Fiona & Kevin’s Story: Building The Good Life
When Fiona and Kevin first bought the building that is now their home, they took on a mammoth renovation project.
“We lived locally, and we’d always liked the property,” comments Kevin. “But when we first came in you could smell all the damp. It was dark and dingy and old fashioned … but we could see the potential.”
One of the first steps for Fiona and Kevin was sourcing the funds to enable them to begin work. They struggled to find a mortgage provider prepared to lend on the property due to its dilapidated condition and the extent of the works required – the absence of a functioning kitchen or bathroom meant that the building was deemed uninhabitable. Their search eventually led them to Ecology, which was the only lender prepared to offer a mortgage for such an extensive renovation.
“Our mortgage with Ecology allowed us to actually start the renovation,” says Fiona. “We’d managed to put the money down to purchase the house at auction but no one would give us a mortgage because the kitchen and bathroom were not habitable. We did a bit of research and found that Ecology do mortgages for renovation projects. There was also the incentive of knowing that our rate with them might improve after improving the property’s energy rating.”
The home they now live in is a far cry from the damp-riddled building they bought back in 2010, but it didn’t come easy. Fiona and Kevin spent three hard winters in a static caravan, gradually working on the project while both having full-time jobs. The house was reduced to a shell – floors were removed, the roof taken off, and walls stripped back to bare brick. That first stage proved the toughest as it was hard to see any progress. But once the demolition and clearance was complete, work could begin on re-building the property and their new home began to take shape.
Throughout the project, Fiona and Kevin sought to ensure their finished home would be energy efficient. When they first purchased the house it was in such poor condition that it was effectively on the lowest possible energy-performance rating. As well as enabling them to reduce their environmental impact and save money on future bills, an improved energy rating would enable them access to a discount on their mortgage rate through Ecology’s C-Change scheme:
“We knew that we needed to get a C or above in order to enhance our mortgage rate,” explains Fiona. “Any work that we did was going to improve the rating, but we did invest in a lot of green technology too.”
Today, the house is transformed. The property has been extended to incorporate the adjacent animal barn, which now serves as a kitchen and dining area. Original features – like the timber beams – have been restored, while newer additions – like ground source heating, solar panels and high quality insulation – mean the house is performing well in terms of its energy efficiency. Having purchased some additional land with the house, there is also ample room for the couple’s free-range flock of ducks and chickens.
Commenting on the project, Fiona says. “It’s been worth it! The end result is something that we have influenced every aspect of. It’s ours – we know every layer of it down to the brick and down to the soil; that’s a very heartening and satisfying feeling.”