In the world of auctions, some people thrive on the adrenaline rush of the unknown. But for most of us, venturing beyond bidding on a beloved record collection or some cozy home furnishings feels like uncharted territory. However, for one young couple in their twenties, a fateful auction led them down a path they never anticipated, turning them into proud owners of a dilapidated rural Scottish home.
Meet Cal Hunter and Claire Segeren, a cross-Atlantic couple with dreams of homeownership. Their story began when Cal, believing he was bidding on a modest fixer-upper apartment in Glasgow, found himself doubling down on a £10,000 bid, turning it into a £20,000 commitment after an unexpected offer for one of four flats during an auction. Little did he know that this wasn’t a flat in Glasgow, but a four-unit stone building named Jameswood Villa, nestled on the shores of Holy Loch in the quaint town of Dunoon, dating back to 1902.
Despite the mix-up, Cal and Claire were undeterred by the turn of events. “I was drawn to the idea of being mortgage-free in my 30s and having a beautiful place with a nice garden,” Hunter recounted. “I knew it would be hard work, but we’d really been wanting an opportunity.”
Though they were still young enough to be in university, the couple embarked on a five-year journey of home renovation. They meticulously documented their progress on their blog and Instagram account, aptly named “What Have We Dunoon.” From 26-year-old Cal’s experience as a carpenter, cutting floorboards and installing new plumbing pipes, to their diligent efforts in every aspect of the project, their dedication was remarkable.
While they sought assistance from experienced professionals for gas and electricity, the bulk of the work was executed by their own hands, with long workweeks extending to five and a half days. They relied on a plethora of resources, including books, YouTube tutorials, advice from tradesmen, and valuable input from fellow renovators and homesteaders via their Instagram account.
In a stroke of resourcefulness, they offered free accommodation and meals to young individuals of their age through the Workaway program, in exchange for five hours of daily labor. Living in on-site tents and a mobile home for over five years, Claire juggled her time as a waitress, while Cal worked as a contractor to fund the essential materials.
The couple adopted a sustainable approach to sourcing materials, often salvaging base structural fittings from their house and other abandoned properties in the vicinity. Their journey caught the attention of many, and a 2019 article in the Dunoon Observer went viral. This newfound exposure led to an influx of second-hand materials and a successful GoFundMe campaign that raised £30,000 (approximately $38,000). Their Instagram account attracted a staggering 329,000 subscribers.
In early July, after five years of unwavering dedication, the couple received a visit from inspectors who officially deemed their house habitable. Their extraordinary five-year saga culminated in a warm and cozy home—a testament to their resilience, resourcefulness, and unwavering determination to turn an unexpected twist of fate into a heartwarming success story.