How to find a cheap dilapidated property to buy and renovate (2023)

It's the dream that could allow those on a budget to finally own bricks and mortar:find a house in ruins, buy cheap, renew and then live there or sell at a profit.

If you choose your home wisely (good location, good performance, etc.) and stick to your remodeling budget, this really is a great way to get your foot in the door.propertystairs.

However, there are pros and cons to moving house and it can be difficult to know where to start if you are afirst-time buyer.

Don't worry, we're here to answer all your questions, starting with the main one: where and how to find a dilapidated house to buy?

Where and how to find a dilapidated house to buy

There are several ways to find abroken home in need of love.

Search online, talk to local realtors, or — and this might sound a little morbid, but it's a legitimate strategy — look into probate properties (homes owned by someone who has recently died).

"The first thing to do is talk to local attorneys and asset management companies to see if they have properties for sale," Rene Lynburge ofUp untiltells us the local East London estate agent.

“In many cases, these properties are not modernized and, in some cases, they are degraded.

'After that, it's worth calling your local estate agents. You may find out that they are, in fact, selling such properties, but you haven't seen them online.

“This could be because they don't include all property images in their listings so as not to spoil the aesthetics of their websites.”

Your best bet for finding a property that fits your needs and budget is to do some research.


"Finding a dilapidated home relatively cheap to renovate is a numbers game," says Paul Gibbens ofbuyers4u.

‘The more real estate agents, auctioneers or even friends in the industry you have/search for, the more likely you are to find one.

'Not only that, but the more you look, the better you'll be at locating the gems that can net you a big win.

It's worth taking a look at online portals like Rightmove or local newspapers, as many homes are listed on these platforms. Also, don't forget to visit specialized sites such asproperty to renovateand collect a property.

(Video) How I Renovate My Rental Properties | BEFORE & AFTER

"Also, you can look up foreclosed homes online and buy them for a good price, as long as you have the funds."

Another smart way to secure a cheap property is to find it "off the market".

"A lot of people would be surprised how many properties are actually being sold 'off the market', meaning not listed on sites like Rightmove and," Cory Askew,ChestertonRegional Sales Manager for central London.

“The only way to find out about these properties is often through local real estate agents or doing your own detective work to identify the owner.

“That detective work usually starts with the Land Registry website, which you can use to see when the current owner bought the property and how much they paid for it.

'Former local authority/council properties often present good development opportunities as they have generally been well built but often a bit neglected, but buyers should be aware of some restrictions lenders have on these types of properties, especially concrete buildings on a certain number of floors.

The best areas in London to sell property for a profit

This is a tough one because in all areas of London you can make a good profit on a sale and this can vary street by street or postcode by postcode in certain locations.

But central and central prime offer less opportunity and greater risk (but on the other hand, greater reward as well), explains Cory.

He says: “The twin streets of south east and south west London are full of development opportunities where there is often an aging population in traditional neighborhoods looking to downsize.

"These may not be 'wrecks' per se, but are likely to offer opportunities for extension and development and still be run by street lenders."

How to buy a property at auction

“Property auctions are also a great place to find homes that need repairs,” adds Rene.

"They're a quick and decisive way to get rid of property, which is why you'll find abandoned properties often sell this way."

Do your research: Most auction houses will publish a catalog of available properties about a month before the actual auction, to entice potential buyers.

Each house will also include a Guide Price and a Reserve Price, but these can change up to the day before the auction, so keep up to date.

(Video) We paid $5,000 for this house | Before & After Renovation

You can also bid on a property before the auction, but it's a risky move as it shows you're interested (and can drive up the price).

Now for the logistics.

Don't just go in and bid on the property that "looks" the best - do your research and read the fine print.

Check out how much other properties in the area are worth and how much you can earn by renovating the house and selling or renting it.

Ask yourself: is it worth it?

And how is the market? Will you be able to sell the property quickly once you fix it up?

"No matter where you're looking for homes to renovate and sell, it's important to have a strategy," says Paran Singh, a consultant atICT financing.

Bond Wolfe Auctions' June online auction had a 98% success rate, with more than 3,000 bidders in an unprecedented event, with some homes selling for more than twice the reference price.

“On the other hand, many lenders have increased their borrowing to value limits in response to Covid-19, which can make selling a property much more difficult once repaired.

“While housing demand is going nowhere, economic insecurity will continue to make things difficult for sellers, so a solid strategy will be essential.”

Don't forget to have a property inspection and request a legal package from the seller for your lawyers to review.

Pros and cons of buying a property in poor condition


  1. Blank canvas to put your brand on a property
  2. Not everyone has the vision and inclination to renovate a property, so it may be less competitive than buying a recently refurbished property.
  3. It might be a good way to climb the property ladder.


  1. It often takes some knowledge of the property to understand the costs involved in renovating.
  2. It can take a lot of your time
  3. If the project involves a lot of work, you will not be able to live there, and therefore you will have to rent a property while paying the mortgage.

Advice from Richard Adamson, partner and auctioneer ofall.

(Video) How to Find Renovation Properties

And the mortgage?

"If you are willing to buy a shabby and dirty house, you could be getting a great deal, not only is it a great option it can also be a great way to buy at a rock bottom price, reduce stamp duty costs and eventually add value," says Richard Hayes, CEO and co-founder of the online brokerage,Mojo Mortgages.

“However, the most important thing to consider is the cost. If you're looking for a property that needs everything done, your first job will be to do the math.

Determine, as much as you can, how much work you want to do will set you back. Projects like dilapidated houses require nerves of steel, so you need to be very realistic about costs and always budget more than you think.”

If you don't have themoneyflow to pay for a property of right, take out a mortgage called an Agreement in Principle (also known as a Decision in Principle).

It's essentially a piece of paper that states how much the lender is willing to lend you if you buy a property.

And don't forget to take out your property insuranceprior to money changes hands, so you're covered from the start.

“The problem with buying with a mortgage is that the lender is likely to be more risk averse and less hasty than you are,” adds Cory.

This can hinder your ability to complete a purchase quickly and therefore make you a less trustworthy buyer in the seller's eyes.

Cash buyers are generally more successful and often mortgage the property as soon as the transaction is complete and when there is less time pressure.

Completely unmodernized remnants that are not considered "habitable" (i.e., without a kitchen or bathroom) are often not mortgageable or limited to development finance, the terms of which are considerably less attractive than an outright residential mortgage.

“However, vacant properties in London are always in high demand and are likely to maintain value through market ups and downs.

“Some of the best acquisitions I've seen over my career have been ones with a development angle. But be warned, aspiring developers on tight budgets will also need to have a very good handle on development costs and programming pitfalls to really benefit from such a purchase.

“Buying a wreck at the right price is only half the battle – getting design and development wrong can quickly erode the legacy value at purchase.”

Talk to local real estate agents and find out what buyers often ask for and if it's something you can add to your current budget.

Ask yourself: what will add more value to the property?

Is it those beautiful but expensive marble tiles you want to shell out a few thousand pounds for, or is it a boring but necessary bathroom upgrade?

(Video) What It's Like Renovating Old Apartment Buildings

Launching a property is a lot of work, but it can pay off in the long run.

Prepare yourself, both mentally and physically, and get started.

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