36-year-old bought an abandoned house for $1 and in full

Norman Ray

Global Courant

In February 2020, I was officially handed the keys to my new home: a two-bedroom, 75-square-foot Victorian house that I bought for £1.

The sale was part of the “houses for a pound” scheme set up to revitalize the Webster Triangle, a small run-down area in Liverpool, England. But there was a catch: the house was completely dilapidated. To qualify, I had to be a first-time homeowner and be able to fix it within a 12-month period.

The council estimated that the renovations would cost $61,400.

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When I signed up for the program in 2015, I was a 28-year-old college graduate with little savings. I didn’t have all the money I needed, but I applied anyway.

I flipped my home’s configuration so I could maximize natural light. Now the bedrooms are on the first floor and the kitchen and living room are upstairs.

Photo: Maxine Sharples

By the time I got off the waiting list, my financial situation had changed. I inherited a property from my father, who had recently passed away, and sold it to get the money for the renovation.

Today my house has been remodeled to maximize light and has made headlines in the UK for its new use of space.

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Turn my house upside down

I knew I had to do my job for me. The house had been empty for 15 years. The windows were boarded up, there was a leaking roof, a rat infestation, asbestos, and there was no electricity or heating.

But I loved it. It was my pile of crumbling stones.

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When I started the renovation, I saw crumbling stones everywhere.

Photo: Maxine Sharples

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Managing a full renovation is not for everyone. Having enough money is only the first hurdle; you need the right people to get things through successfully.

Photo: Maxine Sharples

I realized that I could reverse the original layout of the house to get more natural light. So I moved the bedrooms to the first floor and the kitchen and living room to the second floor. Then I installed skylights on the roof.

I paid an architect $1,064 to draw up the blueprints. The contractors I spoke to laughed at my proposed home reconfiguration. The cheapest quote I got was still $37,600 over my budget, which was all my savings. But I was fearless.

In May 2020, at the height of the pandemic, I quit my job as a project assistant at a university and started doing the renovations myself, with limited tools.

Due to the lockdown restrictions I was given a 12 month extension. But I also had to deal with unemployment and a breakup. It was clear that I could not do everything alone.

The community that helped me build my urban paradise

I started with blog about the renovation process in August 2021. When I got discouraged, looking back at my Instagram and taking stock of what I had actually accomplished renewed my strength.

I am so grateful for the help of my friends. I know I couldn’t have completed the project without them.

Photo: Maxine Sharples

This was especially helpful for my determination as I spent most of that summer living in a motor home in a local park in Liverpool.

The open kitchen and living room is one of my favorite places in the house. The natural light makes it the perfect place for my plants to thrive.

Photo: John O’Mahony for CNBC Make It

But with my story I was able to get readers to do it my Instagram account and build a community of followers. Some companies even contacted me to offer discounted products, such as 50% off underfloor heating.

In May 2022, after 27 months of work, the house was delivered to me. I was the last homeowner to complete a renovation. I spent a total of $74,000 on labor and materials.

The dining area is now my bedroom. I also replaced the windows with patio doors, which give me direct access to the garden.

Photo: John O’Mahony for CNBC Make It.

Now I pay $119 a month for city taxes and $218 a month for utilities, including electricity, heat, water, internet, and phone bills.

I’m glad I had the conviction and perseverance to stick to my vision. I learned how to lay bricks, tile, install underfloor heating and refinish floors, and it saved me a lot of money.

The kitchen island, which I bought second-hand, gives me plenty of room to cook and entertain.

Photo: John O’Mahony for CNBC Make It

Currently, my part-time jobs as a project worker, yoga teacher, tutor, and online dominatrix bring in $2,505 a month. I work at a leisurely pace and I can use that money to slowly furnish the house.

I like to use this living space for reading and practicing yoga.

Photo: Maxine Sharples

This house is now worth much more than what I paid for renovations. A 2 bedroom house on my street recently sold for $137,000. But if I ever decided to leave, I would only rent it out. I’ve invested too much in this place to sell it.

My utility room is compact, but very useful. I was even able to add a washer and dryer.

Photo: Maxine Sharples

With only one room left to renovate, I’m taking the time to finish my dream home – and live happily in a community once destined for rubble.

Maxine Sharp is a yoga teacher and project officer at Liverpool John Moores University. She has a master’s degree in International Business and Chinese, and has spent time living and working abroad in Africa and Asia. She enjoys blogging about her income streams, hiking and DIY design projects. Follow her on Instagram @homesforapound.

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36-year-old bought an abandoned house for $1 and in full

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