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Across the UK, there are nearly a million homes lying
unloved and unlived in waiting for someone to come along
and give them a bright new future.
So whether it is a tired semi or a rambling mansion,
we are on a mission to rescue Britain's empty homes.
If you have ever wondered why some properties
sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds,
while others in the same street lie empty, this is the show for you.
We are revealing what is behind the boarded up
windows of Britain's abandoned properties and discovering how they
can be turned into dream homes by those brave enough to take them on.
Today, I will use my experience of renovating an abandoned building
to help a couple decide what to do with the tricky house
they have just bought...
Clearly in need of a bit of attention!
..and introducing them
to experienced renovators who can pass on valuable advice.
It makes you happy to be in a light house.
We will also be on the beat with an empty property officer investigating
houses in need of help.
I can see from the cobwebs here,
doesn't look like this door has been entered in a while.
Buying an empty property and renovating it,
isn't just a good opportunity to flex your creative muscles,
it's also a fantastic way to get on the property ladder
in a desirable location and at a price you can afford.
Craig Taylor who owns a window cleaning business
and his wife, Lucy, a cafe manager,
had been looking for a dream home where
they could start a family for three years.
We were quite open-minded about what we wanted.
We didn't mind if it was a new build, old build, bit of land.
Finding a bit of land was really good, but it was hard to find.
Despite a healthy £700,000 budget, sky-high prices in the
Oxfordshire villages where they're searching meant they struggled to find the right place.
With the news that Lucy was pregnant, they've taken the plunge
and are just about to complete on the purchase of a bungalow that's been empty for eight months.
It will be nice to have a big garden with the baby on the way.
We are limited on space here.
We are on a big housing estate.
It will be nice to walk out into fields,
take the dog and the baby and just have some space.
'With little experience in building work,
'I hope I can reassure them about their plans for their new home.'
This is quite a number!
'The bungalow they are buying is in the village of Harwell in Oxfordshire.
'It has access to both the front and rear which could be handy
'because it looks like there is a lot to do here.'
It is in need of a bit of attention.
Is that what it said on the agent's particulars?!
-Unique fixer-upper was missed out!
-It is obvious that everything needs to be sorted out.
You can do my job. Give me the house tour.
'Craig and Lucy have snapped up this two-bedroom project for £190,000
'and it is in need of a complete overhaul.'
Challenging is the word I would use to be fair!
-This is as bad as it gets.
-What is this going to be?
-This is our lovely living room.
Yeah. It is your classic post-First World War prefab bungalow.
These are all timber on a bit of brick, presumably?
How long have you had to think about this one?
-When did you get the keys?
-There aren't any keys!
-We only completed today.
-Welcome to our new home.
-I feel I should congratulate you.
Thank you very much!
I am also feeling the nervousness about this one.
-What do you reckon? You are about to have a new baby.
-I'm a bit nervous.
We are quite lucky in that we can stay in our home as we are
whilst we are doing this.
-You can get on with this.
-There will be no caravan.
We can stay put and Lucy can enjoy motherhood
and she can see the progress.
This is big stuff
if you have never taken on anything this big before.
-It will be fun! You've got to have some fun!
You've got to have a challenge.
-That's your kitchen.
-And the bathroom!
'This certainly is a challenge and outside things aren't much better.'
-That used to be an old stable.
-He had horses.
Behind there is Del Boy's car!
What are you going to do with this place?
I think to be honest, demolition.
-Demolition. Knock it down and start again.
'Now, I would rather see a building saved rather than demolished.
'But while Lucy and Craig could salvage some of the structure,
'I think on this occasion, they are doing the right thing.'
It's hard to see really how you would save any of that,
or why you would bother.
-Got any plans?
Yes. It will be four-bed with a study and...
-Large kitchen-diner and living room.
-That's Lucy's bit.
You have got what you want, the large kitchen-diner,
-you have a study.
-Yes. You get what you want. You have to have a go.
'But the old bungalow will live on in some form as Craig and Lucy plan
'to copy the original lay-out making additions where planning will allow.'
My concern is that you have never taken on anything this big before.
I think if we get you to have a look at a couple of renovations,
one of which is in progress
so you get the sense of what the building is all about,
and one which is finished to give you some design ideas,
hopefully you can take lessons from those and employ them in managing this project.
It is a great idea. I love your excitement for it.
-It is brilliant.
-Let's get digging!
For somebody like me who is passionate about renovation,
seeing a building like this one decay to such
an extent that it is unsalvageable is heartbreaking.
The lessons involved in any successful renovation
underpin any successful new build, exactly the sort of project
that Craig and Lucy are going to take on here.
There is a lot to learn and they will have to learn in a hurry.
No-one knows better how tough it can be than Irena Murray,
who took on this former dilapidated barn conversion in Nottinghamshire.
Like the place Craig and Lucy have bought,
this was far from a dream home when Irena paid £226,000 for it in 2007.
I could just see the huge potential of it.
Although it was a cart shed that had been badly converted in the '80s,
it looked like a boring bungalow.
The fact that it had been previously converted from a barn
there wouldn't be a planning issue, so it was fantastic.
To try and get this transition between indoor
and outdoor space, there are several things you can incorporate -
the folding sliding doors which can really open up the space.
Try to have that all on one level so it is a seamless transition.
Trying to take the materials through from outside to inside.
I have used porcelain tiles here and they're carried through and then I've used cedar decking.
Cedar features on the fascia of the building as well.
So trying to continue those materials to get that
continuity is important.
Using lots of greenery as well in the outdoor space.
Greenery is nature's colour. It is restful, peaceful.
Irena set out on a renovation costing £195,000
and has created a truly bespoke home which was made possible
because she had the vision to take on a challenge.
The merits of the building are that it's not a huge footprint,
but it appears much bigger than that in terms of the volume
of each of the rooms because I have taken it right up to the ridge.
But also I love the quality of the light.
The bedrooms are all east-facing so they're getting the right quality of light.
The joy of it really is in the flow of the spaces.
I certainly don't feel as though it is a retirement bungalow.
I'm not old enough for that, not just yet!
House-hunters aren't the only people taking
an interest in abandoned homes.
Local councils employ empty property officers who try to get
derelict buildings back into use again.
One such officer based in Amber Valley in Derbyshire is Sue Li.
She is charged with managing the council's 900 long-term empty properties.
In the last year, she has found new owners for more than 100 vacant buildings.
It's great when you see a property that's been looking unloved
and you are able to help make it somebody's family home.
Today, Sue is on a new investigation.
I'm going to have a look at a property where neighbours
have complained that it's potentially empty.
It's starting to look quite overgrown, there may well be vermin,
so I'm going to have a look and see if their complaints
are justified and see if there is anything I can do to help.
The neighbours of this house believe it has not been
lived in for three years
and feel its rundown appearance has a negative impact on their street.
Oh gosh, this wall is bulging quite a bit!
Sue needs to establish if anyone is living at the address.
I have a knock. Make sure there is no answer.
No. Post has been cleared to the side.
I can see from the cobwebs here doesn't look like this door
has been entered in a while.
It doesn't look like a normal maintained garden.
The guttering is quite overgrown.
These are quite typical issues associated with empty properties.
Lack of maintenance basically. It starts to look unsightly.
The local residents become quite dissatisfied with it.
It is an eyesore.
It lowers the tone of the whole road.
It is a shame because it's a very nice house.
To get a proper picture of the place,
Sue needs to take a closer look at the rear.
Fence panel is missing. Overgrown.
A rotting shed. Lots of vegetation.
Plenty of hiding places for vermin.
Looking at the state of this, I don't think anybody could
have got to the house from this entrance as well.
So I am pretty confident this isn't a property that somebody lives in.
She will now get in touch with the owner to ask them
to improve the appearance of the house.
If they don't do that, then there's a few options we can look at.
Firstly, as the council, we could do that work ourselves.
We could charge that to the owner and ask them to pay our costs.
If they don't do that,
then we could look to enforce sale of the property to recover those costs.
we could look at compulsory purchase for any empty property.
That would always be a last resort for the council.
In fact, since Sue's visit, the owner contacted her
and has said they will make improvements
and they plan to move in when the work is done.
If you like the idea of buying a derelict property and renovating it,
you may need to think carefully about how you are going to fund it.
Depending on its condition, you may find it hard to get a mortgage.
So unless you are a cash buyer,
getting some good financial advice is a good idea as early as you can.
With a new baby on the way,
Lucy and Craig Taylor have bought a virtually derelict bungalow
which they are planning to knock down and rebuild from scratch.
With no experience of serious building work,
I am taking them to meet other homeowners who have
taken on similar projects so they can get first-hand advice.
-Right, what do you think of this? Classic barn conversion.
-Looks big. Looks very nice.
It is very big. They have made it much bigger.
When they started, this is what they found.
Turning that into that has taken two years.
Right. Come and have a look.
Having lived in the Buckinghamshire village of Grendon Underwood for 13 years,
Robert and Kate Dukes had driven past this old barn hundreds of times
unaware that one day it would become their home.
We had always kept an eye on it knowing it was more or less
a derelict barn.
We were delighted when we got wind of the fact that it was
going on the market.
I think it is lovely to give what was quite a sad building as well
this whole new lease of life.
The couple bought the barn two years ago for £275,000
and rather like the place Lucy and Craig are about to take on,
they pretty much started from scratch.
They have kept the barn's floorplan adding their own design details to transform it.
They moved in earlier this year
but still have a few finishing touches to make, like landscaping the garden.
-Nice to see you.
This is a perfect opportunity for Craig and Lucy to pick Kate's brain
and get as many tips as possible before they embark on their build.
-Amazing. It is huge.
-There was nothing here at all?
No, we basically, the timbers are the original timbers.
We rescued every bit we could.
I think one of the things about this barn is that it's got lots of lovely design tricks.
There are no radiators in here, we've got underfloor heating.
is that something you would think about with yours?
-What about powering it?
We have been looking at heat source pumps if we can.
We went for an air source heat pump.
Ground source is the best.
It was too big an outlay to start with.
We are so pleased with the air source, it is brilliant.
That is interesting.
-This is the kitchen.
-The shape is amazing.
Can you see this curve here.
I think this is the really clever design bit.
That is very impressive. Did you design it all?
Yes, we had an architectural designer who came up with
the idea of the curve.
-Everything else was chosen and designed by us.
-That is lovely.
-Lighting is an interesting one.
This had no lighting design that you could follow
and your build is exactly the same.
Figuring out what kind of lights, where you put them,
you know, plug sockets, all those sorts of things,
you've got to think that one through.
There's some lights in the floor there which at night shine
up along the beams.
That is nice.
They are right by the beams there, set into the floor.
-That is all you need at night in here.
-That is interesting.
That is a really nice touch.
That is something we could all do and retrofit. Nice.
Is it easy to change your mind halfway through about your plans?
Is it easy to say, "I would like to change that"?
I think it is.
If you're working with an architect, you need to have a good relationship with them.
As long as it doesn't affect the planning permission that you have
been given in the first place, there is nothing major, you should be OK.
If you get good tradesmen,
sometimes they will suggest things to you that you hadn't thought of
and perhaps practical elements that will make your life easier.
Let's look outside at this lovely window from out here. I love this.
Lovely with the curve.
Can you give us a couple of top tips that you have picked up along the way?
I suppose the first thing I would say is decide
what your priorities are, what style of house you want and stick with it.
And the other thing, one of our priorities was light.
It makes you happy to be in a light house.
-It's a real credit to you, Kate. It is gorgeous.
Every building has its own personality and character and this one is no exception.
It is packed full of interesting design ideas
that often say as much about the building as the people that live in it.
I am pleased to say that I really think it's inspired Craig and Lucy
to take some of those ideas into their own new-build,
just as I hoped it would.
Later, I will be taking them to see a finished project which I hope will
show them the hard work involved in a renovation can pay off handsomely.
Before that, back in South Derbyshire, empty property officer Sue Li
is off to check on the progress of one her success stories.
I'm driving to look at a property that the council was going to
compulsory purchase because we couldn't find an owner.
We traced one and it's been sold and the new owner is renovating it.
I can't wait to see what he's done with it.
Set in a village in rural Derbyshire,
this three-bedroom terrace had been the subject of probate
before being bought by its new owner, Mr Partridge.
-Can you see a bit of a difference?
-It looks transformed already!
-Come and have a look round.
-This is the lounge.
There was the old-fashioned 1960s fireplace there, we have
knocked that out now and put the old-style fireplace back in again.
-It's made it very light.
-It is. It is so different.
We're still working through this.
-I think this again is transformed since you last came?
It's been a very big challenge.
The property had ivy growing out of the window,
both windows upstairs and downstairs.
The ivy was pushing the panes of glass out of the frames it was that bad.
It was in total dereliction. There was no central heating.
The bathroom suite was 1960s. So old, so decayed.
It's been a total renovation.
This is the bathroom.
Such an improvement on the last one. It was very tired. Very worn.
Having stood empty,
the house had been a cause for concern for neighbours.
This is a very friendly street and I think it was always felt
sort of a bit sad seeing this house just empty and deteriorating
so it would be lovely to have someone else coming in and joining us.
You have addressed all of the repairs that needed doing to it
to bring it up to standard.
But you have used your imagination as well. It's fantastic.
This is just what empty properties can be about.
The potential that they have got. It is wonderful.
-It's houses like this that make my day, really is.
For Sue this is a really positive outcome
and another case off her books.
Now up for sale, the house will hopefully be someone's home again.
'Craig and Lucy Taylor are expecting their first baby
'and they are about to tackle their first renovation.
'They have just bought a derelict bungalow which they plan to transform
'so I'm introducing them to experienced renovators who can equip them with some tips.'
Hi, nice to see you.
'Now I want to show them a beautifully-finished project which
'I hope will give them the confidence to forge ahead with theirs.'
-Now, what do you reckon to that?
'When Richard and Pauline Andrews first saw this
'bungalow in Thame, Oxfordshire, it had been empty for months
'and wasn't much to write home about.
'They snapped it up for £285,000 and although it was rundown,
'like the one Craig and Lucy have bought, they have taken
'a radically different approach by keeping the original building
'and adding to it with a cutting edge extension on the side.'
You see where we're coming from on this one?
They have now today got the keys, deeds, call it what you like -
keys are probably irrelevant with your building -
to their own prefab but post-First World War, I think, 1920s or so,
which you are going to demolish and knock down.
-Effectively that is what you have done here?
We have sort of built around it because we were able to
stay in the bungalow while all the work was carried on around us,
so that saved us having to go into rented accommodation.
It has taken us six years so it's probably just as well!
Don't tell her that!
She is hoping he is going to get this done in 12 months!
You have more motivation to get on with it if you are not here.
There is another great motivation -
if you knock the building down completely and start again, you don't pay
any VAT on any of your materials, labour, all the rest of it.
-That is not bad.
I will be picking this man's brains later.
That's exactly what you're here to do.
'The new extension has allowed them to create a four-bedroom three-bathroom home.
'The result is stunning.'
-This is lovely.
-This is the new bedroom block.
It is partly let into the ground enabling us to have much more accommodation.
The section beneath the ground is almost irrelevant in terms of planning conditions
and a very useful trick that people are using.
Ever thought of sinking or burying part of your new construction?
Not until now!
It is much more contemporary than I thought it was going to be.
I love the glass, makes it look so open and light.
I am taking everything in and thinking what ideas
I can pinch from these people!
'That is just what Craig and Lucy should be doing here,
'picking up great ideas to take forward into their build.'
-What do you think?
-I can see this happening on your plot.
-Especially these doors.
I have had a couple of quotes and they vary a lot.
It is things like that, you think it is worth spending the money.
They are the things you are looking at day-to-day
and that is where the detail is very important.
Now we are getting a few more design ideas, can you paint me
a picture of what your new house is going to look like?
Big open spaces, lots of windows.
We had talked about compromising on having big picture windows
at the back if we ran out of money.
Now, seeing it, it is more important to me than not having it.
Already, I suppose one's financial priorities are changing to some of these final finishes?
-Let's look through here.
This is the very latest bit of the property, the last bit?
Yes. We finished this four weeks' ago.
Is it steel frame with a timber insert?
It is very simple window frames which form the three walls
and then there's two steel coloured goal post arrangements
and then a simple flat flying out roof covered with stainless steel
that gives you that canopy to sit outside.
Most garden rooms that you see come off the property that way,
whereas yours goes the other way and you have all this light coming in.
It opens the view.
Have you thought about that because on your plans,
there is no suggestion of a conservatory?
It is something we were thinking of putting on at a later date.
We hadn't considered a sun room like this.
What key ideas have you taken away from this one, you two?
The sun room. Something that I would love to have.
Sun room, and the great use of open space and light coming right through.
-It does make it feel warm and very inviting.
Yes. I can't wait to see your plans when you get home. They will be scribbled on and rubbed out!
Can you give us some parting words of advice as two people
who have gone through the new-build process effectively?
Remember, have a goal at the end and keep your mind fixed on that.
There will be low points. There will be times when you think,
"I wish I had never done this" Keep the enthusiasm up.
Don't be fooled into thinking it has to be a functional building on a plot of land.
Make it as fun and as quirky as you can.
I really hope that seeing this place has fired up Craig and Lucy
to go ahead with their empty property project.
Guys, it seems a long time ago since we visited your new purchase
and, again, congratulations, are you still excited about it?
Very excited. It's all very real now.
We can get on with it and push on and get stuck into things now.
-Lucy, you said you were daunted this morning?
-How are you feeling now?
-Still a bit daunted, but excited.
-I haven't lost that.
-That is the main thing.
Anything that is going to make a difference, any changes after today?
Absolutely. We were going to have a conservatory at the back
but I'm thinking a sun room with a solid roof now.
So that has given us a good idea.
Both of our properties today have been very extensive
and expensive as well.
How do you feel about project managing and managing the books now?
Who is going to take care of that?
That will definitely be you.
It may have to be, after some of the toys we saw today,
Lucy may need reeling in a bit!
We will see how far we can make the money go.
Maybe the 12 months time spell may have to be stretched.
Here is to you. Best of luck. Congratulations on your new home.
There is no getting away from it, Craig and Lucy
are taking on a huge project and to be fair,
they do seem a bit daunted by it and you can't blame them.
This is a massive undertaking bearing in mind
they have never done anything like this before.
Hopefully, after today, they are feeling a bit more inspired,
armed with a new sense of confidence to make the next 12 months
just that little bit easier.
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