Property: What do you do with a windfall?: Well, you could refit the kitchen, or even buy a new house, says Anne Spackman

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In the back of your mind you may have a list of all the things you would do to your house if only you had a few thousand pounds to spare. It might include a new bathroom, a new central heating system or new kitchen appliances. If you did suddenly find you had a few spare thousand pounds, just think what fun you could have.

Ten thousand pounds or even pounds 30,000 might not seem enough for an extravagance in a property market where the average house costs pounds 60,000. But you do not have to buy an average property.

Thirty thousand could either buy you a remote cottage or a more accessible wreck. The best source of old stone barns and bothies is In The Sticks (0434 381404), which publishes a newspaper full of property details every couple of months.

One of its Irish agents, Green Valley Properties in County Clare, has simple cottages from as little as pounds 12,000. One such property is a three- room, single storey cottage standing on half an acre of land on the banks of the Royal Canal. A second cottage in Liskett, with 1.25 acres of land, is priced at pounds 12,500.

The dream of buying a farmhouse in France for next to nothing can still come true as long as you are prepared for a long journey. James and Andrea Gibbon, who run Charente Cottages, have an old house in the Charente. It has water, electricity and central heating, but not much in the way of decorated rooms. If restored it would make a home with three bedrooms plus a couple of barns which could be converted. The price is 220,000 francs (pounds 27,500).

Scotland is still a good hunting ground for cheap, small cottages. Smith Gore in Moray is selling two in Evanton, Ross-shire. One is the derelict old schoolhouse for pounds 15,000, the other is a stone cottage for renovation overlooking the River Glass for pounds 20,000.

In Wales you can just about buy a cottage ready to live in. In the Sticks is advertising a two-bedroom granite cottage with pretty gardens near Caernarvon for pounds 32,500.

Most of these homes are likely to end up as weekend cottages. If you want to move permanently from city to country, you can still do it on pounds 30,000, but most of your choices will be small terrace houses in towns in the West Country and the North, rather than country cottages. One compromise is a two-bedroom 19th-century stone terrace house in the village of Hambridge in Somerset. The cottage has three living rooms and a tiny garden and is priced at pounds 30,000 by R B Taylor & Sons of Langport.

In northern Cumbria there are a number of small houses for sale for less than pounds 30,000. J M Clark of Alston is selling a two-storey terrace cottage in need of work on Tindale Fell for pounds 19,500. The company also has a one-bedroom terrace house at Nenthead for pounds 22,500. In the same village it is selling an adjoining pair of former lead miners' cottages, which are in the process of being converted into one, for pounds 18,000.

If you love your house too much to leave it, you could spend your winnings improving rather than moving. What you get for your money depends on how smart you want to be and how much labour you are willing to put in yourself.

Labour costs in London are often triple what they are elsewhere, so if you are prepared to muck in it will save you a fortune.

For pounds 10,000 you could completely redecorate the average three-bedroom house, inside and out, and still have money left over for curtains. You could have a small conservatory or turn the loft into a room. You could buy a new kitchen or two new bathrooms. Or the money could be spent on building a garage and landscaping the garden. Thirty thousand would also go a long way towards a new roof, central heating, damp treatment and wiring system, plus a reasonable kitchen and bathroom.