London, you calculate stuff by square feet.
If you calculate this place five square feet, compared with the house
across the road, it would be worth over £2 million.
It's just a lovely place to live.
I don't think I am the owner, I'm the keeper.
The only problem I have is when I go to other people's houses, I think, this is a bit small!
But actually coming here, I feel like I've come home.
So it's taken a while to get there,
but it's a lovely feeling.
So if you long to turn an empty building into your future home,
here are a few pointers as to how to get started.
If you spot somewhere that looks vacant, check it with the council's empty-property officer,
who may be able to contact the owner on your behalf.
And check online for dates of forthcoming property actions,
as bargain empty houses often go under the hammer.
Fiona Power and her daughter, Caroline,
have been looking for a large detached house in the Chichester area for Mum to retire to.
Despite her generous £500,000 budget, the area we've been looking in is very expensive.
So I've shown them two empty properties to give her a chance of getting more house for her money.
The question is, did either of them capture Fiona's heart?
Well, the property in Havant, I thought offered a few possibilities.
I loved that house - if you could have picked it up and dropped it down somewhere else.
-I was really quite excited about the house itself.
-What about you, Caroline?
Yeah, the property in Havant, I absolutely loved the garden.
I thought it was a lovely space and a really nice property.
But I know that that's not really where you're looking to live.
It's not so much that, it was the fact that you went out into the garden and the noise
from the motorway hit you straightaway.
The A3. Yes. Well, we do need them, but they are a pain if you're living next to one, it has to be said.
OK, well, then we tried something a little bit different.
Further north, up in Midhurst.
Quite a challenge to figure out how it would look
at the end of the day, with the two semis that could become a big family home. Was it such a challenge?
I think the problem with that one is that you had used up all the budget just to buy the property.
And I thought it was probably a bit too high risk to assume you're going to get planning permission.
-OK, so what have you really learned, do you think?
-First of all, it's opened my eyes
to not being too confined to one particular area.
I've also found that the advice about what you could do and what it would cost
has given me a much better idea when I go to look at other properties, which I will do in the future.
Now, it can often seem like a frustrating journey
that will eventually take you to the front door of an empty building
that may indeed satisfy all of your needs.
But take it from me, if you get it right, it really is well worth it.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]