Finance Property Thinking of renovating? Ask these questions

Thinking of renovating? Ask these questions

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Australia is a nation of keen renovators and DIY types.

If there is a toilet that needs installing, a bathroom that needs painting or back deck that needs building, we are only too happy to get our hands dirty.

Blame the slew of home renovation shows or Bunnings’ Saturday morning tiling classes, but home renovations are considered to be such an integral part of our lives that it is no longer a big deal to landscape our own gardens or, for the bigger jobs, hire someone to add on half a house.

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But experts warn renovations are a big task, and require an enormous amount of research. Furthermore, things can (and do) go disastrously wrong.

Here is what you should consider before you sign up for that expensive extension.

Do you really need that butler’s pantry? Photo: Shutterstock

Ask yourself why?

Renovation expert and star of The Living Room, Barry du Bois, urges people to really think hard about what kind of renovation they are after.

“We have become obsessed with home renovation,” says Mr Du Bois.

“Everybody wants a butler’s pantry these days. But a butler’s pantry won’t work in a two-bedroom apartment.

“Make sure the renovation reflects who you are as a family. Often people will look through magazines for ideas, but it is a photo, it is not their life.”

Mr Du Bois thinks far too many people see their home solely as an asset to make money off through renovation.

“I’m very philosophical about homes, and whether they are worth $500,000 or $1 million, they should embrace you when you walk in the door,” he says.

“Your renovation should be about finding balance and proportion, and celebrating the relationships that people have within that space. Don’t renovate for the sake of renovating.”

Ask yourself how?

You may have watched every episode of The Block and read quite a few design blogs, but that does not mean you know what you are doing.

Before you commit to a project, you should be honest about your limitations.

“Recognise when you are not good at something,” says Brisbane-based Jane Eyles-Bennett, owner of renovation business Hotspace Consultants.

“Even if you plan to manage the project yourself, I would recommend spending money on a good designer as it makes a difference.”

And, naturally, you should ask yourself how you are going to pay for it.

“You would be surprised by how many people do not crunch their numbers,” says Ms Eyles-Bennett.

“If you are not an experienced renovator and you have a budget for $30,000, I would add $10,000 to that as a buffer because unforeseen things always come up.”

Whether you are renovating to sell for profit or to live in, you should be wary of over-capitalising.

Spend some time picking the right builder. Photo: Shutterstock

“Talk to real estate agents and do some research on how much the property would be worth now and then after the renovation,” Ms Eyles-Bennett says.

Ask yourself who?

Finding the right builders to take charge of your dream extension is half the battle.

“How often have you been at a dinner party and people have sat around praising the builders?” Mr Du Bois says.

“That is not because they are bad builders, it is because they were not the right builders.

“If you want good builders to renovate your period home, don’t find one who normally works on shopping centres but the work has dried up.

“I always ask for the numbers of contacts on the last three jobs they worked on.”

Mr Du Bois encourages people to map out for themselves on a piece of paper how the renovation will progress and to get involved in the process by asking the builders a lot of questions, things as simple as how they are going to manage the dust.

“At least ask questions of the person who is going to be taking on your biggest asset,” he says.

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