top of page

Hidden Gems or Renovation Projects? Spotting Potential in Older Homes

When buying a home, it pays to have a little imagination of what a property could be rather than what it looks like now.

If you’re able to look beyond bad décor or peeling wallpaper, you could bag yourself a bargain that other buyers will overlook.

Not only does creativity help you save money but it’s also exciting to consider what a home might become with a little innovation and elbow grease.

There are plenty of ways of adding value to a property, but when it comes to purchasing an older home, it can be difficult to know what’s a red flag and what you can work with to boost your ROI.

Old house porch

Check the Structural Integrity

Structural issues are a common problem in ageing properties, so if you’ve fallen for an older home but are concerned about the foundations, it’s well worth the time and financial investment to have it checked over by a professional to make sure the property doesn’t become a money pit.

Signs of structural problems might be roof issues, sloping floors, signs of water damage and cracks in walls.

Many signs of structural issues are easy to spot – it’s simply a case of checking how advanced the problem is and whether it’s financially viable to fix.

Don’t be Put Off by Cosmetic Details

Superficial problems like worn out floors, chipped paint and peeling wallpaper, or even old fixtures are common in an older property but they’re incredibly easy to fix, often without requiring a lot of money.

Cosmetic issues might make an older home seem like a bigger renovation project than it actually is, but it pays to learn how to look past them because they don’t take long to fix and can help you grab a bargain that other viewers might be put off by.

Old homes

Consider the Location

Just as when buying a new property, location is important. Consider where the home is in terms of public transport, amenities, schools and other essential services.

An old home in a desirable location isn’t just convenient for you as the current owner but it also makes the property more saleable in the future, which is great news if you plan to flip the home later on.

A well-placed property will make your investment all the more worthwhile so don’t overlook this important factor when looking for a home with potential.

Make Sure There’s Planning Permission

If you’re planning big renovation projects, such as extensions or loft conversions, you’ll likely need planning permission so make sure that the property has potential for planning before you buy.

You don’t want to invest in a home on the basis of doing it up, only to find that you’re limited by permissions.

Extending a property can significantly boost its value, so it’s a key factor to consider when assessing the potential in an older home, but you don’t want to be limited by what you’re able to do based on regulations.

London homes

Check What’s Possible from Neighbouring Properties

Inspiration is all around us and that couldn’t be truer than with property renovations.

If you’re looking at an older home but unsure which renovations to make, a good starting point is the surrounding homes in the neighbourhood.

The age of the properties nearby are likely to be similar and owners may have already modernised their homes, so seek out inspiration from them.

It’s also important to look at the surrounding land – is there enough space for you to extend as far out as you want to or are you better building up and converting the upper levels of the home.

Can You Improve the Energy Rating?

An older home may have a lower EPC rating but this isn’t necessarily a deal breaker when you’re looking to buy.

In fact, it may be relatively easy to improve this, and in turn the value of the property, simply by making a few strategic enhancements.

For example, adding a new heating system or modern boiler, insulating the loft or adding cavity wall insulation, and replacing single-glazed windows with double or triple-glazed alternatives can all make a huge difference to the energy efficiency of the home.

Inspect the Electrics and Plumbing System

Electrical and plumbing systems are often outdated in older properties, but this can pose a problem for modern living and appliances.

To save yourself the headache of costly repairs in the future, it’s worth checking the state of these systems before you buy.

It’s an opportunity to modernise the space and add value to your property for the future, but it also makes the property safer too, particularly where wiring is concerned.

Check for Opportunities to Update Landscaping

Outdoor space is just as important as what’s on the inside, not just for extending the home.

An older property may have neglected landscaping that will look daunting but likely has potential for improvement.

With a bit of work, there’s ample opportunity to enhance the kerb appeal of the home and impact its overall value simply by cutting back overgrown trees and shrubs, mowing the lawn or adding a patio or decked area for entertaining.

Check for any Japanese knotweed, as this is an invasive species that can impact the saleability of the home.

In fact, it’s virtually impossible to get financing for a home where Japanese knotweed has been found. If it’s identified after the fact, you’ll need to call in an eradication expert to get rid of it properly.

Older homes are so characterful and they offer enormous potential for putting your own stamp on the property.

But it’s important to conduct due diligence and carry out thorough research to make sure you’re not taking on an insurmountable project.

With professional advice, proper planning and plenty of care in the changes you make, you can tackle a renovation project with success and add value to an older home.


Jenny Kakoudakis likes to blog about interiors. She launched the award-winning Seasons in Colour in 2014. When she is not chasing criminals out of the financial system (her day job), she gets creative by redecorating her own home.

Download her free bathroom renovation guide here.


bottom of page