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Moving Up

An experienced investor's foray into the "posh" part of town has had award-winning results, as Joanna Mathers discovers.

By: Joanna Mathers

1 December 2019

Fiona Baker has been an investor for nearly 20 years. She usually chooses older homes: “the ones we can afford always need renovating” she laughs. And the 1930s Hastings home she and her husband Neville Baker purchased last October was no exception.

They had 15 buy-and-hold properties already, and weren’t looking to buy another house, but were alerted by a real estate agent friend that there was a place they might be keen on.

“They called me up and said “You might like this one”, so I went to see the property,” says Fiona.

Located in Charlotte Crescent, a special character zone in Hastings, the location was great. There were two dwellings on the 1,012m2 section – a house that had been built in the 1990s out the back, and a four-bedroom, tumbledown old place in front that had potential in spades.

“The 1933 grand old dame was in a sorry state and builders looking at it were walking away. It was slumping into the ground with rupturing stucco, the roof needed strengthening, every room needed stripping back, the kitchen and bathroom were broken and mouldy, the wisteria outside was in the walls and roof, and the plumbing and wiring needed replacing,” she explains.

“The feel of the house was good though, and I could see how it could be made to look like a beautiful home again.”

The two homes were to be sold at auction, and due to the extensive work that needed doing, the Bakers were able to pick the property up for $530,000.

“My mental budget was $520,000, but I paid $10,000 more since there was one other competing bidder, and I knew the potential rents would more than cover the extra cost,” she explains.

Rolling Up The Sleeves

The exterior of the property was just as bad as the interiors. The couple were able to access the outside of the property a week before settlement, and in this time they took away 20 trailers of overgrown plants, including huge amounts of wisteria.

Once they were allowed into the main house, the first thing they did was relevel the floor, which had been sagging into the ground. They also removed some false ceiling that had been put in place in earlier decades.

“We removed the three large bedroom ceilings and hall ceiling that had all been lowered in the 1980s and were now sagging and shedding their Pinex tiles,” she explains.

“The original ceilings were wrecked when the original back-to-back fireplaces had been removed. We then strengthened the roof and put extra trusses and joists in, then installed new Gib ceilings with a three-metre height. I could save some bits of the original scotia, and managed to order almost matching scotia from Carters,” says Baker.

‘My mental budget was $520,000, but I paid $10,000 more since there was one other competing bidder, and I knew the potential rents would more than cover the extra cost’

The kitchen and bathroom were both in a terrible state and needed replacing. But fortunately Baker is an astute bargain hunter – she found “some posh Havelock kitchen that had been replaced because it was ten years old” on Trade Me for just $620. It included a double pantry, cabinetry and a sink; and she bought a new rangehood for $50 on Trade Me and an end-of-line five burner gas hob from Bunnings.

The bathroom, which was so full of mould spores she needed to use a mask to get in there, was also a mess. She managed to restore the bath and toilet, with a bit of TLC, and found a “new second-hand” vanity to install.

“We bought good quality taps,” she says. “We like to have good quality taps in place, because they get a lot of wear and tear in bathrooms.”

The floors were all re-carpeted and new vinyl laid as well. This came from Carpet King in Hastings.

The pair are handy around the place after years of renovation, therefore much of the work was done themselves.

“I Gib-stopped all the new ceilings and some walls, and skim coated the remainder walls and then painted everything with a primer and two to three top coats,” says Fiona.

They used Resene Zylon Sheen in Villa White for the interiors.”

“My husband Neville rewired the house and added lots of extra power points. He replaced all the rusted and missing spouting and drains. He and the plumber re plumbed the house, and I got the gasfitter to install infinity hot water and replace the non-compliant woodburners with an 18kW freestanding mains gas heater in the lounge.”

Outside of the lounge a new pine deck was put in place, with an inbuilt seating area as well. This was built by their builder, and new paving was also put in place by Baker and a friend.

“It is a north facing deck so it’s lovely for getting the sun,” she says.

Posh Wins Big

The renovation took four months all up, and cost in the region of $52,000. Although this was $7,000 more than they budgeted for, a later valuation has put the value of the property at around $750,000.

The house didn’t have to be advertised for rent – through word of mouth it was tenanted by the beginning of April this year. The couple are renting out the renovated old dame for $520 per week (it was previously renting for around $320).

The renovation was so successful, that it picked up the second runner-up slot in the 2019 NZPIF/Resene Renovation of the Year.

The Bakers will be holding on to the property, as they do with all their investments. Besides, this type of property is a labour of love for Baker – “I really enjoy ‘saving’ character homes,” she laughs.


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