Deborah’s last project before and after (Picture: Deborah Marshall)
Deborah Marshall has bought, renovated and sold five houses in eight years with her husband Paul.
Over that time, the couple has built up thousands of pounds of profit, reinvesting the money from each sale into a new property each time.
The pair, from Yorkshire, are now sharing their tips to help other ‘house flippers’ taking on a renovation project to make cash.
Deborah, a carer who’s studying to be a podiatrist, and Paul, a joiner, have done the work alongside their full-time jobs.
Each time, they move into the house and live there while they do the work themeslves, to cut down costs.
Deborah and Paul (Picture: Deborah Marshall)
Deborah told money-saving community LatestDeals.co.uk: ‘We tend to choose houses that have been lived in for years and never been touched. We turn them back into homes again.’
Their latest project, a three-bedroomed 1930s semi-detached property, sold in a day, earning the husband and wife team a £45k profit on the back of a £50k total investment.
The bathroom before in their last renovation (Picture: Deborah Marshall)
The kitchen in the last renovation (Picture: Deborah Marshall)
The downstairs loo before (Picture: Deborah Marshall)
The proceeds from each sale are helping the savvy couple towards their goal of becoming mortgage-free, and to build their pension pots.
‘Many of the projects we take on need a top-to-toe refurb, but I like a challenge,’ says Deborah. ‘However, when the walls come down and there’s rubble everywhere, I can start to wonder how we’ll see it through. But we always do.’
During the work (Picture: Deborah Marshall)
While they like to modernise each property, they also like to make sure what they do works with what is there.
‘You need to have a vision and to be brave in your choices,’ says Deborah. ‘I make very careful updates that match the style of the home, as well as the type of buyer it will attract. But we always take a view that, if we don’t sell it, we’d be happy living there.’
The finished bathroom (Picture: Deborah Marshall)
The completed kitchen (Picture: Deborah Marshall)
The strategy includes a preference for contemporary colours that catch the eye.
‘Painting everything in a neutral shade is getting a bit boring now,’ she says. ‘I’m currently favouring black and navy blues like Frenchic’s Hornblower.
The downstairs loo was transformed (Picture: Deborah Marshall)
‘Our approach may go against more traditional advice to paint everything magnolia if you want to sell a property quickly but, in my opinion, those types of houses can sit on the market for longer.
‘People will appreciate it when you put your own stamp on a place and it’s evident that a lot of love has gone into it. Plus, bolder homes stand out more among the listings and buyers are more likely to request a viewing.’
The dining area (Picture: Deborah Marshall)
The staircase (Picture: Deborah Marshall)
The landing (Picture: Deborah Marshall)
Once they finish a project, it’s straight onto the next one.
‘It’s a bit addictive, like scratching an itch,’ says Deborah. ‘Although I may not be singing the same tune in a few months’ time when I’m wedged in a kitchen cubbyhole cleaning pipes.’
Deborah’s top 15 tips
Do your homework
You may need to sit at your computer for hours researching where you could find things a bit cheaper. Some people can’t be bothered, but this is how I save a lot of money.
I’ll happily spend an evening looking for the best deal on kitchen cupboard handles. It may save me just £50. But if I apply this money-saving approach five times during a project then that’s an extra £250 in my pocket.
Take a cue from the style of the house
To save money when renovating, always look to the style of the house, as well as any special features that you can make the most of, such as a chimney breast or high ceilings. Working with the house rather than against it will save you cash by avoiding any unnecessary changes.
Steer clear of structural changes, unless they’re essential
We try not to touch anything structurally, as it costs money. Plus, it saves the time we would have spent applying for planning permission. If you start knocking things down, or even want to switch out a window, you need to ensure you are doing it within the regulations.
If you’re working on your forever home, however, then I would advise making those bigger changes you know will be best for your lifestyle in the long run. Knocking down walls to create modern, open-plan spaces, for instance, is hugely popular, and with good reason.
Cheapest isn’t always best for budget
Buy the best materials you can afford at the time. We’ve plumped for real oak floors, for instance, at times when we may have been able to get away with laminate. But when you get the best you can afford, it’s likely to last you longer, which is ultimately better value.
People appreciate quality, so ensure your upgrades have a good finish. As the saying goes, sometimes you need to spend money to make money.
Don’t compromise on your dream kitchen
It’s always best to shop around and find a kitchen you really want. Never compromise, otherwise you will quickly get fed up with it.
Always get a plan drawn up, too. It’s free and it’ll show you how the kitchen will look once completed.
Also, never buy a complete kitchen from one supplier, unless you can get it cheaper by buying it as a bundle. I always get the exact kitchen I want, but I almost always leave the handles and the worktops out of the package, as I’ve learnt that I can save hundreds by sourcing these myself.
Look out for discounts
Wickes has a great range of kitchens and if you know someone who is signed up to Wickes TradePro and qualifies for an extra 10% off – my husband is, as he’s in the trade – then you may be able to call in a favour.
If you time your purchase when Wickes has one of its 25% sales on, and you’re getting an additional 10% on top, it’ll be worth your while buying all your appliances there at the same time, as you’ll make a significant saving.
Sales like that usually last for two weeks so you have plenty of time to research whether you could pick up certain elements, such as the handles, for cheaper elsewhere.
Bundle up your bathroom
For bathrooms, I like Victorian Plumbing, which sometimes has fantastic deals on complete bathroom suites that include everything except for the pipes. This offers a massive saving compared to buying everything individually.
Shop around for tiles, too. We have a few local independent suppliers that are very reasonable. Plus, you can often find slightly different designs in these sorts of stores, which may be just what you’re looking for.
Compare quotes for the specialist jobs
If the house needs any work done involving the electrics, gas or plumbing, then you’ll need to call in the professionals. We’re lucky, as we know lots of people in the trade. Ask around if you can and see if you can get mates rates through friends of friends.
If that’s not an option, make sure you get at least three quotes per job, so you can compare prices and work out what an average cost would be for the work. This will help you to make an informed decision.
Stick to the plan
Stick to your plan, especially if you are flipping, as it’s costly when you don’t. Once, we changed our minds halfway through a renovation and it massively upped the cost.
Keep an eye on knock-on costs
If you’re renovating a house that you’re living in, like we do, it’s important to factor in how you will cover any extra expenses, such as food when you don’t have a working kitchen or access to bathroom facilities when you water’s shut off.
Thankfully, we have family members nearby who accommodate us when needed. If you’re not so lucky, you may need to factor a few hotel stays into your overall budget.
Decorate from the heart
Decorative accents that make a house look inviting can make a big difference to its perceived value. I always like to hang a large mirror in the hallway, for instance. With this in mind, I have collected lots of antique gold mirrors from flea markets, garage sales, online marketplaces and even rescued them from tips.
They’re a win-win for me, as people give them away and you can update them easily by painting the frame. They always look good and bounce the natural light around.”
Furniture size matters
When furnishing on a budget, the most important factor is that the items are a great fit for the space. When selling a house, I will often offer to throw in the furniture for the same price I bought it for to sweeten the deal. It represents huge value for the buyer, as their current furniture may not work as well in the space – and the same goes for me if I have to move it all to a new house.
Charity shops that exclusively sell furniture are always good for a browse. If you’re patient, there’s always something you will find that you like.
When shopping, try to imagine how you want to feel in the space and buy accordingly. Be creative too – you may be able to paint the furniture or adapt a chest of drawers into something else entirely as long as it fits the space you want to fill.
Avoid money pits
People underestimate how much gardens cost to upgrade. Try and work with what you’ve got unless it’s an absolute tip.
Keep an emergency cash pot
We’ve started factoring in a contingency pot of money to dip into if needed. When you’re nearly at the end of the project and are really having to crunch down, that little bit extra can come in very handy.
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