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How to live in your ideal home for a fraction of the price

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If living in a mansion has always been your dream, there’s a way to make it come true without having to fork out tons of money.

Guy in a suit

Properties with unique character, original features and a lot of space are hard to come by if you’re not part of the 1%.

But there’s a way to have your cake and eat it, albeit temporarily.

There are a number of stately houses that stay empty for the majority of the year, where they become vulnerable to dilapidation, burglars and squatters.

Better and often cheaper than installing CCTV and burglar alarms is offering these places to people to be live-in guardians.

A number of companies connect prospective guardians with beautiful properties that ask for a fraction of the would-be rent.

In return for this fee, groups of tenants get to live in some of the UK’s most impressive vacant properties.

These range from railway stations, pubs and old cinemas to schools, churches and stately homes.

How it works

Old building
Eli Duke

Owners may be keeping hold of their investments until the market is booming, which means a large number of empty buildings.

For homeowners, having a live-in guardian could work out cheaper than paying for 24-hour security and problems are reported and dealt with quickly, preventing further expensive damage.

The owner decides which of the rooms can be used, and many sites also have basic facilities such as water and electricity.

In homes without those utilities, "living containers" are fitted with a shower, toilet, kitchen and heating.

Tenants would then be responsible for other bills to cover personal items brought into the property, although what’s included in the contract will differ from property to property.

Staying power

Moving house

Monthly checks are made to make sure tenants are well and the property secure, and although notice periods may only be a few weeks, most stay 5 or 6 years.

"They start with a three-month tenancy with four weeks' notice after that, but typically remain in the property for around a year.” says Paul Cosnett of Camelot, vacant property specialist.

“When they do vacate the premises, we try to relocate them in the same area.”

You might not have the same rights as tenants when guarding a house but your cost tends to be lower.

Get involved

Cosnett adds: "Tenants must be working professionals. Many are doctors, nurses and teachers who recently moved to an area and are uncertain about the local property market.

“The idea of living in a fire station or an old manor house for such low fees is very appealing."

If this sounds like the solution for you, there’s a careful vetting process to get through first.

You’ll be asked for work and bank references, expect a criminal record check, a telephone interview, and a face-to-face meeting before being allocated suitable guardianship.

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