Couple transform cinema into stunning family home

finished home

Gwyn and Kate ap Harry have spent £450,000 turning a run-down cinema in Thorne, South Yorkshire, into an impressive family home.

So what did they do, why did they do it, and was it worth it?

The property

The couple had lived locally for 11 years, and with a growing family they were looking for something with more space - and a bigger garden. They hadn't considered a building project before, but when they saw the disused building, they realised it offered a huge opportunity.

They bought the derelict 1920s cinema in 2011. The Old Kensington Picture House had been turned into a bingo hall, and then a nightclub, before being emptied and left to rot. The couple described it in their blog as: "Massive. Completely gutted, with 15 years of pigeon poo on the floor."

They initially planned to knock the building down and build a new family home. However, they discovered that the planning department wanted to keep the facade - so their designs had to be built around that. In the end, apart from the facade, they kept very little, and went with a striking modern design.

The back of the property also features a canopy door, which opens up a room at the back, and creates an all-weather cover for the decking outside.

It turned into an enormous project, with £60,000 of demolition work to do before they could even get started on turning it into a family home. However, after two and a half years of building, this summer they finally finished and moved in.

The programme will feature as the first project on the new series of Grand Designs in September.

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Couple transform cinema into stunning family home

Of course with all these things, the value it adds depends on the property you have to start with, and the kinds of improvements you make, but Which? estimates the cost of a new kitchen at £8,000 and HSBC calculates the added value to your property at £4,500 - which is a clear loss.

This has been done by 41% of people in the last three years, and 29% of people plan it in the next three. It's cheaper than a kitchen, and Which? estimates the cost at £3,000. This is roughly the same value that HSBC says it will add to your property - so you'll break-even.

This has been installed by 31% of us in the last three years, and 15% plan it in the next three. Installing central heating is a disruptive job, and according to WhatPrice it will cost you around £3,235. However, this is the first of the top ten to actually pay off. Property expert Phil Spencer says it will add £5,000 to the value.

Some 18% have added one in the last three years, and 30% will in the next three. This is another huge job, but with more people struggling to move and deciding to improve instead, it's increasingly popular. The amount it costs will depend on an enormous number of things, from the area you have to work with, to the size of the extension. However, assuming you add a single room you could spend around £20,000. HSBC estimates it will add around £15,500 to the value of the property, so you are unlikely to gain as much as you spend.

17% have done one of these in the last three years, and 20% will in the next three. This doesn't have to cost more than a couple of hundred pounds, but according to a survey from Halifax a few years ago it costs an average of £850 and adds almost £1,500 to the value. This is the second financial sound project in the list.

11% of us have knocked rooms through in the last three years and 8% will in the next three. If you're creating more usable space, then buyers won't mind you are reducing the number of rooms. If it's a supporting wall you can end up spending around £1,500, whereas a non-load-bearing wall should be doable in a day with a laborour and a plasterer for a couple of hundred pounds. It's unlikely to specifically add value though.

8% have put them in over the last three years, and 8% plan to in the next three. A solar panel costs about £6,500. It's definitely not going to add value to your property. However, it can pay off. With a feed-in-tariff you can save yourself £600 a year in heating, and can sell up to £450 back to the grid. The lifespan of the panel should be 20 years, so you'll break even after six and a half years and start making money. It's the third wise financial move here.

6% have done this in the last three years and 11% plan to in the next three. According to HSBC it adds the most value - at an average of £16,000. However, at a cost of £20,000 or more, it won't make you money.

4% of people have added one in the last three years and 7% plan to in the next three. As with a similar extension, you're likely to spend £20,000 and add £15,000 of value. So it only makes sense if your family is too big for the house.

2% have converted the cellar in the last three years, and 4% plan to in the next three. This is not a great way to see a return on your money - unless you live in the kind of area where you are absolutely out of any other options when it comes to making more space. It's not cheap - starting at £10,000 for simple waterproofing and finishing, to £50,000 for more intensive work. It will typically add £20,000 to the property.


Was it worth it?

Like the vast majority of people to feature on the programme, the couple say it was an enormous amount of work (and money), but it was worth it for the opportunity to live in their dream home.

They certainly could have bought a property locally for less money. A four-bedroom detached property in the town is currently on the market for £290,000. For the sort of money they spent, they could get a four bedroom property on the outskirts of town, with 8.5 acres of land, paddocks, outbuildings and a poultry unit.

Alternatively, they could have built their own from scratch, and hoped to spend £100,000 on the land and £150,000 on the build (if they used professionals for the work). That would have given them a cheaper property, but not one that breathes new life into a local landmark.

If they were to sell it now, it's hard to know whether they would make their money back. It's difficult to put a price on such striking originality. However, as Leigh Osborne and Graham Voce discovered when trying to sell their home (a Victorian Water tower conversion that also appeared on Grand Designs), you need to find a buyer who specifically wants a property like this and is willing to pay a premium for it.

But what do you think? Would you spend the money on a renovation, or would you rather buy a new build? Let us know in the comments.

The people who affect house prices
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Couple transform cinema into stunning family home

They have the power to push a price higher, depending on how many other people are in the running for a home and how liberal they want to be with the truth to the buyers. In some cases, they can also do more harm than good by initially overvaluing a property. The worst case scenario is the home eventually sells for less than it would have done had it been priced realistically in the first place.

Sometimes a quick-moving solicitor can be the difference between getting the home at the price you want and getting into a bidding war or missing out entirely. If the buyer needs a quick sale, they're more likely to do a deal with someone who has a flexible solicitor who can push through the sale so it suits them.

Research by Halifax concluded that anti-social neighbours could take £31,000 off the price of an average home. If you’re selling, you should declare any problems you’ve had on a Seller’s Property Information Form, otherwise you could face a claim later on.

While an increase in Council Tax might not be too much of a deterrent to a potential buyer, plans to grant permission for new homes, a mobile phone mast or wind turbines could knock an asking price down. If you're a buyer, the local council should have details of any future planning applications and you can search them for a small fee.

A lot of traffic in an area obviously has an effect on air quality. Since 1997 each local authority in the UK has carried out studies of the air quality in its area. If an area falls below a national benchmark for air quality, it has to be declared an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA). Some residents of the Llandaff area of Cardiff expressed concern that it had become an AQMA due to an increase in traffic in the area. Whether this becomes a widespread issue remains to be seen.

Mortgage availability is a key driver of property prices. If no-one can take out a mortgage, then prices will stall and eventually fall. We've seen this happen in parts of the UK in recent years, as lenders tightened up their criteria following the credit crunch. Conversely, good mortgage availability will mean more people are competing for properties - to a seller's advantage if their home is desirable.

An outstanding local school can add around 8% to the value of a home, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. On the flipside, a not so good Ofsted report can take off a similar amount. If you’re concerned about a school’s performance, one way to get involved is to become a governor.

Initiatives such as the Help To Buy scheme have been credited with pushing house prices up. A buoyant economy with strong employment gives people the confidence to buy and leads to an upward shift in house prices, while rises in unemployment have the reverse effect. Planning restrictions, at both a national and local government level, affect the number of homes in a particular area.


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