Case Study: HMO in four weeks with Clair McArdle


Not all HMOs have to be a colossal undertaking. Clair Mcardle bought a refurbished three-storey house on the Fylde coast and turned it into a stylish HMO in just four weeks, simply by redecorating the interiors. With only a few dated feature walls and some busy tilling to replace, Clair’s project shows how armed with a tin of paint and a flair for interior design, you needn’t invest vast time and money into a  HMO project.


Shortly after having her first child, Clair left her high-flying corporate role with the UK’s largest water company to pursue a better work-life balance. She started off doing flips in 2015, but for the last two years she has focused specifically on HMOs.

The attic room before and after
The property

The house ticked all of Clair’s boxes. It was in an area she liked, close to local amenities and provided a variety of sources from which to pick potential tenants. ‘The layout was fantastic for a HMO already: large bedrooms, one with an en-suite, and two large modern bathrooms to give me the right bathroom to tenant ratio,’ she says.

The only downside was the decor. There was a glut of varnished pine and the feature walls were painted peach, terracotta or green. ‘Whilst the kitchen was new with fantastic grey solid wood units, the tiling was very “busy” and just did nothing for the room.’



Clair centred the interior revamp around a scandi-inspired look. She kept the cream walls, which would have cost 4k to repaint, but produced a clean and modern finish through repainting the feature walls white and carefully selecting pieces of furniture.

‘I chose old faithful Cornforth White to re-paint feature walls in the bedrooms, which combined with the existing cream walls and new white woodwork, gives the rooms a more modern look.’

“In the lounge area, I added a feature wall with drift wood effect wallpaper and new light fittings, and picked out scandi-style sofas and furniture.”

“Pinterest is a great source of inspiration,” she says. ‘I also look at Instagram and the kitchen brochures from Magnet or Howdens, as these give you some good ideas.’

However, it was the kitchen transformation that Clair was most impressed by. The walls were painted a light grey and retiled. Meanwhile, she installed a purpose-built breakfast bar and had it painted it to match the walls.

Upstairs, she had some small structural changes made to the attic room to create space for a double bed. She originally budgeted to offer the room at a lower price because of its size, but ended up letting it before it was finished. She explains: ‘Often these attic rooms are popular if you make good use of the space.’

The previous owners had installed a staggering 45 spotlights, all of which needed upgrading to fire-grade spotlights. The fire alarm system also had to be updated and fire doors installed. As she was using the existing Victorian frames, sourcing doors that fit was a particular challenge. ‘In my next conversion i’m going to put new frames in,’ she says. ‘It will give me more choice in style and hopefully be cost effective too.’

She adds that the bulk of her budget was spent on replacing the hot water and boiler systems, which were outdated. ‘I added a new boiler, 300l cylinder system and high capacity pump to get water up to the third floor of the house.’

‘The radiators were all new, so the work was confined to the garage underneath the house. I also created a laundry area here to keep noise out of the kitchen.’

Scandi-inspired interiors
Scandi-inspired furnishings

Clair picked up the house for £190,000. Since she completed the works on it, it has been revalued for £200,000. ‘On the actual refurb I spent a total of £14.5k on all the work, plus £8k on furnishings, furniture and appliances.’ Major costs included the £3,000 she spent on an installation of a new boiler, pump and cylinder, £1600 on decorating and £3800 on joinery.

‘Other costs included interest on interim finance whilst I converted it to a HMO, £948 for the 5 year license fee, legals and survey fees,’ she says.

The property is now giving Clair a return on investment of 27.5%, after allowing for a 10% maintenance allowance. She lets the property herself, allowing her to avoid agent fees.


Having successfully navigated a number of HMO projects, Clair is now diversifying to try her hand at single lets, buy to sell projects and commercial to residential conversions.

Check out Clair’s other projects here.


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