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Hard work ‘saved me a lot of money’

To qualify for the “Homes for a Pound” program, Sharples says she had to be a first-time homeowner and be able to renovate the home — in her case, more of a crumbling shell — within a 12-month period. The local council estimated the renovations would cost around $61,400.

Sharples picked up the keys for her one-pound place in February 2020 — five years after she applied for the special program as a graduate student (with very little money saved) — and got straight to work.

“I paid an architect $1,064 to draw up the blueprints,” she said. “Many of the contractors I talked to laughed at my proposed reconfiguration of the house. The cheapest quote I got was still $37,600 over my budget, which was the entirety of my savings. But I was undeterred.”

To keep costs down — and navigate challenges caused by the pandemic — Sharples quit her job and set to work on the property herself, blogging about the renovation process every step of the way. And with the help of some friends (and a 12-month project extension due to the pandemic) she completed enough work to have the house signed over to her in May 2022.

In total, Sharples says she paid $74,000 on labor and materials.

“I’m glad I had the conviction and persistence to stick to my vision,” she said. “I learned how to lay brick, tile, install underfloor heating and refinish floors, and it saved me a lot of money.”

Managing a full renovation isn’t for everyone. Having enough money is only the first hurdle; you need the right people in order to successfully see things through.

“This house is now worth much more than what I paid in renovations. A 2-bedroom home on my street recently sold for $137,000. But if I ever decided to leave, I’d only rent it out. I’ve invested too much in this place to sell it.”

For now, Sharples enjoys what she has built into her “dream home.”

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How to invest in real estate (without the hassle)

If the hassles associated with buying a physical property, maintaining it and possibly even renting it out don’t appeal to you, but you’re still interested in real estate investments, there are other options.

You can invest in a residential real estate investment trust (REIT). REITs are publicly-traded companies that collect rent from tenants and pass that rent to shareholders in the form of regular dividend payments.

As REITs are publicly traded, you can buy or sell shares any time and your investment can be as little or as large as you want. It’s not like buying a house, which normally requires a hefty down payment followed by a mortgage (unless you get onto one of these $1 schemes).

You may also want to consider crowdfunding platforms. These allow everyday investors to pool their money to purchase property (or a share of property) as a group.

If you don’t want to make investment decisions on your own, investing apps and online platforms can help you invest in diversified real estate portfolios that will maximize your returns while keeping your fees low.

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Bethan Moorcraft is a reporter for Moneywise with experience in news editing and business reporting across international markets.

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