Isabelle - Wimbledon
Within a few years, Isabelle and her family managed to transform a three-bedroom “diamond in the rough” in Wimbledon Park into a beautiful and functional home. Benefits like a location they had fallen in love with and a choice of good schools made up for a property in a complete state of disrepair. But, in Isabelle’s view, “if it’s got good bones you can add pretty much everything else”.
1. What made you choose the area you currently reside in?
I grew up in Camden, and my husband grew up in Croydon. We wanted somewhere in between but to be in London. Our friends had moved to Surbiton, and we liked that the Overground was direct to Waterloo, but as we wanted to be more central, we started looking around Earlsfield and found Southfields, which was a lovely area and also on the tube line. We purchased a 1/2 bedroom maisonette in Southfields, where we had our first daughter and moved one stop down further along the tube line to a three-bedroom house in Wimbledon Park when we were expecting our second.
2. Do you believe an area guide would have been beneficial in helping you choose a neighbourhood to live in? If yes, why?
Definitely! We knew no one in the area and had to suss it out ourselves. A guide would have been very helpful and would presumably have led to a more informed choice.
3. Did you purchase a freehold or a leasehold? And why?
For our maisonette, we purchased it as a leasehold but bought the lease along with the upstairs maisonette to become a share of freehold. It felt important to have control over our property and not worry about the lease.
4. Did you go through a mortgage broker or a direct lender? And why?
With the maisonette, we went through a mortgage broker as it felt like a good way to get the best deal. When we bought our house, we knew a bit more ourselves, and our existing lender was very competitive, so we stayed with them
5. What challenges did you encounter whilst renovating this property?
Many! The house had one owner for 30 years who had lived in it for ten and then moved abroad and rented it (by the room!) for the next 20 years. It was in a complete state of disrepair, and all maintenance had been done on the cheap. But, as we kept reminding ourselves, if it had been looked after we wouldn't have been able to afford it!
6. What was your budget for your renovation, and did you over/underspend?
Initially, we hadn't planned on major renovations and were planning on doing whatever was necessary to make it safe and liveable. Our main aim was to get into a good school's catchment and stay in the area we'd fallen in love with and made friends in. The day we exchanged, we found out we would be receiving an inheritance and would be able to do much more than "make good". We started with smaller jobs like re-plumbing, re-wiring and replacing the windows and front doors. Two years later, when the inheritance came through, we were able to do a rear extension. Nearly four years after that, we are pretty much finished!
7. What have you loved the most about designing your home?
Being able to make it look and feel like our home. Transforming our diamond in the rough into a lovely family home and having learnt so much in the process.
8. What do you love the most about your home?
That it functions so well as a family home. The open plan ground floor is so conducive to family life with young children and is a really sociable space.
9. What advice would you give to people who are trying to design their dream home?
Think about how you want your home to make you (and others) feel, and think hard about how you want it to work. How will you use the space? Think hard about storage too if you want a less cluttered look.
10. What advice would you give people who are trying to get onto the property ladder?
That there are things you can't add to a property... you can't change the location, the height of the ceilings, the amount of light it gets. But if it's got good bones, you can add pretty much everything else.