Renovating is stressful at the best of times but sometimes, there are good reasons to renovate. So, put those stresses in check with our top 10 tips for seeing through a winning renovation.
1. Do your homework
Before any renovation begins you’ll need to do your research. Look at design magazines for inspiration and current trends. If you’re renovating for resale purposes you’ll need to investigate the demographics of your neighbourhood, the style of housing and the sale prices of similar homes nearby.
Property expert and author of Planning Your Perfect Home Renovation, Alex May advises research isn’t the only thing you need to do — you need to find inspiration to help you get through the arduous drudge of renovating.
“Find beautiful images that inspire you and create your own ‘renovation mood board’ to help you visualise what your home will look like when it’s finished,” Alex says. “If it’s a kitchen you’re renovating, look for details — the taps, the sink, the stove and the appliances.”
And lastly, Alex says not to forget to factor yourself and your family into the equation. “Just how much stress can you tolerate? How much do you realistically think you can do yourself because if you work full-time in another job, a renovation can be an extra 20 hours a week of phone calls, tradie briefs, financial crunching and site visits? Work out how much stress you are prepared to cop for the renovation to happen.”
2. Set a budget
Now it’s time to put a price to your renovation dreams. You’ll need to factor everything into the renovation budget equation including labour costs, materials, timeframes and living arrangements (if you need to seek alternative housing during all or periods of the renovation) An architect (see below) is a great way to help you through this stage.
3. Engage an architect
Architects cost less than you think and can save time and money when it comes to renovation projects. Angus Kell NSW and ACT state manager of
Archicentre, the Institute of Architects’ building advisory service, said that a design concept, drawn up by an architect, is a prudent cost-saving way to kick-start a building project. At this stage, an architect produces a creative design after exploring a range of renovation possibilities to suit people’s budget and lifestyle needs.
“A concept design includes sketches, suggestions, opinion of probable costs and also addresses the effects of local planning guidelines and building regulations,” Angus says. “Most architects work with any particular building style and show care and sensitivity to circumstances, lifestyle and budget.”
He says that many renovators, who are working to a budget for short, medium and long-term, need to develop a safe staged plan to avoid the poverty trap. The key is planning and affordability based on individual lifestyle needs. An architect can help to control costs and complete the home renovation in a series of affordable steps.
4. Don’t overcapitalise
When it comes to renovations, the golden rule is not to overcapitalise on the property in question. You’ll need to do your homework and look into the demographics of your neighbourhood and the sale prices of similar homes nearby.
According to Archicentre, the top tips for making money from your renovation project include:
- Having a first-class design concept
- Working drawings must be detailed and accurate
- Room sizes must be efficient
- Obtain a minimum of three quotes for all work
- Don’t use expensive fittings and fixtures
- Make sure your builder/subcontractors don’t substitute
Alex May says the rule of thumb is not to spend more than 10 percent of a home’s value on any renovations. But if you plan on living in a house for 10 years or more, it’s highly likely you will need to overcapitalise to transform the house into your dream palace.
“The other way to justify overcapitalising is by taking your two-bedroom house and making it a four-bedroom house. In other words, really focus your renovating budget on jumping your house up a notch or two on the real estate ladder rather than just ‘making it nice’,” Alex says.
“Adding bedrooms, extra living space and secure parking are good ways to do this but even that won’t guarantee that you don’t overcapitalise in the current property market,” she says.
5. Get council approval before you start
Depending on the type of renovation you’re undertaking, you may need to gain planning approval from the appropriate local planning authority. Talk to your local council early on about your renovation plans to get an idea of their suitability for the property in question and chances of being approved.
From here you will need to lodge a formal development application for the property address, this process differs from council to council but usually involves submitting extensive building plans and proposals which will then undergo an approval process including plans being sent to neighbouring properties for comment. Depending on the particular council involved, this can take a fair amount of time (sometimes up to six months or longer) and needs to be factored into your decision. If you engage an architect, they can do this work for you.
Alex advises that not all renovations need council approval. If you are refurbishing interiors and maintaining existing doors and windows, then you probably won’t need council’s approval. Strata-title units are different, and depending on your body corporate, may require permission.
“A word of advice: if you can avoid having to get council approval, it will be quicker, easier and cheaper to keep it that way,” Alex says. “That doesn’t mean break the law, but it does mean that if you can stick with a less invasive and expensive renovation plan, then do it. Once you start paying fees to lodge development applications and get stuck with conditions of approval, everything takes longer and requires more money.”
6. Use registered, reputable builders
Once the plans are in place and it’s time to choose your builder, ask your friends, neighbours and family members for the names of the contractors with whom they’ve worked. After you have a list in place, interview them. Be sure you have listed all the items that are important to you. If you have plans and specifications have the chosen builders provide you with a quote. If you do not have plans already, ask the chosen renovators to provide you with a proposal and a budget for a design build project.
And the best advice of all, don’t forget to check the builder’s references.
7. Sign on the dotted line
Once you’ve decided on your builder and agreed on the plans, budget and timeframe, get it all in writing.
Archicentre advises that it can be financial suicide heading into a renovation without having both labour and material costs tied down so your contract need to include all the design plans from major works right down to the finishing touches.
8. Keep an eye on the builders/work in progress
Alex says it really takes a fine eye to know that everything is done right, and it may help to hire an inspector who can certify that the work is to the right standard.
“If you are rebuilding walls, floors or roofing, then it is imperative that everything is finished correctly. A well-constructed building can last two or three times as long as a shoddy one,” Alex says.
“That also means you need to brush up on the details of the job you are specifying and work out what is acceptable to you — because that can be different to what the builder believes is acceptable. Check your contract and have open discussions about details, because this is where things can get complicated,” she says.
9. Try to stick with your original plans
If you’re trying to stick to your budget and timeframe once work is underway, changes should be kept to a minimum. The details of your project, which will be described in the contract and design plans, form the basis of both the price and the schedule of your job and changes will most likely affect both significantly.
10. Be flexible
When it comes to renovations, things can go wrong and plans may well have to change so it’s important to be flexible and open when it comes to the work in progress.