| Last updated
A mum has shared her journey transforming a dilapidated property formerly known as the 'Rat House' into a sleek family home, having revealed the best and worst parts of the ambitious project.
Amanda Cotton, 38, lives in Watford, Hertfordshire, with her husband Jess and two-year-old son Otis in a beautifully-renovated home - not that it was always that way. She told LADbible: "We bought the house in October 2019 for £650,000. We affectionately call it the Rat House as it was in a pretty gross state when we got the keys and had some little rodent inhabitants."
After having her son in May 2018, Amanda said she'd started to hate her old house - which had steps up to the front door that weren't particularly buggy-friendly, a back yard that was a 'baby deathtrap' and nightmare neighbours down the road.
Fashion designer Amanda and her husband put the house on the market and started looking for a new home in the suburbs of Watford - later finding out about the mysterious Rat House from a friend, who had moved in on the same street and had spotted what she thought was a vacant property.
She continued: "After some digging via the other neighbours it transpired that Rat House's owner was very much still alive, but had vacated the property as it was too gross for him to even live in anymore. We heard that social services had got involved and deemed it unfit to live in."
"He was selling it and had just appointed an estate agent. After calling the estate agent they said it was already sold, which was bizarre as we were now on speaking terms with the vendor and he said he had just appointed them. They were selling it for £500,000."
"We smelt a rat - and not just the ones in the house! This was far too cheap and after lots of digging found out that the estate agent was going to flip it with a developer. So we offered more - £150,000 more. We had done well selling our old house for £560,000 so we knew this one was worth more than what we were selling our old house - even in its condition. It's in a lovely area, great schools etc. Plus we knew this was still a good price even if we spent money doing it up."
After four months of 'going back and forth', Amanda and her husband eventually bought the house privately through the vendor, before the building work started in February 2020.
Amanda said: "We had to wait for planning permission and for a party wall agreement with our next door neighbour before the work could start. They were pumping the concrete into the foundations on Valentine's Day evening as we had gone out for dinner and the concrete lorry had broken down outside our house at 8pm! The neighbours were not amused."
"Then Covid hit and we went into a national lockdown! Those were scary times, as our builders couldn't have any labourers as they wanted to stick with family-only members so they were working within their own bubble, and then the prices of materials started to rocket."
"Simple things like grab lorrys, skips, timber suddenly doubled in prices which wasn't great for our builders as they had priced for the total job pre lockdown/Covid. Then we had delays with tiles, a bath that took 14 weeks to arrive and so on... Everything was blamed on Covid."
"We had amazing builders though that worked all through lockdown, only ever having Sundays off. They worked incredibly hard."
Eventually, they spent somewhere between £220-£250k on the renovation work, with Amanda admitting the hardest part of the build was managing the project with a full-time job, a toddler and living in a lockdown.
She said: "There were times where I thought I might crack. I also had some indecisive moments - changing my mind on a few things which nearly tipped our builders over the edge... I'm blaming Covid and being put under pressure to make quick decisions."
Issues aside, Amanda has enjoyed being able to be 'completely creative with a blank canvas', continuing: "I designed the bathroom vanity - through a carpenter which our builders know back in Portugal. It's been my first real test at project managing/interior design."
"Everything was new, so it was a complete fresh start. I used to love dark interiors, but there was something about being in a national lockdown which made me want bright, happy interiors."
"I've fallen in love with the colour pink for some reason - and the house is mainly pink and green. But it brings me joy! I've also realised there's no rush if rooms aren't completely finished, they can be added to over time."
And it looks like all the hard work has finally paid off, as the family moved in last month - exactly one year after getting the keys.
Follow Amanda's renovation on Instagram at @houselust, or visit her website www.Houselust.co.uk.
Chosen for YouChosen for You
Most Read StoriesMost Read