When Steph Weeks and Peter McConnell bought a deceased estate “as is, where is”, they had to sift through the late owner’s belongings – no easy feat as he had been a hoarder.
A massive clear-out, followed by a huge renovation, has seen the value of the property jump from $220,000 (purchase price) to $600,000 (new valuation) – helped by the rising market.
“There was a lot of stuff left in it”, Weeks says, including tools, electrical equipment, and surprises such as a bucket full of hundreds of partially-used bars of soap.
Weeks, 26, an architectural designer, and electrician McConnell, 30, had a vision for what the 1951 roughcast, mono-pitch house in Timaru’s Cain Street could be.
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It had long been “the worst house in the street”, according to McConnell, but over 16 months, the pair gutted and re-built the home, spending $180,000 and hundreds of hours of sweat equity in the process.
Simply cleaning the house out took quite a big effort.
“We did three or four skip loads,” McConnell says, “and the son had removed a lot more than we thought he would.
“A few ladders were left – that was handy. They’ve been great for the renovation.”
Only one original wall was left in place, and the three-bedroom home now has an open-plan living, dining and kitchen area, and a bathroom opened up to include the toilet to give a better feeling of space.
The couple, who are writing up their progress on Instagram @p.s.renovations, say they were encouraged along the way by neighbours stopping in and congratulating them on the work.
Weeks, who has her own residential design business Design First, drew up the plans for the building work, which she describes as “a wee love project”.
Because McConnell is an electrician, he was able to trade hours with other tradies, including a plasterer who was renovating his own home at the same time.
As well as removing and rebuilding walls, and insulating, they installed double-glazed windows, two heat pumps and a log fire, and sanded and polished the rimu floors.
Taking out the old fireplace was a mission.
“We spent a whole day with a sledgehammer and a jackhammer getting all the bricks out,” McConnell says.
The couple project-managed the build and did what work they could themselves. They were thankful to their builder Jack Gibson, from Beyond Building, who had just started out in self-employment.
They are particularly enjoying the results of the double glazing.
“It’s in a school zone and there’s a fair amount of traffic,” Weeks says. “The double glazing made all the difference – it’s so nice and warm and so quiet.”
“The last room we have to finish up is the laundry. It’s just a washing machine sitting in the middle of the room at this stage,” Weeks says.
They still have smaller jobs to complete inside, and need to build a side fence and start on the landscaping.
The couple say they would encourage first home buyers to look to Timaru, “the heart of the South Island”, where traffic is no problem and, as McConnell says “you can still get a decent three-bedroom home for $500,000”.
The median sale price for home in Timaru was $485,000 in December 2021, according to Real Estate Institute of New Zealand figures. That was a 26 per cent increase on the previous December.
The couple’s advice for other DIYers? “Get some friends who are tradesmen, just to ask questions,” McConnell says.
“One of our mates is a painter so quite often we’d be halfway through and send him a photo of a paint can and ask is this the right thing to use.”
They also recommend doing a huge project room by room.
”Our to-do list was so long that it became daunting. Once we’d done the bulk of re-lining everything then we did just finish one room and go to the next room,” McConnell says.
“We were trying to do bits here, there and everywhere,” Weeks adds. “It’s overwhelming.”
Their favourite part of the house so far is the living room, which gives them a sense of accomplishment.
“Because it’s all open and one space, it’s so easy for entertaining. We had 15, 16 people in here on Christmas day, and it was really easy,” Weeks says.
“It’s also our most complete area. We don’t have to sit and look and think what we need to still do.”