Property series. Presenter Jules Hudson helps two aerospace engineers who are on the hunt for a wreck of a house with real potential to turn into their very own marital mansion.
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There are nearly one million homes lying lost and abandoned in the UK,
waiting for someone to put life back into them.
So whether it's a tired semi, or a rambling mansion,
we're on a mission to rescue Britain's Empty Homes.
It's many a person's dream to escape from the rat race and find
a derelict cottage or a rundown barn that they can turn back into a stunning family home.
But often the reality of renovation is far away from the romantic idyll.
'Today, I'm going to share my knowledge of renovating a wreck
'to help a couple work out how big a project
'they're prepared to take on.'
We know when we are out of our depth. We are pretty close to being out of our depth!
'I'll introduce them to other homeowners who have taken on ambitious rebuilds
'so they can learn from their experiences.'
I've loved seeing how you have made this so crisp and sharp and modern but it works
so well with the old bits.
'Plus, we follow an empty property officer, charged with
'finding residents for rundown residences.'
Cobwebs, all the way up, it's never been opened in a long time.
Buying a house is far and away the biggest purchase that any of us
will ever make.
But the idea of spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on a building
that's tired, derelict and pretty dated may seem like a bit of a gamble.
But, provided you're prepared to put in a bit of hard work,
it's a leap of faith well worth taking.
Nick and Laura Tipper are both engineers in the aerospace industry.
They tied the knot three years ago and now they want to find a house in the countryside near Preston
to turn into their very own marital mansion.
We're passionate about properties that we can put our mark on.
The period properties that we've been looking at have not been
cared for and need help, just need someone to take care of them.
They're not afraid to get stuck in and get their hands dirty.
Laura did a plastering course
when she couldn't get a plasterer one weekend.
She got cross and went off and did a plastering course.
And then plastered out the utility room when she got back!
Nick did a tiling course. He's already tiled the whole bathroom!
They have £500,000 to buy and do somewhere up.
But there's one small flaw in the plan.
You look at some properties and you think, "We could do this in here."
We've looked at some others
and you think, "I haven't got a clue where we would begin in this house
"to make it work as a 21st-century home."
Hi, Nick, nice to see you. Hi, Laura.
'I'm here to equip them with some know-how and confidence to help tackle their renovation.'
It's really nice to see you here up in Yorkshire.
Quite an endeavour that you're thinking of undertaking.
Give me a sense of how you've got to this point.
Well, about three years ago,
we bought ourselves a Victorian semi-detached house and we have
knocked some walls down, put new kitchens in and new bathrooms, and we've enjoyed that.
We're keen now to do something a bit bigger.
Give me a sense of the sort of building that would be of interest to you.
We're in a town now, and it's a nice town,
but we'd like something with a bit more space and land.
The bigger the better, the more interesting the better. As long as we can do it with the budget.
I get the sense that it's the scale of the project that will sell it to you.
Whichever building you fall in love with, it's going to have to be a real whopper.
Yeah, we don't want another decorating,
get a new kitchen and bathroom and it's done project. We've done that.
On the face of it, this sounds very doable for the pair of you. Quite gung ho, if I might say so.
There must be some real concerns underneath it?
The real underlying worry is that there is some aspects that we haven't thought about.
The schedule gets blown apart and consequently so does the budget
because you come across something that you didn't envisage.
-The can of worms scenario is the big headache?
We can give you a few tips and tricks, you've come to the right place.
'I'll be introducing them to couples who have taken on projects similar
'to the one they're planning.'
Nick and Laura seem to have the enthusiasm to tackle
an empty property, but I'm keen to see if they have a real eye for it.
Without me there to guide them, I'm sending them off to have a look at
a fantastic if daunting example of the sort of thing they could take on.
The question is, will they fall in love with it, or will they run a mile?
Oh, look at that. Look at that!
-Oh, my God.
-It's in the hillside.
This fantastic Victorian pump house building is in Cranshaw Booth.
It's covered in plants and ivy.
Completely shrouded by woodland and a cloak of nettles,
the building sits in the grounds of a local manor house.
-This is amazing!
-It's got tonnes of windows. One, two, three, four...
Seven doors, windows?
Yes, there may be plenty of windows, but for £299,000,
-there's no electricity, no gas and no running water.
Unless you count the damp running down the back wall.
There's stuff coming down from up there!
Look, it's like an arched tunnel! Has it been like a drain?
Some sort of washing type thing?
There's a lot of sort of heavy plumbing round here.
Were they storage pits for things...
OK, given we don't know what it is, what do we do with it?
What could you do? We have these columns. It's one big space.
Blast these columns, and make them... They're all rusted.
How does it become a living area?
Crucially, there is planning permission to convert it into a four or five-bedroom house.
But can Laura and Nick spot the untapped potential?
I am blown away by the building. It could be something really special.
I'm struggling to kind of make that leap as to how you do it well.
-It is a bit overwhelming.
-It is absolutely vast.
If you put a sofa in here, it would be lost!
You're trying to think how you make it into a four-bedroom house
without turning it into a bunch of boxes.
I can see these two were slightly overwhelmed by the pump house and are struggling to see it could be
a truly remarkable home,
but I'm hoping they won't be put off just yet.
Lots of questions to be answered. Definitely, one to pursue?
Yes, definitely something to pursue.
Very excited about it, the more I think about it.
The renovation required here would be a major challenge
even for an experienced developer, let alone complete novices,
so I want to make sure that these two are not getting in over their heads.
Now, you said you wanted a big, monumental project,
so we sent you off to have a look at that old pump house.
Quite a number. What did you reckon?
It was a bit of a shock when we first saw it.
You still have in your head that it will be an empty home,
not just an empty structure that was never a home.
But it grows on you pretty quickly.
I get the sense that this building isn't just of interest,
-this is a real goer?
-Definitely. We're very excited about it.
As soon as we had done looking at it, we looked at the planning permission
and we tried to figure out what we could and couldn't do.
I mean, this will take some vision
to turn this into something that will fulfil a family home?
We know when we're out of depth and are pretty close to being there! LAUGHTER
Yeah, we want the challenge, we want the risk, but this is pushing the boundaries a little bit.
Let's get you off to see a couple of projects at various stages of renovation.
One very much at the beginning, one at the end.
We can meet the owners and, hopefully, it will arm you
with a few things that you will need to take this one on.
It's a really exciting project.
'Taking on a complete wreck is a major undertaking and Nick
'and Laura will have to be prepared to be in it for the long haul.'
Just as Roy Gaskill found
when he bought Westwood Lodge near Manchester back in 1995.
When we found it, it was actually all overgrown so you couldn't see
as much of the property as you can now.
Immediately, I thought this is the place
for me to buy. It was what I wanted all my life.
He may have paid a reasonable £90,000 for the lodge,
but there was one major stumbling block.
The hardest part with the property was getting the planning permissions.
-The red tape.
-That is the hardest part of it.
It took five years to get permission to carry out the renovation.
He and wife Yvonne have carried out an extensive renovation on what
was a semi-derelict building.
It was just really like living in a cave.
There was no paint on the walls.
Obviously, the floors had been lifted.
It was just horrendous, you know.
Even just to be able to make it habitable
took a matter of quite a few weeks of hard work.
Following a £100,000 spend on the transformation,
Roy and Yvonne now have a home worth more than £600,000.
It's nice to know that it's got that value in it, but in one respect
it doesn't mean a lot, cos it's our home and we're going to stay here.
We have put so much into it, it would be very hard to move on.
The kitchen is my favourite room.
I find it wonderful, to just sit there and look round and think,
"Gosh, from what it was, to what it is now, it is like a palace."
It used to be derelict. Now it's a home, and it's our home.
It's a really nice place to come home to.
I would do another property again.
I don't think you have that much time left!
-That is the problem!
-The mind is willing but the body has gone.
I'm now 59 and I think if I was looking to spend
another 15 years on a property, it would take me past my sell-by date!
Often houses sit empty and decaying
because nobody actually knows who owns them.
In many parts of the country, it's the job of a person called an empty property officer
to find out whose name is on the title deeds, to try and track them down
and, with any luck, get the building back into use again.
In Nottingham, the man on the hunt for new owners
for disused buildings is Andrew Vickers.
It's very satisfying seeing derelict properties returned
back into use as family homes. That's the goal.
After 30 years in the police force,
he joined up with the city's housing department
where he's managed to bring 350 properties back from the brink.
I particularly enjoy tracking people down,
tracking empty home owners down.
I pride myself on having a high success rate in finding them.
I would say it's roundabout the 99% mark.
It's an impressive track record and today he's been called
to another empty house by a concerned neighbour.
I want to see the complainant and see what the situation is with the garden.
This detached house is on a quiet residential street
and, as yet, Andrew has no idea who owns it.
Drawing on his years of experience as a policeman,
Andrew needs to look for any lead that could provide a clue
-as to who the owner is.
Cobwebs all the way up it. It's never been opened in a long time.
Lean-to outhouse full of jam jars. Perhaps she liked making jam.
This is the garden that's causing the problem.
It's got brambles and obviously it's had years of neglect.
True to form, probably home to foxes.
Andrew has found the house empty, so goes next door
to meet the neighbour who made the complaint.
-Where are the foxes getting through?
-They come from that side and they have created a hole down there.
Every time I block it up, they move the bricks.
They will, they are powerful diggers.
They dig away at the ground and they will move those.
There's a shed on the other side
and I bet they have an earth underneath the shed.
Dense brambles on the other side.
Is there anything that the city council can help me with this problem?
We treat the foxes as wild animals and try to deter them
rather than exterminate them.
What we need to do is trace the owner to get that garden sorted out,
to get the shed and the fox earth sorted out, get it blocked up, to deter them and drive them away.
The overall thing is to get to the bottom of the ownership of this house.
He's got a problem with foxes, you can see where they have been digging.
The garden is densely overgrown with brambles. It's a mess.
It has newspapers piling up at the door.
Andrew is no nearer to discovering the identity of the house's owner.
But he prides himself on hunting people down.
With his track record to uphold, we'll catch up with him later to see how his investigation is going.
If the idea of taking on a wreck without a roof or windows
floats your boat, there are a couple of places where you can start your search.
Local estates and auction houses are a good place to start.
You can also try some of the charities, like Save Britain's Heritage,
or the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.
Both of them carry lists of properties crying out for a bit of renovation.
Nick and Laura Tipper are after a project.
They've seen an old Victorian pump house they think
could be turned into their perfect home.
I am blown away by the building. It could be really special.
'But their lack of major renovation experience could be
'holding them back and they aren't sure whether to go for it.'
Come on through. 'So I'm going to introduce them
'to a couple who have done this sort of thing before in the hope that
-'their experiences will inform and inspire.'
-Pleased to meet you.
As far as wrecks go, they don't come much more ruined
than this agricultural building near Skipton, North Yorkshire.
David and Karen Shuttleworth, are farmers
and have had the property for years.
But until recently, they had never given it a moment's notice.
We hadn't used the sheep pens for seven years and they were derelict.
There was a lot of nettles and thistles around it. It was a mess.
Everything was to do to it.
This place will be lived in by their extended family.
It's a long way from completion, but should give Nick and Laura a sense
of the scale they're contemplating taking on.
I love it.
The stone windows, the reveals, the sills.
Have you designed this yourselves?
The windows and the sills, they all came
and I had a look at them, and I said, "I don't like them,"
so we sent them back to the stonemason
and he chamfered the edges off a bit more.
We want to make it look good, cos we're looking at it every day.
As it's never been used as a dwelling before,
Karen and David have started from scratch.
When you build a house in the middle of nowhere, getting mains gas,
electricity and water is a big consideration
and needs to be planned to avoid any unexpected problems.
Did you have to bring utilities in?
They're not on site, but there was a development going on down the field.
They've got electric, so we have sorted out with them,
which would have cost us £20,000 if we hadn't had that opportunity
to get the electricity to there.
Now it will cost us just over £1,000.
The guys were worried about opening the proverbial can of worms.
A bill for £20,000 is exactly that.
That's the sort of thing that worries us,
that sort of unknown quantity that just kills your budget.
'With this build, the Shuttleworths
'have meticulously planned everything down to the last detail.'
I love what you have done with the big sandstone blocks.
What's the idea here? Are you going to plaster up to them?
It'll be plastered and then painted in between the blocks.
'They have also thought about how future residents may use the house in years to come.'
That big gap, what is that?
That will be a dining room. We did put that wall up.
Because we've made the house sort of wheelchair-friendly,
in the event we don't need it as a bedroom, it can be an office, the dining room, a play room.
It depends on the people that will live here.
Was that a planning constraint, the disabled access?
No, it is something we wanted to incorporate.
And pushchair-friendly, we've widened some of the door ways.
If anything happened to David or myself or David's parents,
it needed wheelchair access, it's always there.
It's better to do it when you're building it rather than retrofit.
It is interesting to stand here and hear what you are saying about
the forward planning and be in the middle of that forward planning.
It is not just looking at a drawing, you have really thought about it.
Both in the sympathetic nature it sits in the landscape,
and practical nature of building, it's fascinating.
This really is a major project.
I wasn't sure whether Nick and Laura would be put off by the scale.
Look at all the mess and the mud and unexpected costs that can crop up.
But so far, so good.
They're still pretty gung ho, which is good news.
As for David and Karen, they're creating a building
that will look as at home in this landscape for the next 200 years,
as the fields around it. I love it!
Back in Nottingham, empty property officer, Andrew Vickers,
is continuing his investigation into the house he was called to earlier.
In order to solve the vermin problems,
Andrew needs to trace the owner of this vacant property.
I have various tools that I can use to help me.
My first one is access to our council tax data.
In this particular instance,
the council tax data wasn't able to help me.
They indicate that the owner is deceased.
Not letting this stop him, his next port of call is the Land Registry.
The Land Registry reveals that the title, the registered title
reveals that the owners seem to have Eastern European names.
Now that he has a name,
Andrew can tap into the sources of a genealogy website.
It's ideal for people interested in tracing their family tree.
But equally, it's useful for Empty Homes Officers
in tracing births, deaths and marriages of people
who may be the owners of empty properties.
The website provides a breakthrough.
The beauty of this Eastern European name is, it is unusual.
It only brings back 14 of that surname in the entire country
and there's only one in Nottingham and he died in 1995.
Andrew now needs to get hold of the death certificate,
which will give him some vital information.
The person who reported the death is usually a next of kin
or someone close to the deceased who may be dealing with the estate.
In this case, the house.
His trip to the city's register office
throws up a surprising twist in the tale.
The death certificate has informant details
who only lives three doors away from the actual empty.
Great. Good result.
It turns out the person who registered the death
of the owner of the empty house lives just a few doors away.
So Andrew heads back to the same street to see if anyone is at home.
Well, that's disappointing.
No reply. I've left a calling card.
If he doesn't call, I'll chase him up. I want to get this moving.
I'm hoping he might be able to point me towards who's dealing with this house.
It could be a firm of solicitors, extended family,
or it could be family in her homeland.
The death certificate says she was born in Lithuania.
So there's a possibility that this investigation may go overseas.
It's an unusual and slightly frustrating case, but progress has been made
and Andrew is hopeful that he'll track down the owner before too long.
Nick and Laura Tipper have seen a fantastic but daunting ruined Victorian pump house.
Oh, look at that! Look at that!
They'd love to buy it, but are worried they might be biting off more than they can chew,
so I'm trying to give them the confidence they need to put an offer in
and have introduced them to a couple in the thick of an ambitious renovation.
'Now I want to show them why these projects are so worthwhile.'
-Have a look at that.
This is how it was originally.
It's just a bit different.
When Karl and Janet Zaldat
found this old, agricultural building in Woodplumpton in 2001,
it had been out of use for two years.
It was a barn, there was chippings in the lounge.
It was full of cobwebs.
The space was there and the fabric and the build of the place
would really make something decent.
They started out with a very clear vision
which helped motivate the transformation into a unique home.
Come on in. ..Nice to see you again.
'Having snapped up the building for just £65,000,
'architect Karl and his wife Janet spent £160,000 on the renovation.'
-Lovely wood ceiling.
It's no longer a mess, it's no longer a nearly tumbled down barn.
-It's what we hope is a very nice home.
-It's our home and house which we made our own.
'The Zaldats were inspired by the work of the famous early 20th-century architect
'Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The results are outstanding.'
-Do you feel like you're living in a museum?
We just love the design of the furniture.
We already had some pieces so we wanted to use them
and enhance what we like.
This is our (but it's my) dressing room.
Next to the bedroom...
-..I've made a storage space on both sides.
Then another door, to let the light through from outside,
another door with the panels on.
-I'm going to come in this way and keep exploring.
-It's great this. Karl, you must never tire of it?
-Not at all.
It's a pleasure waking up thinking this is ours.
What would be your top tip as an architect,
for Nick and Laura taking on a building which is historic
but has to be radically transformed to provide a modern home?
You've got to be honest with yourselves of what you want,
what spaces you want and how you're going to live in it?
See it as a home, not just bricks and mortar.
I've loved seeing how you've made this so crisp, sharp and modern
but it works so well with the old bits of the building.
'By taking on an empty property,
'Karl and Janet have created a bespoke home that fits their lifestyle.'
I get the sense that as an architect you must have lapped this one up.
-This is you doing your thing?
-It is. I'm probably my worst client!
I'm that pernickety trying to get the detail right, thinking should it be here or there?
-Did you do that at the drawing stage?
You probably poured over your drawings again and again until you isolated that detail.
We even had a cardboard model, a card model, to show us the scale of it.
-This is planning, you know, in some measure.
We're already thinking of how you live in the space
and where you'd want electricals and plumbing,
just making sure you get those details done ahead of time.
'I hope that seeing this place has given Nick and Laura
'the confidence they need to take on the renovation
'of that incredible pump house.'
We set out this morning with you saying we're up for a major project.
Have we put you off big projects?
-No, not at all.
-Not at all.
-It's gone the other way?
-I think so.
We have a bit of confidence, we're thinking about the right things.
I suspect, if anything, you're feeling that bit more inspired?
Absolutely, that's what we are going to do and we've set our hearts on the pump house at the moment.
If it turns out that the pump house isn't for us, because it's too much, so be it.
We're not going to find out unless we pursue it.
What would you say are the three key things you've taken away from today?
The end of today and seeing what Karl and Janet have done here
is really inspiring, how they've created a whole space,
a whole coherent thing that's more than the sum of its parts.
That really inspires me to try and emulate that in some way.
I think having the vision, some of the things
that David and Karen were saying about putting in the wheelchair access ahead of time
and thinking about how people are going to use the space
so even though they're not going to necessarily live in it,
they're designing it with an idea of how it's going to be used as a proper home.
The key thing is planning. It's all about the planning that Karl and Janet here demonstrated.
The level of detail they put into their planning before they did any building work at all.
We'll take that away. It's really important for us with the listed building, the pump house,
to get it right on paper before you even start, get all the permissions in place,
know what you're doing before you start.
That certainly is a big project.
You have it running through your veins that this is what you want to do next.
Whether it is the pump house or not, it's going to be fantastic.
-Best of luck and let us know how you get on.
-Fantastic. Thanks very much indeed.
It certainly can take a lot of nerve to take on a building
that doesn't have a roof, maybe is missing one or two walls not even a water supply.
Certainly renovation can feel like you're pouring money into a bottomless pit.
Hopefully, today, we've managed to prove to Nick and Laura that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
If they DO take on the pump house,
I'm sure when they finish with it, it will be truly remarkable.
'Since I met up with Laura and Nick, they've put in an offer which has been accepted.
'If all goes to plan,
'they'll be working on their own renovation very soon.'
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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Nick and Laura Tipper, both engineers in the aerospace industry, are on the hunt for a wreck of a house with real potential to turn into their very own marital mansion.
Jules Hudson is on hand to give them the know-how and confidence they need to tackle a big renovation; sending them to view a remarkable abandoned Victorian pump house and introducing them to the owners of an old agricultural building near Preston which has been transformed into a unique home, inspired by the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.