Tracy Kellett Reveals the Virtues of Ugly Houses

by : Tracy Kellett

Chalet bungalows, A-Frame houses, ex-council properties and 70s-builds top the list of home hunters most hated: the dismal dwellings that estate agents dread having to market and must plead with buyers to go and view.

Although savvy home seekers are now adept at seeing beyond ugly interiors, (if I just whip out that avocado bathroom suite and skim over the Artex this place will be great etc etc), most still fail to realise that they can externally overhaul a home as well. This is why, as a professional home finder, I often drag my clients to view properties that, on first impression, are less than pleasing to the eye.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not obsessed with stinkers. It makes my job a whole lot easier when I can accompany a client to a veritable beauty parade of des res's. But sometimes, for whatever reason, it is just not possible to fulfil all of a home seeker's property dreams and we have to start thinking outside of the box.

Love the road, but can't picture yourself living in a bungalow? Raise the roof! Appreciate the large bedrooms, but don't want to come home every night to a flat-fronted 70s box? Add a porch; change the windows, grow a creeper up the front; build a characterful extension.

If you're still not convinced, think about this way. In my experience, an ugly house can sell for up to 40 percent less than a more traditionally good looking home in the same location. On a property costing ?200,000 this could represent a ?80,000 saving. On a ?500,000 property, there's the potential to pay a whopping ?200,000 less.

There is profit to be made from properties in need of serious external loving care. There will be limited competition from other buyers and, lacking kerb appeal, they are likely to have been on the market some time. You are also unlikely to find yourself in a bidding battle for a house that's been whacked by the ugly stick and will be able to negotiate the vendor down significantly on the asking price.

Ugly homes are not only a good option for developers vying to make a quick buck. If you're planning to buy a home you can make your own, an ugly property can grow up alongside your family. One of the beauties of investing in an ugly home is that your money will go much further. And as long as you buy on a good street, any improvements you make over the years will almost certainly more than pay for themselves in the long term.

Exterior makeovers are still, on the whole, the territory of developers and investors, who can spot the potential to make a quick buck out of reversing a property's limited kerb appeal. Developers trade on the fact that many home hunters greatly over-estimate the costs involved in giving the outside of a property a face lift. In fact a good exterior designer might just be the best friend a developer could have.

George Hesse from Back To Front Exterior Design said: 'There is no average exterior makeover cost because there is no average property. But to give a couple of examples, you could turn around a two-up-two-down terrace for roughly ?10,000, whereas a bigger detached house could cost ?50,000-?100,000 to overhaul.'

George cites new windows as the most essential element in resculpting a property's exterior and improving its looks and resale value. 'Choose timber and avoid plastic,' he advised. 'Timber lasts a life time, is the best thermal break and can be supplied in a wide range of lovely, subtle colours.'

However sometimes, a house is just too ugly and the kindest thing to do can be to demolish it and start again. Clients can be extremely surprised and more than a little dubious when I first take them to see a knocker-downer. But once we've gone through the figures, they can see that demolition could be the perfect 'out of the box' solution to their home finding quandary.

How to remedy an ugly house:

(1) Adding a porch to a very flat house brings instant character.

(2) Rendering or stone-cladding can cover ugly or mismatched brickwork or dated pebble-dashing.

(3) Painting the exterior brickwork is a simple remedy for a tired house.

(4) Changing the windows can give a sad house a new lease of life.

(5) Growing creepers up the front of a house gives instant kerb appeal.

(6) Replacing a dormer with a proper loft conversion can add valuable square footage as well as bringing a badly-extended house back to its former glory.

(7) A garden makeover may be all a property needs to give it a glow.

(8) Fitting a whole new roof is not as expensive as you might think.

(9) Or simply replacing concrete roof tiles with slate or clay ones can immediately improve the appearance of a house.

(10) If all else fails, consider knocking it down and starting again.