Turning up in the Cynon Valley to inspect a two-bed mid terrace house going to auction, BBC’s Homes Under The Hammer’s presenter Martin Roberts didn’t think the tour started too well. The house was on a very busy road through the centre of Aberdare and very noisy.
But the price of £38,000 made Martin feel a lot more positive, as did the fact that once stepping inside the house, the double glazing worked its magic and cut out most of the road noise and the front room looked to be in a pretty good condition too. Happy days.
Two reception rooms at the front, although one was very small so maybe a home office or playroom was the best option in there, stairs up to the first floor and then through to the rear of the home. And that is when it all started to get a bit confusing.
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There’s a jumble of internal windows, a corridor, a utility space and a small kitchen. There’s no external window other than a small roof window and just an internal one looking out over the internal utility room window – weird.
Martin says: “It all starts to go a bit wrong… you’ve got a sort of utility room there, and then a kitchen here which is just, well… somehow it just doesn’t work at all.”
Oh well, you can surely forgive a house one layout anomaly? But upstairs Martin almost has a meltdown as finds a few more. The confusion is not in the bathroom, that’s in reasonably good condition, and two bedrooms again seem to be fine, but then it goes a bit wonky again.
There’s a cupboard space in the corner behind a door that doesn’t make sense – it doesn’t seem to be within the boundary of the actual house. Martin says: “You’ve got more cupboard space than the house, what I mean is that it actually sticks out further than the house does!”
He wanders out in a state of confusion and onto the landing and becomes even more perplexed. He says: “What? Hang on a minute. You’ve got that window there but this (pointing to the landing floor) is not part of the house. Mmmmm!”
Martin then does his best Sherlock Holmes impression and wanders outside to the rear garden to investigate further. However, before he can work out the location of the mystery landing window, he is distracted by the huge wall in his face as soon as he steps outside, then the steepness of the steps and then the sloping garden and the precarious looking retaining walls.
He says: “Really? What on earth is going on? Lots of properties in the valleys of Wales have very steep gardens, being valleys that tends to happen. Retaining the garden though is often done better than this.
“Look, we’ve got all sorts of stuff going on here – I would be very worried about the stability long term this, of withholding this kind of weight – soil takes a lot of blockwork, takes a lot of big bags of stuff, and it’s a specialist job and I really don’t know how well that’s been done.”
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But then Martin gets distracted again and this time by the rear of the house – the main reason for being out in the garden. He says: “There’s more conundrums going on here.”
He points at the first floor landing window, then at the plastic roof on the ground floor below it, and says: “That confusion before about that corridor thing – look out here. Look at that over there. I don’t know whose that is, right, but I think it belongs to them (neighbours). But look over there (above the kitchen), I don ‘t think that is actually ours?
“So our bit is that bit, that bit is somebody else’s, that bit is probably somebody else’s, and you’ve got a window that looks over ours, which is flying freehold. I’m sure a solicitor would sort this out in maybe in a month… maybe six.”
The local estate agent was not fazed by the layout confusion, saying that flying freeholds and floating freeholds are fairly common in the area and a solicitor should be able to sort permissions out and clarify who owns what.
And the layout didn’t put Fleur off from buying the house at auction for £44,500 either. When she met Martin she revealed she was planning to transform it into her first buy to let property with a budget of about £5,000 and a time scale of between three to six months.
Three years later – yes three years not months, that’s not a typo – the programme returned and by the look of the half-painted exterior facade, the work is still not complete.
Was it the confusion of the layout that stalled progress for Fleur? No it was a new born baby as well as a daughter called Amelia to look after so the work could only be done after work and another property and on available weekends, plus Fleur started her own business and bought another property too.
But inside the house far more has been achieved, including a freshen up in each room with new flooring downstairs and a paint job in the reception rooms, new carpet in the upstairs bedrooms and a freshen up of the bathroom grouting and a good clean.
Fleur did hope to turn the smaller reception room into a third bedroom but this was not possible due to building regulations. But it’s at the rear of the house where the major transformation has happened.
Walls have gone so now instead of a dark and dingy kitchen, pointless corridor and small utility room there’s one big kitchen space. Plus the roof has been upgraded into a higher, sloping roof with the addition of two larger roof windows.
And what an amazing transformation there is in this room. With the extra height and light it looks so much bigger, and the new glossy red and wood style units, open shelving, metro tiles and light fittings have brought a touch of contemporary to the space.
Nothing has happened to the steep garden yet, but Fleur says she is planning to remove the grass and weeds and lay artificial turf so the new owner or tenant can enjoy having a BBQ in the outdoor space. The front garden is going to get attention too, with some new fencing and a gate planned.
The original budget was £5,000 but there was so much to do to the kitchen the budget spent was more like £10,000. The returning agent says the house is now valued at £85,000 – £90,000, giving Fleur a profit of between £30k- £35.5k.
And with a rental estimate of about £475 per calendar month, which gives a yield of 10.4%, despite the layout that upset Martin so much, Fleur has realised her dream of renovating her first property.
This story can be seen as part of series 25, episode 12 currently available to view on BBC iPlayer. And to make sure you don’t miss any property and homes articles, join our Amazing Welsh Homes newsletter here.