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I just wanted to buy a garden but had to buy the house!



Well, that's been an interesting few months! I've been hoping for the last 18 months to buy the side garden off my landlord (I've been renting there 8 years) and go straight to building. But, nothing is ever that easy! I was asked for plans, which required a bit of homework, an Architect or two and pre-planning. All worked out and I shared the sketches here previously. But when crunch time came the landlord found it too difficult to sell off part of the site as he had an existing mortgage on the house and I'm not related to him. Anyway, a friend suggested I buy the whole house & side garden, lock, stock and compost barrel which I duly did! 

Unfortunately that leaves me bereft of any savings as it was more than I was planning to spend. But, I've now got a house in my name (a first!), the site & side garden and a cunning plan to rent a room or two, save, get planning in 2018 and build in 2019, or so.... the bungee Irish property market allowing! 


For now I've access to the current house as an owner vs previously being a tenant. I've already gotten stuck into the following projects to build my DIY skills to prepare for the later build. I also attended a Home Maintenance course in the UK to get the basics. 



  • Renovate Master bedroom & Ensuite
  • Upgrade Attic insulation - added 200mm Knauf Earthwool insulation, water tank lid & lagging jacket
  • Installed 100% LED lighting, replaced a few fixtures
  • Blocked Chimney top and bottom (Gas fire hasn't been used in 8+ years)
  • Repair & repaint Soffits / Facia
  • Ran CAT6 for CCTV & wired internet to my bedroom
  • Replaced innards in two toilet cisterns with dual flush option
  • Lock upgrades throughout house


  • Renovate other rooms one by one (wooden flooring, standardize on magnolia wall paint)
  • Inspect and repair all ventilation ducts
  • Repaint Exterior 


The gas boiler is reasonably new and provides hot water and central heating in addition to gas cooking. I'm debating about getting a condenser dryer as the washing machine doesn't have any drying capability and it would save most but not all hanging clothes around the house to try. There are some clothes which would shrink so it won't remove all inside drying. I might have to get a TV, my first in 8 years if the new tenant wants one but a free to air package would make sense there. During the course of the DIY I drilled through a heating pipe three times, causing problems and my one of my cistern overflow pipes drained heavily onto the bathroom floor upstairs as it was never connected to anything. All good experiences! 


Back to the self-build. I now own the entire site including side garden. I've pre-planning "approval" and next need to finalize the structure and floor layout before going for full planning permission next year. Then I can start making decisions on the interior layout and purchase a few fixtures and fittings as I go along. Depending on the market and timelines I'd hope to start building in 2019 at the earliest. To finance this I currently plan to sell the current house, minus the site, rent the house back from the new owners and try to complete the build in that rental window and move straight in. 


Lots to think about and the current house needs a lot of TLC which will take the next year. It should build my DIY skills while also making it more attractive to future buyers. I'd love to get EWI and some solar going but can't justify the investment when I know I'll need all my savings for the build / professional fees etc. I'll be able to use the site value as a deposit with the bank but I expect things like windows and the timber framed kit will require up front payments. What's key is the timing of selling the house / closing the deal / being able to pay off the current mortgage and getting starting on the new build with a new mortgage. Lining that up with the lead time of the builder, timber framed kit and windows will determine the length of time I'll have to rent the existing property back. I could do the old caravan trick and I've a sister who lives nearby but living beside the building site lets me keep a closer eye on things and the noise/mess might provoke issues with the new owners / neighbours if they moved straight in. Plus there will need to be some realigning of the driveway and access to utilities which will cause disruption outside the existing house. 


I need to de-risk as much as possible but there's a lot of unknowns lurking out there. I hope to end up with a smaller mortgage than I currently have and reduce the term as much as possible so I can make some lifestyle choices after 10 years or so. 


The new house will be Passive or as close as I can get and I've a good Architect's practice backing me up. If I can nail the design and costs then it's down to timing everything and hopefully move in by 2020! 


In the meantime I've just to enjoy the house I'm in and do some DIY along the way.....




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Good idea to gain as much experience as you can before you start the 'big one'. Good luck with the project, I look forward to reading the updates.

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Great story, thanks for sharing.

Careful with the magnolia paint. Too much and you could end up accidentally making the house worth a lot more.

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Long road ahead - it's lot of small decisions leading to a very comfy end goal....hopefully! 


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