Property series. Experienced house renovator Jules Hudson advises a couple who are expecting their first baby and want to move from London to Godalming in Surrey.
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Across the UK, there are nearly a million homes lying unloved and unlived in,
ready for someone to come along and give them a bright new future.
So whether it's a tired semi or a rambling mansion,
we're on a mission to rescue Britain's empty homes.
Now, in buying a new home, there is nothing more rewarding
than taking on an empty building and breathing new life into it.
Tackling a major renovation allows you to tailor the property
to your individual needs and, with any luck,
you could both save and make money along the way.
On the show today, I'm giving the benefit of my experience
renovating a disused house to a couple who are looking for their next home.
And introducing them to other homeowners
who have done amazing things with formerly vacant houses.
It's absolutely superb. I'd never have thought of doing something like this.
We'll also be joining an empty property officer
on a mission to bring dilapidated buildings back into use.
I don't like boarding properties up,
cos it advertises the fact that this is an empty house,
but it's something we've been forced to do.
The decision to take on an empty property
is not one to be taken lightly, but there's no two ways about it,
transforming something that's unloved and unlived in
into your new home can be incredibly rewarding -
but you do have to be up for something of a challenge.
Finance director Suki Cavendish and banker Carl Newman
are expecting their first baby and want to move from London to Godalming in Surrey.
Ah, that's really cute.
They want to find a house they can feather into a perfect family nest.
We're looking to move because we've got a baby on the way in a couple of months,
and we don't want to raise our baby in London,
so we're trying to move out into the sticks.
A bit of fresh air and find a house rather than a flat.
The pair have decided they want to buy an abandoned house
they can breathe new life into and for Suki, it's a lifelong ambition.
I've always wanted to do some kind of property renovation work
and an empty property, you've got the ability to do that.
Something that is an empty shell and a blank canvas
is something that I think will be ideal.
But where they're looking, even with their £450,000 budget,
they'll struggle to tick all their boxes,
which could be why they've looked at a whopping 40 properties
and are yet to see one they like.
Now sometimes when people can't find a house they're happy with,
it's because they're looking at the wrong type of property,
so to find out where they've been going wrong,
I sent Carl and Suki to have a look at a classic empty building
to try and highlight some of the issues they've been grappling with.
I want to see if Suki and Carl can spot the potential
in this 19th century, semi-detached house in the village of Compton.
With two bedrooms and the potential to add a third in the loft,
there's a good-size garden and plenty of period features.
Lots of character, lots of charm. Can't discount anything yet.
The previous owners relocated for work six months ago,
so it's been empty ever since and it's on the market for £365,000.
This would leave Suki and Carl 85 grand
to make any alterations.
And, with a bit of imagination, this place could be fantastic.
-It's small though, isn't it?
-It is a bit small.
Oh, dear! It looks like these two have spotted a problem
within seconds of stepping inside.
I'm a bit concerned about coming straight in,
no real hallway or anything, straight into the lounge.
-There's nowhere to put...
-Coats or wellies or...buggies.
Well, let's hope things improve in the kitchen.
May be able to get a washing machine or something in there, at a squeeze.
I don't think there's much space, though.
If you take out the units, there's only about three cupboard spaces.
Not a tremendous amount of space, with the stuff we've got.
-Yeah. Not big enough.
-Not big enough on the storage.
But there's plenty of square footage in here
and potentially, it could be a great family kitchen.
Let's see if the upstairs can fire up their imagination.
They'll find a reasonable-size bathroom and two bedrooms,
with plenty of room to extend into the loft.
-I don't know whether you could go into the loft.
-If you put stairs in,
-you'd lose half a room.
-That's even if you get planning permission.
It's a shame, cos it's a lovely house, but slightly too small.
The house is what it is. It's six rooms in total.
With clever planning, they could get a staircase in,
but I don't think they yet have the vision
to see what big changes can be made to an empty house.
Suki, very nice to see you. Carl.
'So let's convince them to look beyond any negative first impressions
'to see what they can achieve with an empty property.'
We sent you off to look at what I thought
was a very interesting empty property,
full of period charm and character. What did you make of that one?
It was very, very pretty and exactly the type of character we wanted,
but ultimately, it was a bit too small
and there didn't seem the opportunity to extend into a third bedroom.
What about going up into the loft?
It would be too difficult.
The space is big enough, but we'd have to chop into the bathroom
and build the stairs and we'd lose some space on the first floor.
You'll lose space with stairs,
but that's where your architect comes in to do that
as creatively as possible
to minimise the impact on the existing floor plan.
But my worry with you two is that you've looked at 40-odd houses and not one of them you've signed up to.
We've been looking at lots and lots of houses to see what styles we like and where the locations are.
-40's a lot though!
-40 is a lot.
-We've had some pretty busy weekends.
-I bet you have. Indeed.
I mean, what is it that you think you haven't found?
Quite a few have been done up to someone else's specifications.
We walk in and go, "Oh, I wouldn't have put the bathroom there",
or, "I don't like the way they've done the kitchen", or we want to move rooms around.
So there's always one or two things that don't quite tick all the boxes.
So what can we do for you, do you think, to inspire you to take this on?
What do you need to know and learn?
Just to see what's possible.
And the space. A lot of the properties we've looked at are in really good locations -
obviously more expensive - and don't have the space and that worries us a bit.
-So if we can do something in a smaller space...
-Get creative with the space.
What we're trying to do, I think, is to give you
some ideas and some confidence to take on something that's empty, to give you what you want precisely.
Because I suspect that only if you two create it, will it work.
Right. It's the bespoke nature that we want.
I think you've come to the right place.
We can introduce you to some interesting builds and
some interesting owners who can share their experience with you
and, hopefully, give you a few key pointers as to how you can make an empty property your new dream home.
-That sounds fantastic.
-They shouldn't be put off by a lack of space or a building's appearance.
Great things can be achieved with a little imagination.
When Dominique Brown and William Walsh bought their narrow boat in Bath in 2009,
they saw beyond its rundown state and cramped proportions.
We drove for two hours to get there to have a look at it.
-Fell in love with it.
-I don't know how, cos it was a state.
Yeah, we fell in love with the dream of having that...
-I think that's what it was.
Although they paid a mere £11,000 for the boat, things weren't all plain sailing.
We had a survey done on it after we'd bought it, which wasn't the best idea.
-We should have done that before.
And found that the entire bottom, the hull of the boat,
-needed completely re-plating, which was a lot of money.
Looking back on it, we should have done a bit more research than we actually did.
-We should have done, yes.
-This may not be a conventional property, but Dominique
and William's vision meant they created their perfect home.
The design, the things in a small space, was so much fun
because everything has to be multi-functional, multi-purpose.
The dining table and desk folds away.
Folding the bed up and putting it as a sofa, it's nice because
you instantly change from one room to another.
That's what we love, having the same space but it changes.
In the evening, we'll be having dinner
and think, "We quite fancy a change of scenery."
And so we literally move our entire home, our entire belongings, and then off we go. There you go, then.
We wanted the city centre lifestyle and we've got that,
but we've managed to have it on a very inexpensive budget.
We don't have a huge mortgage, which is very nice.
They've achieved all this for £45,000
and it's giving them the passion to do more renovations in the future.
The investment that we've put into this, we'll take into other boats.
So everything we've learned from here will then go on and we can do
another boat a lot quicker and a lot more efficiently.
-Cos funnily enough, we haven't been put off, for some odd reason!
It just makes you want to do it more.
And it's so nice to bring an older boat back to life as well.
Yeah. It's really sad to see one rusting away.
And it's quite an emotional thing doing a boat,
because it's not like a house. It feels like it has more personality.
Yeah, and history within it.
And it's constantly moving by itself, so I think it's nice to bring it back to life.
All over the country, there are teams of empty property officers
whose job it is to spot unoccupied homes and, hopefully, get somebody living in them again.
And in Enfield, north-east London, it's Dave Carter who deals with the borough's vacant buildings.
You've got to use your housing skills, your surveying skills, your investigation skills.
There's so many aspects to the job which appeal to me.
His patch covers an area of 30 square miles in the capital
and in the last five years he's brought 250 properties back into use.
Today we're off to a property which has been on my books for at least eight years.
The house, which has attracted antisocial behaviour,
was eventually the subject of a compulsory purchase order by Enfield Council.
Now it will be sold at auction, but before it is, Dave needs to make sure it's secure.
-How are you doing?
Re-nailing this window at the moment.
-Just to put the board back on and that.
I don't like boarding properties up cos it advertises
the fact that this is an empty house, but in this case we've been forced to
cos there's the chance squatters may attempt to break in.
So until we dispose of the house at auction, this is a temporary measure.
Hopefully, it won't put off too many buyers.
After eight years of work on this case, it's a crucial time for Dave.
It's the day of the auction, but several lots haven't met their reserve.
Third and final time.
All three of you are just a margin away on that one.
I'm always worried before the sale.
You know, you always think the worst.
Lot number 14. So vacant property here, requires modernisation.
Being sold by Enfield Council. I'd invite your bids.
Where would you like to start me on this?
Where do you want to be?
I can see you, sir. What's that?
Fortunately, the empty house Dave's dealing with has attracted some keen bidding.
-375. Thank you.
At 375,000 for the second,
third and final time. At £375,000.
Your house, sir, at 375.
The successful bidder is called Mr Kann.
Dave's eager to meet him and find out his intentions for one of his most problematic properties.
-Hello there. Nice to meet you.
-I'm fine thank you. How are you doing?
-Not too bad at all. So you were the successful bidder then?
-How do you feel?
-I feel great.
I would have gone a little bit more than what I already bid.
Don't tell me that! DAVE LAUGHS
So the big question is, what are you going to do with it?
I'm not sure yet. I haven't made my mind up yet, because obviously it depends on the background...
You'll need advice from builders and surveyors?
-Usually, I take my advice from my wife.
Don't we all? I'm just pleased that it's gone to somebody who we can work with.
-Thank you very much for your help.
I'm very, very pleased. The sale went through, that was the main thing.
It's not the end. It's sort of the beginning of the end.
But I can see light at the end of the tunnel
and, hopefully, in another three to six months, somebody will be living there.
Although it's been sold, Dave will keep his eye on the house to make sure it comes back into use.
We'll catch up with him later as he hands over the keys.
Suki Cavendish and Carl Newman's plans to renovate an empty home are on ice,
as they keep rejecting properties on the basis of things like cupboard space.
-Yeah. It's not big enough.
-Not big enough on the storage.
I want them to realise all these things can be changed if they use their imagination.
We've come here to something you probably wouldn't have considered -
classic, post-war, 1950s housing estate.
The great thing about these kind of builds is that they are absolutely blank.
-You can do pretty much whatever you like to them.
So we're going to introduce you to one of these properties
that is halfway through a very extensive rebuild
and let's see if that gives you a few ideas
as to what to do with a property that, on the face of it, may not be full of charm,
but could still be turned into a really interesting family home for you two.
From the front this three-bed house looks like a small, uninspiring box
and that's exactly what it was when owners Alistair and Alison Alexander
found it after it had been standing empty for months.
It was a bit shabby. Decor wasn't very good, I must admit.
Really old-fashioned, needed a good tidy up, needed a good clean.
But it had just that something about it that we knew... Well, I knew...
it could be a nice family home.
They're now halfway through a dramatic transformation,
having knocked down almost every wall
and added a large extension to the rear,
providing more space for them and their three children.
Alistair's doing an amazing job with a house most people wouldn't have given a second look
and he's creating a stunning five-bedroom family home.
-As you can see, still very much kind of work in progress, but that's the neighbour...
-And that is the new addition.
-It's a big extension, isn't it?
-It's quite a big extension. That's really impressive.
-In terms of scope and size, this is a different property from the back.
-Very much so.
-You wouldn't expect this from the front.
'It's an ambitious project with builder Alistair doing most of the work himself.'
-It's a nice house, isn't it?
-It's got good space
-for a table and family living.
How did you go about creating this space,
because I presume most of these internal walls were not like this?
You're right. None of them were like this.
We knocked down this wall here through the brick.
So you've completely transformed the floor plan.
Absolutely taken everything out. Gutted it.
Is there anything in here that survives from the original house?
There is only one wall that survives.
The original exterior wall.
So presumably then, above us there are several steel beams taking all the load?
-About ten different steel beams...
-Ten steel beams?
-..holding it up.
-You make it sound very straightforward.
Just give us a sense of some of the challenges that you've had to overcome.
Well, number one, living in it while doing it. That was a challenge in its own right.
The dust was absolutely horrendous.
When the kitchen went, it was a case of, "Right, OK, a few takeaways."
This has been a major job, which required a lot of careful planning.
What would be your top tips in terms of easing the passage of an application through the planners?
-I would always go larger than what you want to go.
-So if you want to go two metres out,
go bigger, cos if you do get knocked back by the council,
you know, you've already got in mind what your minimum would be.
-That's a great tip - a very, very sensible way of doing it.
It is a rewarding process rebuilding your own home. I think it is. I've done it.
It's really nice to know at the end of the day, you're just going to sit down,
just go, "Oh, just what I wanted! Just what I wanted!"
See, that's the trick.
What we've got to get you guys to do
is to see similar sorts of potential in a wide range of buildings.
They've looked at 40 properties and not been persuaded to buy one yet.
This is what we're thinking. This is what you need to do.
-You need to create your own space in exactly the same way that Alistair's done.
'Later, I'll be showing Suki and Carl
'an outstanding finished project that I hope will blow them away.'
But first, we're heading back to north-east London,
where empty property officer Dave Carter is meeting up with
the gentleman who successfully bid at auction for the vacant house
which had been empty for eight years.
It's been a month now since we went to the auction, so I'm going to see what plans he's got for the house.
Before Dave can hand over the keys to Mr Kann, there's just one final check for him to make.
Hi, Elizabeth. Has the money gone through?
How are you doing?
-Fine, thank you.
-Are you all set?
-Yes, I am.
-Your big adventure.
-Thank you very much.
-Shall we have a look inside?
By all means. I believe you've had an architect round.
A condition of the sale is that Mr Kann,
as the new owner, has to bring this four-bedroom house back into use within 12 months.
What have you sold me?
-I've sold you a nice four-bed family house.
-It's all yours now.
-A lot to do.
Having been home to squatters, the house is now in a terrible state,
so there's a lot of work to be done before it's back to a liveable standard.
First thing we have to do is clear up. I've ordered a skip for tomorrow.
Take all the rubbish out from the rooms.
Four skips, five skips.
Yeah. A fresh start completely.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, to be honest, no shortcuttings.
Just do everything properly.
Any thoughts about the boarding?
-Are you leaving the boarding up for now?
-I'll put security cameras in.
-Good. And then take the boards down?
Eventually I will take the boards down, but I won't rush taking the boards down immediately...
Given the history, I think it would be...
It would be silly to do that.
Any thoughts about what you're going to do with it once it's all fixed up?
I think we'll live here for a little while ourselves.
-That's the plan.
-We won't ask for the boards back. You can keep them.
-Oh, thank you very much!
Still a lot of work to do.
Obviously I've got to monitor it for the next 12 months,
but I'm confident it will be occupied well before that.
Since Dave handed over ownership of the house to Mr Kann, work has been under way to renovate it
and it should be lived in again within six months.
If you think you've got what it takes to transform an empty property,
there are various ways to find one.
You can contact your local estate agent and see if they've got anything vacant,
or try your local auction house. You might even find a bargain of a repossession.
Or, of course, you can also contact your local empty property officer.
Adventurous buyers looking to pick up a piece of history
should look at the English Heritage website.
Here you'll find a list of buildings registered as "at risk", some of which may be up for sale.
Suki Cavendish and Carl Newman have rejected 40 properties
in their hunt for a home for them and their soon-to-be-born baby.
They think an empty place may be the answer,
but so far this 19th-century semi just didn't have the right layout for them.
A bit concerned about coming straight in the front door and there's no hallway.
'I'm trying to persuade them to be more open-minded about the kind of properties they look at.
'They were impressed by what the owners were doing to this formerly empty house.'
It's a big extension, really impressive.
But now I've shown them what CAN be done,
I want to show them a transformation that I think will really amaze them.
-Well, it's not that one.
-It's not that one.
-It's that one.
-That is amazing.
-Well, it used to...
-Did they knock it down and start again?
That looks nothing like it!
But the core of that building is still within
that seemingly brand-new, very contemporary structure.
-That looks really good.
Hugo and Jude Tugman bought this three-bedroom, one-bathroom,
detached house in Twickenham back in 2003.
When I first walked into the house,
it was pretty ordinary in all sorts of ways.
It was really shabby and dog-eared and the kitchen was really grotty.
But the moment we saw it I got really excited
because I could see instantly the possibilities that we could do to change this.
Both architects by trade, they've taken a 1970s carbuncle
that had been empty for more than a year
and given it an 18-month extreme face-lift.
In you come.
-How about that for a staircase?
Yeah, that's nice, isn't it?
The Tugmans have managed to transform their abandoned house into a contemporary home
with three bedrooms on the first floor
and a master suite in a newly created loft conversion.
-Hi. How are you?
-Now we are all rightly wowed by this property.
-It is quite something.
When you first saw this place, before you tackled it, what did you think?
-Because it's a pretty uninspiring picture.
-No, I thought, "Spot-oh!"
I thought this is absolutely...
Immediately I could see loads of opportunity to do things.
I mean, I look around me and I cannot recognise the building that you bought.
There are some original features. Some external walls are there, aren't they?
The four outside walls are the same four walls.
The windows are in different positions, there's been extensions,
but the four walls are basically the same.
Even though it's not a massive square footage, footprint, it actually looks much bigger.
Essentially it was a 7.5 metre square plan
and we've still got that plus a couple of extensions.
It's not a huge footprint, but you have created this illusion
of a much bigger property. How have you done it?
What we've tried to do here
is create zones, create clear zones, so it's open.
We've got a study zone, kitchen zone, living zone, dining zone.
The dining room, if it were surrounded by walls,
would feel like a dining room, but because it overlaps into there and there, it feels bigger.
We've talked about your search for a period property and storage is a problem.
No, storage is absolutely key. Everyone has loads of stuff, there's no getting away from it.
If you want a clutter-free environment, you need loads of storage.
This is inspirational. Whether we modernise a period property like this is another matter,
but we do need to get creative and create storage in a period property if we ever went that way.
Perhaps the most incredible thing about this building is that Hugo
has achieved all of it without having to get planning permission.
Instead, he's done all the work using something called Permitted Development.
Tell us a bit about Permitted Development,
because it's a black art to some people, but, clearly, everyday to you.
Yeah, it's an incredibly useful thing.
Every house has Permitted Development rights -
automatic planning permission for things up to certain limits
without needing a planning application.
-You can do a ground-floor extension
up to a certain number of metres from the back wall.
You can do loft dormers as long as you don't go higher than
the highest point of the roof. All these sorts of limits.
If you know the limits, you can go TO the limits and we pretty much did here.
Potentially now worth £1.1 million,
Hugo and Jude have maximised the space available,
creating a cutting-edge, four-bedroom family home.
-This is terrific!
-Wow! That's pretty good!
-It's amazing, isn't it?
An en suite with a difference, Hugo.
What an earth gave you the idea for that? I have to say, I love it.
Well, essentially, it is just a loft conversion and it's not all that big.
So trying to maximise the effect of the space, it made sense
-not to sub-divide the bathroom from the bedroom space and just have them all as one.
-It's very different.
-I'd never have thought of something like this.
We met a builder today. Now we've introduced you to an architect.
This is all stacking up to really facilitate your next project,
but what would be your parting words of advice to Carl and Suki?
Well, first of all, I'd say don't think anything's impossible.
You can do pretty much anything.
Yes, of course, there are realities. There are limitations to budgets,
limitations in practical terms left, right and centre,
but don't restrict your thinking.
I guess it's a sign of the physical and creative ambition that you've brought to this property
that you've been able to tear up the assumptions that most of make about buildings?
That's right. It's important to be free with the way you think about what's possible.
I really hope the Tugman's place has finally convinced Suki and Carl
that regardless of a property's appearance, anything can be turned into a unique home.
So, you two, we've shown you two quite different properties -
-one in progress, one spectacularly finished, I think we'd agree.
What are the key lessons that you'll take away from today's experience?
That you don't need to keep the look of the house.
What you buy doesn't have to look the same once you've done it up.
It can look completely different and overhaul the whole property.
Well, for me, I think it would be the confidence to actually give something a go.
Beforehand, you might have had a crazy idea
but not necessarily the confidence to speak to people and see how feasible it was.
So do you think we've been able to help unlock your imagination, Suki?
I think so, definitely. Particularly with the last property,
because what they purchased doesn't look anything like what's there at the end of the whole process.
So what happens next?
My parting question for you.
Well, we have to have a baby first! THEY LAUGH
I think initially we wanted to try and do something before the baby arrived,
but it was taking time and I think we'll have to wait until after the baby's arrived and reassess.
-But it hasn't put me off, personally, or I think you either...
..to tackle this in the near future.
Let us know how you get on, but in the meantime,
very best of luck with the birth and here's to your new home and new family.
You know, I'm always surprised at the range and number of empty properties that are out there
and, of course, by what people are able to do with them.
We've had the chance to show Carl and Suki two very inspiring properties
at differing ends of the financial and creative spectrum,
but, importantly, I think they've armed them with a new sense of confidence
to tackle a project of their own.
And when eventually they do, I think they're going to go about it with a great sense of fun.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Finance director Suki Cavendish and banker Carl Newman are expecting their first baby and want to move from London to Godalming in Surrey.
The pair have decided they want to buy an abandoned house they can breathe new life into - and for Suki it's a life-long ambition.
But where they're looking, their 450,000 pound budget means they will struggle to tick all their boxes, which could be why they've looked at a whopping 40 properties and have yet to see one they like.
Experienced renovator, Jules Hudson, sends them to see an empty 19th century semi-detached house in the village of Compton and introduces them to a couple who've taken a previously empty 1970s carbuncle and given it an 18 month extreme facelift, transforming it into a stunning contemporary home worth 1.1 million pounds.
Interestingly, they have pulled of this major renovation without even having to get planning permission, using something we all need to know about called 'permitted development'.