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What Remodeling An Old House Involves

6th October, 2017
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Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could buy an unconverted house of character and turn it into your dream home?

But you might ask, and rightly so, how realistic is it? As a first-time buyer, for example, you might be asking;

  • Does it make sense to buy new or buy something rundown and renovate it?
  • What are the costs involved?
  • Who do I have to contact and be in conversation with before I actually buy such a place?

Don’t worry, it’s very normal to have these concerns, and that’s why we’re here – to help and guide you through this process, and show you what remodeling an old house involves.

House of character

The first thing you need to keep in mind is that sometimes, it just depends on the kind of house that you come across. One house might require a lot of renovation, and another might require less. But if there’s one thing that is certain, is that you should not be scared or dismiss the idea of viewing unconverted houses, for the simple reason that they are beautiful and have the potential to become your haven.

Ultimately, when buying a property, these are questions that will arise, regardless of the type of home, so don’t let this hold you back from considering all your options!

Like we explained above, it all comes down to the particular property in question, and more often that not, buyers find that they should not narrow down their options, for sometimes they come across a property that they would have never thought they would like, and which is still within their budget.

All in all however, there are things that you should do when considering to buy an unconverted house of character. Let us take you through them:


1.   Hire a Contractor

For starters, we recommend that you get a contractor on-board. This would be the first thing to do apart from getting your architect to check the house you are interested in. If you aren’t going to use a contractor, then you will need to educate yourself on material and labour costs – but it’s still preferable that you hire a professional who knows what he is doing.


2.   Estimate Costs

With all things summed up, something that cannot be overlooked is the budget. Now, renovating an unconverted house will definitely have costs involved, yet if you’re surrounded by the right people to guide you through the process, then it is well worth it.

Here are a few tips of what to expect and how to handle certain issues for if you’re looking to buy a fixer upper or if you’ve inherited one.

There are two major issues that you need to establish before you buy a place:

  1. Trying to get a killer deal on the price of the home; and
  2. A realistic budget for the renovation

When you add these two numbers together, you need to make sure you aren’t pricing yourself out of the neighbourhood.

Ask your realtor to get you comps so you can see what houses are going for in that area.

If you want (or need) a brand new kitchen, all new flooring, updated baths, and so forth, make sure you price these things out.

property costs

The numbers can add up quickly and if the budget is not realistic, you may only end up having enough for your kitchen and you’re left with a problem.


3.   Make a List of all the Renovations Needed

House or apartment, you might have to strip it – get to the bones of the place.

  • Inspect exactly what you can salvage and what you have to get rid of and the costs involved for either
  • Make a list of the things that you need, things that you want, and things you can compromise on (especially when it comes to the extra touches)
  • Make sure your contractor takes you seriously and knows what you want

A spreadsheet for your budget is the best way to keep your costs organized. And staying organized is very important!

When you are setting your budget, you have to factor in worse case scenarios – just to have a plan. Even once you’ve had a home inspection, there are things that could come up such as issues with the pipes and electrical once you have torn down walls.

If you have set aside a 5-10,000 Euro cushion for miscellaneous issues, you should be covered. The other thing to remember is to STICK to your budget. If there is a back-splash or a light fixture you are dying to have but it doesn’t fit in your budget, get creative and find resourceful ways to get the most bang for your buck!

If you can’t get it now, don’t push your budget for such an item, you will always be able to change things at a later date. Budget does not have to mean you give up a certain look or feel. It just may require more time and effort on your part.

When it comes to the different areas around the house, you can also identify needs vs. wants. Here is how:



Kitchens are usually the most hectic areas to remodel.

See that it is in a part of the house that you want it to be, or you might have to consider changing the electricity and water lines.

If it is in the part of the house you want it to be in, then modelling will consist of arranging the flooring and walls as you desire, as well as possibly updating the pipes.

Think about making custom cabinets if you really want to infuse your essence into the place. It might be hard to find someone to do that in Malta yet it’s not impossible. If you would rather go for something which is ready and is just as gorgeous, then there are many stores you can check out.

Renovating kitchen

Really look into your needs. When it comes to your kitchen, things like storage and counter space make sure you get it right first time over – you can’t really go back and change things as you would appliances.

Concrete countertops are super, especially when you have a very classic space – to counter the severity of the look. Also, it can be very practical.


Living room

If this is the room you and your family spend the most time in, make sure your basics are covered. See that you have comfortable sofas and some places to gather and have fun. Make sure the lighting is sufficient too. If you like having a bit of a library area, cater for that with some shelving.

Compared to other spaces this is a very easy room to deal with.

living room


After the kitchen, the bathrooms are probably the most time-consuming to update. Most of the same things apply, you want to update the pipes, the tiling and really make sure you strip this place to the bone.

If you could salvage anything from the previous bathroom/shower, such as some tile or something that caught your eye then it might be a nice touch to continue with it in the updated piece.

With old places don’t expect to find a master suite. You can easily create one though, and also make good use of the half-bathrooms that can come out of your renovation.


refurbished bathroom


It’s quite possible you need 10-15,000 Euro minimum to spend for a bathroom, with minimum plumbing done. Shop around at your preferred bathroom showroom and stick to the same place.

Some might tell you to go to different places depending on who has the best prices, but then that might mean having to run after a load more people when it comes to delivery and installation.

Remember, for such installations you need to have things done in progression. So the last thing you want is someone with the apparatus in your home waiting on another company to deliver the goods so that they can start. Limit these tiny hassles, that will make all the difference at the end.



If you have vintage stairs then you want to try to preserve them, as long as they are practical of course. In an ideal world you’d get rid of as many staircases as possible, yet if you can’t have a bungalow then you’ll have to do with the most comfortable stairs possible.

Just make sure they are not accident prone. Whenever you can try to get a bit creative with your stairs, they might not even need to be static ones – get creative!

Renovating staircase

If your house can take the look think of adding a newel post at the end of your staircase.



Think about creating a soffit effect and have recess lighting. It’s true that you will lose out on a bit of your ceiling height yet this is a great way to manage your lighting in a very effective way. Leave a few light connections in particular places to create features out of them.



If you have original floors, that you like then do try to preserve them. Otherwise you just might want to create a uniform look with the same kind of tiling throughout your space.

Matt flooring is a great finish, as an alternative to the usual polished look.


Original wooden floor


Our windows aren’t wood most of the time, yet if you have a house of character then they just might be so and you might want to have them redone. Make sure they’re insulated properly so that you will cut down on heating and cooling costs.


In general

  • Check that all your lighting is where you need it to be, it’s better to have more portals than have less. So think of having lighting links at either end of the corridor, or in other words at one end of the room and then have another on the other side.
  • See what can be salvaged and reuse it.
  • Try not to waste any space – design with purpose.
  • Of course, go for any eco-options that you can!

4.   See What You Can Preserve

Houses of character are a wonder in themselves, and more often than not, some of their features can be preserved. This would not only help cut down on the costs, but would also help to keep a sense of authenticity and add character to your home.

Whether it’s the tiles, or the furniture, It’s nice to preserve something from the home and its story. Look up your house’s history – who owned it, or something you found whilst renovating – and then display it or highlight it depending on what it is.

Especially if this house has been handed down to you by a relative, place something on the walls that will remind you of them.


outdoor living space


Such a house conversion is perfect if you want to inject your home with the essence of you. Don’t underestimate the whole project, the responsibility and the potential that comes with it – simply nurture the experience!

Interested in buying a property? Have a look at our selection of unconverted houses of character here. 

Let us know if you require any help with finding your dream home.


Get in touch.

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