How I Financed a Kitchen Renovation With ‘No Credit Rating’

credit-ratingToday I’d like to talk about the real cost of a fixer-upper house as a newly married woman.

I understand that’s a pretty niche audience I’m talking to, and it will become apparent why I’m being so specific in a moment…

Let’s start in February 2013 when I wrote a blog post declaring that this would be the year of the kitchen for our house. To put a bit of perspective to such a claim, by that point we were two years into living without one. Sadly, I’m not kidding.

The house came with a downstairs sink but no heating. No gas. No cooking facilities. No cupboards. No kitchen units.

We bought cheap bits to keep us going (an oven saved from the scrapheap for £50) and we brought a fridge-freezer and microwave from the flat we had previously rented. We bought a washing machine with doubled up as a work surface for preparing dinner. See Exhibit A…
kitchen before renovation

It wasn’t ideal – but we got through it.

As our April 2013 wedding approached, family and friends asked us “what do you want as a wedding gift?” – a funny situation really as I do NOT like the idea of asking people for presents. But we made the suggestion of home-type vouchers to put towards a new kitchen.

The trouble is, we still didn’t have one!

Married life for us started as renovators. We knew we would need to restructure and extend, with the plan that we would add any costs onto our mortgage.

This is a common procedure and mortgage agreements actually exist purely for home improvers – a great way for younger people to get on the properly ladder if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty!

Kitchen Extension Kitchen Construction

There was only one problem, re-mortgaging in this way means a brand new credit check. And what do many women do after they get married? Change their name.

As far as the credit score universe was concerned, my Mrs name existed nowhere. I was an illegal alien to the banks. No national insurance. No residence. No electoral roll. No credit history.

The real picture was quite a different story. I actually have really good credit! I pinky promise!

(And I will say, if you’re looking at doing up a house, prepare for this in advance to keep your costs down. Banks will often give better rates to those with more favourable credit scores. Learn more about improving your credit score here)

It turns out, if you change your name for whatever reason, it can take up to a year to make the link between your previous identity and your new one. Isn’t that a scary thought?

Think about how many young professionals want to get on the property ladder who may also be thinking about getting married within the same period of their life? The two are so closely related and yet, no-one talks about this major factor.

Your credit history could be wiped.

It’s temporary, sure. But as any renovator will tell you, living amongst the dust and the bricks loses its novelty quickly. You want to get a move on. I don’t condone living beyond your means, but there are some things you might just never have the lump sum to put towards – renovating being a classic example.

So if you’re looking to renovate and are planning to borrow/remortgage to do so, here are a few things you should look at:

  • Make sure all of your records are up to date. If you’ve just got married, update your name ASAP to reduce any delays in the switchover of your credit history.
  • Make sure your new spouse/cohabiting partner is up to scratch too! Once you join in matrimony or share the same address, your credit become adjoined. One affects the other.
  • This goes for previous relationships. De-link yourself from any ex-room mates or relationships, as these can stay linked to you for up to 6 years!
  • Ensure you pay off as many outstanding debts as possible. Set up direct debits to always pay the minimum to avoid receiving any late payment charges.
  • If you really can’t wait to renovate, as we couldn’t – try a loan. NOT ideal as you will likely be offered very high rates if your rating is poor. However, we did this and went specifically for a loan which could be paid off early at no extra charge. Following a year, my name had caught up with my records, and our house had increased in price thanks to the renovations, meaning we were then approved to put the cost onto our mortgage. It’s a workaround, at a temporary high cost. Never borrow beyond your means.

So wow, that was a bit serious wasn’t it?

I don’t normally talk financials but sometimes it’s easy to become mesmerized by transformative Before/After imagery, when in actual fact, the reality of getting it done is not quite so glamorous.

Here is a picture of what it looks like more recently! We still have bits of decorating we want to do, but that’s a post for another day.

How did you finance your renovations? If you have any tips, let me know in the comments! One day, Joe and I are planning to buy another house and do it all again. We must be mad!

kitchen revamp 04

*This post was written in collaboration with Credit Score. All words and opinions are my own and of personal experiences. Trust me, it was a hard 2 years without a kitchen!

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  • Rachel Newcombe

    That’s a really interesting post (even though I’m amazed you survived that long without a proper kitchen!). I hadn’t realised it can take up to a year for your credit score to get updated when you change your name – definitely something new homeowners should be aware of.

    • Thanks Rachel. It was a tough 2 years. Thank goodness for pot noodles ha x

  • Really good advice there, Karen. I’m sure lots of people wouldn’t realise or think about how a name change can affect things!!

    • Thanks Antonia 🙂 Yeah it was news to us too! x

  • Interesting post and I have no idea how you lived without much of a kitchen for this long, but well done you! 😉 xo

    • haha thanks Carole! Let’s just say, we’re now best mates with many local takeaways 😉

  • Old Fashioned Susie

    Gosh you deserve a medal for lasting so long in the first situ! Useful stuff!

    • Haha thanks lovely! Won’t be doing it again to that extreme anytime soon! x

  • Jessica

    Cannot thank you enough for this, something I hadn’t even considered! We have just bought a huge dooer upper and getting married in May eek! Thank you thank you thank you!!!

    • Oh I’m so glad you found it helpful 🙂 Good luck with your wedding! x

  • Stacey Sheppard

    Oh my god! How did you cope without a kitchen for so long? This is a really useful post. We’re hoping to remortgage soon to fund a loft conversion. Fingers crossed.

    • Ooo that’s so exciting! Thankfully we were child-free at that time and ate out a LOT ha x

  • I recently did up my kitchen, I found it a nightmare living without one and with just a microwave! We got a mortgage bigger than we needed when we bought the house so that we would have a bit of cash to do it up. x

    • Brilliant idea Cate! That’s what we originally wanted but because the house didn’t have equity we couldn’t. That’s why we did it the other way round, borrow to renovate and then when the value increased paid off the loan 🙂

  • I’m still a renter but one day I will get that mortgage. Thank for the info on your progress, it’s all great research

    • Thanks Hannah – glad you found it useful!

  • Karen

    Bloody hell, I did not know that! Excellent advice here Ms Clough.Thanks for the heads up x

    • Thanks lovely! I was totally gobsmacked when it happened to us so hopefully it’ll help others be aware 🙂

  • maxine

    OMG! I had no clue about this. This is why when I eventually get married (!!!) – he is going to take my surname. Luckily for them, I’ve finished my kitchen.

  • I’ve been surviving for ten years with a small and non-functional kitchen. I can’t take it anymore! We are actually going to refurbish it next year, FINALLY!! You did an amazing job!

    • TEN. YEARS. Wow – you deserve a prize surely. Or even better, a new kitchen! x

  • Well, I must say… you did quite an impressive job with that dining area! Those tips are really handy – I had no idea that records could stay for up to 6 years! I have had a roommate in the past so that’s something I should check out.

    • Thank you! Glad you like our dining area, we love it 🙂

  • Jody

    We too bought a fixer upper when we got married. We totally gutted our kitchen 6 1/2 years ago and we ended up re-mortgaging to make it happen. We are in the process of thinking about adding on a family room, larger master bedroom, and ensuite – and it looks like we will need to re-mortgage again. But I’m hoping it will be worth it!

    • Definitely worth it! And better to get it all done in one chunk too. Get it all out of the way 🙂

  • Diana

    Your dining area turned out lovely! I adore the bright, bold colors. You have a lot of great tips in here – definitely some things I’ve never thought about. Thanks for sharing!

    • Oh thank you! We still love our dining area to this day x

  • Thanks for the great tips. I never would have thought a name change could effect a credit score. by the way, you did an amazing job on your renovations. I love the bold colors.

    • Aw thank you – so glad you like it!

  • Rochkirstin Santos

    We’re nearing our wedding day and we are also being asked what we want as wedding gift. I think it’s best to just kindly ask for money. These days, you can have a better call on what to save for and what to splurge for. Paying off debts is a good habit to keep.

    • Absolutely! Especially if you already live together you probably already have basic homewares. Congrats on your upcoming wedding! x

  • Nikki

    Wow, I can’t believe that once you get married, you virtually start over. Here, they tie your credit to your social security number, so even when I got married, it went with me. I think you are so clever for piecing together a kitchen the way you did for so long. Your after picture looks amazing!

    • I know, it’s scary isn’t it? Thankfully it is temporary but still a frustrating experience. So glad you like the pics 🙂

  • Phoebe Hendricks

    What a frustrating experience to start your credit rating over once you get married. I guess that would be a good thing if your credit was bad, but it would stink in your case having previously had a good credit score. I love the new look of your kitchen, with the bold blue! Great job!

    • Very frustrating! It is temporary but when you’re living in a rubble stack that can feel a long time! Thanks 🙂 The blue is Smalt from a company called Craig and Rose. Love it x

  • Censie ‘Mumby’ Sawyer

    We are looking to update our kitchen one day and this is very interesting information for us to consider. I love the updates you did. Your kitchen looks great!

  • Danielle Wilson

    We live in an apartment and my husband is always trying to convince me to buy a fixer – upper out of NYC. This post had some great tips for home owners and just in general for those trying to improve their credit. I tease my husband that I should have just kept my Maiden name to avoid all the paperwork.