Young Couple Bought Crumbling 120-Year-Old Mansion by Mistake After Auction Mix-Up and Made The Most of It

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By: Mia Williams | Published: Jan 13, 2023

Cal and Claire of Scotland fell in love and were about to start their journey together when the unthinkable happened. Instead of purchasing a two-bedroom apartment as planned, they ended up with a dilapidated 120-year-old mansion; it quickly became the stuff of nightmares for them. 

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Stuck with an unforeseen challenge that could have ruined their lives, the young couple did something that made everyone question their sanity. Let’s see what the accidental renovators did to escape the tricky situation.

Love Was in the Air

On the snow-capped mountains of the French Alps, Claire Segeran and Cal Hunter met while working and fell irrevocably in love with each other. It was ski season, and they took full advantage of what the mountains offered. Slowly and steadily, their relationship strengthened, and they decided to stay there for spring. 

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As a couple who couldn’t stay apart, they regularly partied, hung out with their co-workers, attended BBQ parties, and enjoyed each other’s company. Love was in the air, and the two knew they had something special going on between them. 

A Future Together

Considering it was where they found each other, the Alps had a special place in their hearts. They also knew it was only a matter of time before both had to move on from the mountains. Claire got into med school, which meant the couple had little time left together.

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Unable to picture a life apart, she decided not to go, which changed everything. Cal was ecstatic about her choice and worried until they sat down and seriously thought of their future together and devised a new plan.

The Perfect Place to Start

Nervous yet thrilled about venturing into something new, Cal and Claire decided to get into the business of house flipping. They had no prior experience but needed to fully commit to the adventure. It meant they would buy a property for a short period, renovate it to make it an attractive option for potential clients, and sell it for a higher price. 

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After thoroughly researching the market, the couple bid for a two-bedroom flat in Glasgow, Scotland, it would be a perfect place to start; if only they knew what they were up against! 

Not the Right Bid

Both were at ease and full of excitement once they zeroed in on the Glasgow property for their first rodeo. Unfortunately, two other properties did not appear in their initial research, and they had no idea they would pop up on their screens. 

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The d-day soon arrived, and Cal sat down to bid online for their dream project. He didn’t realize that he was mistakenly bidding for one of those two properties instead of the one they had earlier chosen. They did not know until after they had won the bidding war. 

The Jameswood Villa Unit in Dunoon

Instead of the East Pollokshields flat in Glasgow, Cal was bidding for a derelict second unit in Jameswood Villa in Dunoon. He had won the bid for $17,000, which was a significant amount. Who would have thought a lot-number mix-up at the auction would put a spanner in their start-up!

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To say they weren’t pleased about the situation would be an understatement. The rundown condition of the property dampened their spirit but only for a moment. Realizing they were stuck and could not escape their predicament, they decided to face it head-on. 

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A Long Way to Go

So, whether they wanted to or not, their journey as house flippers began with a sizable property of a thoroughly rundown 120-year-old mansion in Sandbank, Dunoon. The couple rolled up their sleeves and tried to assimilate as much information as possible about the estate before they went down to the location. 

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Boy, were they in for a shock! From the photographs of the villa alone, they could gather that the mansion needed a lot of TLC, and the new entrepreneurs would have no choice but to offer it. 

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The Grand Villa of Yesteryears

Some old images of the mansion at the Cowal peninsula of Scotland popped up on their radar, and the duo couldn’t look away. The villa was once a magnificent structure that had been the pride of the place. With a sturdy foundation and an attractive lawn, the property was indeed beautiful. 

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The Jameswood Villa’s lost splendor made the couple resolve to bring the property back to life and restore its past glory. Little did they know what they were up against when they visited the place. 

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Too Massive a Property

Their excitement was restored, and the two set to work even before visiting the property. With the information provided to them about the old property, they drafted up plans. In time, they realized what a mammoth estate they had. It had two stories divided into three units.

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The villa also had a backyard, which they couldn’t wait to work on. With so much space to play around, Cal and Claire planned to include a few patios and a vegetable garden. They planned to include an extra shelter with a fire pit and a pizza oven. 

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A Gross Understatement

According to the listing of the property, it needed upgrading throughout. They’d soon realize what a gross understatement that description was! Even though those two words niggled them during the planning stages, they set it down to their nervousness about starting their first project.

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The couple felt the full impact of those two words only when they were face to face with the legendary 120-year-old mansion that looked like it was barely breathing. In fact, they struggled to reach the front door through the jungle the front yard had become. 

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In Dire Need of Repair

The backyard was another nightmare if the front yard was a mess. Strewn with garbage and fallen tree branches, Cal and Claire took six weeks to clear the debris, yet it felt like they had made little progress. 

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Now that they could walk around the villa, the gravity of the situation slowly started sinking in. Almost everything about the mansion was in dire need of repair. They immediately saw that they had to begin work on a partially collapsed wall, the roof, and the bay window, and it was just the beginning. 

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Condemned by the City

A closer look at the massively rundown structure made something evident to them. They now understood what went wrong in the auction and how they ended up with this villa instead of their original choice of the two-bedroom flat in Glasgow; both were priced the same! 

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On the verge of total collapse, it was a miracle the mansion was standing at all! They realized why the villa was condemned by the city. Thanks to the bidding accident, the new entrepreneurs were stuck with the unimaginable task of restoring it to a habitable unit. 

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Shocking Truth of the Interiors

Even the highly distressed state of the mansion’s exteriors had not prepared them for a walk-through of the interiors. They couldn’t see the floor because it was littered with everything from crows’ nests to the leaves and branches that had somehow made their way indoors. 

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It was sad to see that the entire walls were down on the floor, and the roof was crumbling, and this was the state the first two rooms were in. They dreaded touring the rest of the villa and discovering what nightmares it held. 

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Too Late to Turn Back

Their hearts sank further as they made their way through the rest of the mansion. The impossibility of the task at hand kept rearing its dark head, and they could no longer ignore the tough road ahead. They had unintentionally taken on more than they could chew, for better or worse. 

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Even though they had no idea where to begin, the young couple knew they had to start somewhere. They had already signed the contract, and this giant bruised building was theirs. What they wanted to do with it was their call to make.

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Tireless Trips to the Dump Yard

The apartments had been left fully furnished, which meant getting rid of the moldy furniture first. To make matters worse, a cold draft came in from all the holes in the apartment, which explained why everything inside was damp and wet. 

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Considering the state of disrepair the mansion was in, there was no way they could stay there while renovating. If they had to start rebuilding, everything from soggy mattresses, broken furniture, and old moth-ridden couches to damaged appliances had to go. Getting them out of the way involved several trips to the dump yard. 

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Moldy, Damp, and Damaged

The villa was under considerable water damage, but that wasn’t the only reason everything was damp and covered in mold. They soon realized the drainage system was broken, due to which the apartments had water leakage everywhere. 

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There wasn’t a single place that was dry in the entire mansion. Moldy, damp, and damaged, the villa needed a thorough cleanse from all the soggy debris accumulated over the years of disuse. Their first task was to get rid of all the rotten stuff. 

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A Welcome Challenge

Word soon spread around town that there was a couple who was not only crazy enough to bid on a condemned villa but also decided to restore it back to its glory. No one believed they could pull off such a mammoth task. 

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Even the experts who visited the site, especially the civil engineer during the inspection, suggested they demolish the entire mansion and build a new one. That was the only way the couple could profit from its sale. Instead of getting dissuaded, Cal and Claire took it up as a challenge. 

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A Modern Twist to a Victorian Villa

Despite all the commotion of clearing the debris collected in the mansion, the couple had a fair idea of where they were headed with the project. They had a clear head on their shoulders and a crystal clear vision; they wanted to transform the dilapidated structure into an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly villa with modern amenities. 

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Their mission was simple – to reinstate the 120-year-old Victoria villa with its original charm and make the mansion as magnificently radiant as it was before. The savvy young couple was ready to do whatever it took to make that happen. 

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More People on the Team

Soon, their loved ones joined their mission to turn a dirty old building into a gorgeous sustainable villa in which everyone would be proud to reside. Such a massive project needed more eyes and hands than just the two. They had drawn a time-consuming plan, which needed more people on deck to accomplish. 

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With a robust support system in place, the couple set out to work on every aspect of the renovation. There were some tough days and a few lighter ones when things moved smoothly, but they never took their feet off the pedal. 

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The Toughest Timber Challenge

With all the water-logged stuff out of the way, the team got down to the nitty-gritty of repairing and renovating. The real challenge was removing the timber from the walls and floors without disrupting the already crumbling structure. 

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They had to replace all the timber in the villa, which wasn’t an easy task but then they had to get it right for the rest of their restoring efforts to fall in place. Cal and Claire made sure to only take them out at a time. They started from the ground up and kept the momentum going.

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Fixing the Floorboards

Unfortunately, the floorboards were so rotten they were literally crumbling under their feet, and it was in a terrible state throughout the mansion. It made the project extremely unsafe, and the couple had to be immensely aware of the daily dangers of working on the restoration. 

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The antique beams supporting the floors were also in awful disrepair, and each needed to be replaced. Thankfully they found a way to save the floorboards by digging up a trench and getting rid of the excess water. 

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Electricity and Plumbing Needed Fixing

Their immediate concern was the broken plumbing, so they first set out to fix the water lines to prevent the place from getting inundated with water. Even though the soil surrounding the plot was completely soaked, they had no choice but to go through with their plan to fix the plumbing. 

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After the water lines were sorted, the tricky task lay fixing the electricity. They needed to find the live wire to connect everything, or it would cost them an arm and a leg. Luckily, they found it and saved themselves a lot of money. 

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Their Struggle With the Sandstone

Fixing the plumbing and electricity and cleaning the place proved to be a cakewalk compared to the challenge they faced cleaning up the exterior walls built of red sandstone. Even a thorough research of the chemicals they’d need did not prepare them for how tough the task turned out to be. 

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Instead of using harsh chemicals on the material that could attract lichen and moss, Claire and Cal meticulously cleaned every panel with a simple natural bristle brush. They were extremely mindful of not damaging the age-old structure of the mansion. 

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The Second-Floor Bay Windows

One of the most challenging aspects of the restoration happened to be the second-floor bay window, which was hanging on for its dear life. It was a major structural issue they had to address pronto if they had to keep it from crumbling down that very instant. 

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The couple kept it in place with a yellow band’s help while working relentlessly to fix it. They had to replace the cracked lintel between floors and a couple more cracked upright stones at the bottom to restore it. 

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Closer Look at the Back

Once the bay windows were sorted, Claire and Cal went around to the back of the mansion to look closely at what was left to do on the exteriors. The list of structural work to be done increased with further inspection. 

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It included the disintegrating stairs leading from the inside to the backyard, the crumbling roof, the collapsing windows, and a chimney close to falling apart. All of them needed attention, and slowly, the couple ticked off each one on the list. 

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Chimney and the Roof Needed Work

As expected of a 120-year-old mansion on the verge of collapsing, the chimney needed repair. The pair used a pulley system to dismantle the chimney brick by brick and then rebuild it with freshly laid bricks. They wanted to repurpose the old bricks in the garden they were planning in the backyard. 

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Next up was the roof that had to be replaced entirely. Cal and Claire paid extra attention to their safety as they carefully did the job over a few weeks. All the while, they had to ensure the roof did not fall back into the house. 

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Working on the Interiors

After toiling hard on the exteriors of the mansion, the couple was satisfied enough with their work to venture inside for one thorough inspection and the last round of repairing. They had even put new bricks on the windows to support the structure and were happy about the outcome. 

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There was still some work left in the interiors, and in the next few weeks, they attended to every last one before the couple had successfully gotten rid of everything that did not belong in the villa they had envisioned. 

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Efficient and Sustainable Insulation

Their ultimate task was to install sustainable insulation in the mansion’s interiors. For that purpose, they began installing wall frames throughout the villa. They accomplished their energy-efficiency goal by leaving no gaps in the walls and framing the entire property perimeter with sustainable insulation. 

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With meticulous planning, Cal and Claire achieved what first looked like an improbable mission. They transformed a derelict villa into a gorgeous, sustainable property with modern facilities. The couple was indeed proud of what they had achieved together. 

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A Solid Plan for the Villa

The stunning transformation the villa had undergone was due to the labor of their love. So, it was only fitting for Claire and Cal to live in it as its proud owners. They made a solid plan for the villa with them living upstairs while using the two downstairs units as holiday rentals to recover the restoration costs.

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After three years of intense work, Claire was glad to finally see and experience the space for real instead of only imagining a room. The couple looked forward to entertaining their friends and family in their beloved abode. 

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A Happy Accident

When life throws lemons at you, would you make yourself a tall glass of refreshing lemonade? It’s precisely what this enterprising young couple chose to do instead of crying or complaining over their misfortune. They meticulously transformed an accidental mistake into a glorious villa they’d call their own. 

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No one believed the two could do what they did. Yet, with immense faith in their abilities and a determination to face the formidable challenge together and make it their priceless journey, Cal and Claire have forged a path that’s quite inspiring for young people worldwide.

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