The Cost of Renovating an Investment Property in Ireland

The cost of renovating an investment property in Ireland is something I am currently learning about first hand. However, I frequently  have to remind myself that I am still not sure if the house I bought in Wicklow is actually an “investment property”. From the bank’s perspective, it’s residential (a second home) on a 4.2% variable with a monthly repayment currently standing at €450.  In my head, the plan was to live between there and Dublin while I do it up, then convert to a BTL mortgage and rent it out. 

However, every time I go to the house (lockdown allowing), I want to stay longer. The village has really grown on me and since I have got the internet installed, I can work from there (while we remain online). Wicklow is so beautiful and friendly that I keep thinking that maybe I should be living there and renting out Dublin. 

Whatever I decide to do in the future, right now – there are the renovations to be done! So what have I managed to do so far?

Removing the old kitchen wall tiles
Renovating an Investment Property in Ireland

Quick and easy win! The electricain is going to need access to chase this wall so the tiles had to go. Easy and fun job!

Digging out 10 years of grass clippings and ivy growth
Renovating an Investment Property in Ireland

Thankfully, my neighbor kept the grass cut for the last 10 years while the property was unoccupied. Grass clippings alone don’t compost well because you don’t get that essential mix of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen. As a result, the pile was a fairly sodden and unstructured mass at various stages of decomposition. I dug it out with the plan to later start adding torn up bits of paper/cardboard and shredded wooden matter. 

The ivy had worked its way into every corner of the oil tank including the screw on lid. However this actually served to keep it well sealed for the last few years and I saw that the tank was still half full. This threw up a question about the shelf life of kerosene which the heating company answered later. 

Installing a new high-efficiency oil-fired boiler
The Cost of Renovating an Investment Property in Ireland

There is a local heating and plumbing company based in the town that was recommended to me by my neighbour. With the weather getting colder, the heating became a priority. When I called, they sent a guy out to take a look at the current setup.

At first inspection, he suggested that the burner need to be replaced which would set me back €500. I told him to proceed and he was there the next day with a new burner. When he started to dismantle the boiler to fit it he realised the whole unit was beyond repair. One phone call later and I was paying €2,900 for a brand new high-efficiency boiler. 

I wasn’t surprised really, just look at the state of the thing. Plus it hadn’t been run in nearly 10 years. I expected to pay for a new boiler and the high efficiency model will ultimately be worth the improvement it will bring. 

They did a “viscosity test” on the oil that was in the tank and it checked out ok. Since then, the heating is running perfectly. It only takes minutes for the radiators to get warm. 

The next steps on this front will be to look at zoning and also insulating the attic.

Old Boiler
Old boiler unit
Old Burner
Old burner unit
The cost of renovating an investment property in Ireland - high-efficiency oil boiler
New high-efficiency oil boiler

Demolishing a rotten garden shed
Renovating an Investment Property in Ireland

There are two well rotten sheds in the back garden. One is attached to the neighbour’s shed, but the other is free standing. It only took a hammer to completely demolish the free standing one.

The woodworm was so advanced that simply walking on the floor was enough to crumble the boards, my foot went right through the floor. The brittle wood broke away easily and once the shed was gone, I had more light in my garden. 

I broke it all down into small bits that will at least feed the fire for a little while.

Wood Worm in Shed
Woodworm so bad my foot went through the floor
Rotten Shed demo 3
Pile of broken bits
Rotten shed firewood
Broken into small bits and tidied away
The cost of renovating an investment property in Ireland - More space in garden
More space in garden

Creating an open-plan kitchen and living room area
The Cost of Renovating an Investment Property in Ireland

I already decided not to do any major structural changes to the property, however, my friend convinced me to consider an open plan kitchen and living room. The reason for this was to allow for a more functionally designed kitchen space that would accommodate more storage and appliances.

The first thing that had to go was the built in unit in the corner of the living room on that side of the wall. Again, the electricam would need access to chase the wall anyway.

The cost of renovating an investment property in Ireland - Removing the built in unit
Removing the built in unit
Removing the built in unit
Check out that old wallpaper
Old back burner pipes coming from fire
Old back burner pipes coming from fire

The wall didn’t take long to knock down and the space is really transformed as a result. I was a little concerned about the heat loss implications and first but the room is actually warmer now. Probably owing to the two radiators heating the entire space. 

This layout will make for a more space efficient kitchen. The other huge advantage is the light. The house is south facing so now the living area is flooded with sunshine in the morning. Nice.

The radiator standing in the middle of the space will eventually be attached to the back of a countertop. 

The cost of renovating an investment property in Ireland - Removing a stud wall
Removing a stud wall
The cost of renovating an investment property in Ireland - demolition
Smashy smashy

Part of this work included removing the kitchen door and a section of the door frame. I then built a very simple stud inside the remains of the door frame using wood from the stud wall I knocked down.  

I left it open for now to allow easy access for the electrician. I will insulate and plasterboard this up. The added benefit of this is the added privacy for anyone using the bathroom. 

Sealing up a door
Sealing up the kitchen door
The cost of renovating an investment property in Ireland - Sealing up a door
Built frame inside old itched door frame

Removing an old built-in hotpress
The Cost of Renovating an Investment Property in Ireland

There is no plan to move any of the plumbing, however, the old cooper cylinder will be replaced with an insulated stainless steel one. The heating system will probably be zoned for rads and hot water. The built in wardrobe around the cylinder was quickly removed and this will be replaced with something more robust and modern looking after the upgrades. 

Removing the old wardrobe/hotpress
Removing the old wardrobe/hotpress
Cost of renovating an investment property old wardrobe/hotpress
Be glad you aren't seeing the old wallpaper that was there.

Rewiring an entire house
Renovating an Investment Property in Ireland

I knew this would have to happen when I bought the house. The old ceramic fuses in the beaten up fuse board was a dead give-away that the house needed a lot of electrical work. 

When the electrician came out to inspect the house in late December 2020, he advised me that a full rewire is required to bring it up to standard. The regulations for electrical installations are set to be updated in February 2020 which would make the job even more expensive.

His advice was to get the job started and certified before the new standards come in but he also expects that the introduction of the new regulations will be delayed. The average cost of rewiring a house in Ireland is about €7,000 but varies on the amount of work you get done. I added a few extras like:

  • wired smoke alarms
  • bathroom extractor fan
  • zoned heating controls
  • attic light
  • outdoor security light
  • outdoor socket that can be extended to the shed in the future.

COVID has put a pause on the work the electrician can do for the foreseeable. Since he started before lockdown and the house it without power/unlivable he can technically apply the “emergency” category to the job but for now, the work is on pause.

An unseen cost to this job is the €168 I have to pay to the ESB to upgrade the “tails”. Its the connection from the grid into the house I believe. That’s their standard fee and they already told me it will be post-lockdown. 

The cost of renovating an investment property in Ireland - rewire a house
Mouse in the fuse board. Poor little fella met a swift end 🙁

Tackling the monster in the attic, a leaking roof

This was another problem I was aware of when I purchased the property. There is a leak in the roof at the base of the chimney. Moisture has been  slowly penetrating and damaging the membrane and some roof battens. Fortunately, the roof trusses are unaffected. 

It seems that the problem has been there for a number of years and the solution of the previous owner was to simply put a pot under it. The good news is that my dad works in the roofing industry and has a number of contacts. 

A friend of his, who owns a roofing company, visited the house and identified what needs to be done to remedy the problem. The chimney needs “lead soakers” and they will replace the rotten battens and repair the felt. The will also repoint the tiles at the top of the roof.

While they are doing all of that work, they will also remove all the organic matter from the roof and install six vents to improve air circulation in the attic. 

How much will all that cost? I don’t know yet. My dad has been elusive when I have pressed him on costs (because he wants to give me money). The vents will cost €50 each for starters. I imagine it will run into the thousands. 

Again, COVID and frosty/wet weather is putting a stall on this work but it can still go ahead under the emergency terms. A leaky roof is something that you want fixed sooner rather than later.

The cost of renovating an investment property in Ireland - leaking rood
Leak in roof, no lead soakers on chimney
The cost of renovating an investment property in Ireland - damaged felt and batten
Leak in roof, damaged felt and batten

Costs of Renovations so Far

The work, and the costs, are only just beginning. I won’t have a accurate estimate until I get a report from the council’s engineer. To keep cost down I will be getting a 2nd hand kitchen and installing it myself. 

  • Fire alarms – €27.90
  • Paying my friend to do labor for a day – €120
  • New high-efficiency oil boiler – €2,900
  • Electrician to rewire the house – €7,000
  • ESB charge to upgrade tails – €168
  • 10 energy saving bulbs to replace old ones – €19.90
  • A small fridge I got on adverts – €60

The Bank of Mam and Dad

The cost of renovating an investment property stack up fast. The electrician, the boiler and the roof are big, expensive jobs. I secured a loan of just over €4,000 from the bank of mam and dad with a view the paying them back starting at the end of this month (January 2021). 

My next big expenses will be upgrading the heating, insulating the attic and renovating the bathroom and kitchen. There is no rush on anything in today’s world so I am going to see what materials and furnishings I can source second hand on adverts. 

Talking with Wicklow County Council

I thought it would be a good idea to talk to Wicklow County Council for two reasons. Firstly, A few people in the FIRE Whatsapp group have spoken very favourably about HAP and RAS schemes with local councils. .

Secondly, I am formulating the list of things I will need to do to the house before I rent it out. They have a standard list of minimum requirements and they will send and engineer to generate a report – I can use that report as a guide for renovations.

I contacted Wicklow County Council before x-mas 2020 to discuss the procedure of letting the house on a long-term basis to the council. They were very receptive and indicated (pending inspection and engineer’s report) that would be interested in the property. 

I put in a call just after new year and spoke directly with someone in the housing office. Her advice was to fill in the application form and submit that so she can arrange for an engineer to do a report. She said the first things to establish are:

  1. how much it will cost to bring the property up to the higher specification that the council has (higher when compared to what slumlords get away with on the private market
  2. The amount of rent they are willing to pay (normally 80% of market rates which is reviewed every three years and scaled with the consumer price index)

She said most people withdraw their interest when the realise how much work they have to do to a house to be accepted as a long-term let to the council.

Someone did advise me that you can haggle a bit on the rent and to take inflation into account if you are signing over a property to the council for ten years or more. 

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