“Terrific Bones” or “Buyer’s beware” – Seven tips for renovating in 2021

Most people will at some time, have been tempted by the possibility of what a house could be, rather than the stark reality of what stands before them. What may look tired and dated to many, will hold a secret and undeniable appeal to those who take in the essence of a home. Enter stage left, the great Australian dream of renovating a fixer upper. Helped along with the steady stream of home improvement and renovation realty shows, the idea of renovating a home speaks to those who are into sustainability, character houses, and good old-fashioned DIY. But in the current market, there is also a practical benefit to choosing a home which “needs a little TLC”.

It will not come as news to many that the current property market we are experiencing is pushing many local buyers out of the market. Properties in Queensland are selling for more and in a shorter amount of time. If you are looking to buy your first home, or just need some statistics to back up these claims, here are some facts.

It is not all bad news for buyers though. With most anxious consumers looking for a contemporary turn-key house with all the modern features, there are still some bargains to be had. Here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind when planning to purchase a renovator.


1. Self-evaluate – understand your strengths and weaknesses

One of the first, and most important aspects, of planning to buy a renovator is to know your own strengths and weaknesses. While YouTube is an amazing source of how-to videos, expecting to demolish and renovate an entire bathroom when you haven’t ever completed any home improvements, may be a tad ambitious. Botched DIY jobs can reduce the value of your property and cause massive financial blow outs by requiring professionals to come and repair the damage. As a rule, unless you are qualified, it is best to leave electrical and plumbing work to the professionals.

2. Deal breakers – know when to walk away.

There are so many things that you can change when you renovate a home, but there are also somethings that are cost prohibitive or impossible. Deal breakers are a list of features that your property must or must not have to be considered viable. If you need to stay in a certain location for work or school commitments, but find the perfect property 1 hour away, this would probably be a deal breaker. Similarly, if you are wanting a big block for the family but find a property full of potential on a 500 m2 block of land, chances are this house will not be a good long-term decision for you. When looking to buy a renovator, it can be easy to get caught up in the possibility and potential of certain homes, but it is also important to be realistic.

3. Figure out your time-line – how long do you anticipate being in the property

Are you looking to sell again after 2 years or are you looking for a house that the family can spend the next 15 years in? While circumstances and situation change, it is good to have a think about this before buying. The renovations you make to a property you hold short-term should be geared towards neutral colours and modern fixtures to get the most return on your investment and have greater appeal to potential buyers. Alternatively, if you are looking to grow old in your next house, there is less pressure to choose neutral features (read quirky and unique is fine). Also, overcapitalising on your improvements may not pose such a risk as you will be reaping the enjoyment out of what you install.


4. Set a budget – and stick to it!

This is perhaps the most well-known yet underutilised step in buying a renovator. The budget you set should include all purchasing costs, renovations (fixtures, fitting, labour), council approvals and permits, plus 10%. What is the 10% for I hear you ask? The inevitable hiccup that will come during the renovation process, whether it be plumbing that needs to be replaced, an undetected leak in the roof, or a blowout in labour.

5. Research fixtures and fittings – the fun begins

While you may not know what style of house you will end up buying, or what exactly will need replacing, it is an excellent idea to start doing your research now. Head down to Bunnings, grab yourself a sausage and stroll down the aisles. You will be amazed at how many different light fittings, door handles and tap fittings you can find. Small changes like these can really freshen up a property. Taking this excursion will also help you in planning a budget and creating a folio or scrap book of ideas. Just as important, if you are renovating with your significant other, this can be a real eye opener on what the other person likes and a good opportunity to start discussions on what your fitting deal breakers are.

6. Investigate builders – this will speed things up after settlement

Start doing your research on local builders so you have a short list of 2 or 3 to call when you are ready to get quotes. Ask your friends and family if anyone has had experience with a reliable builder that they would feel comfortable recommending. Tradesmen such as plumbers and electricians may also have some valuable suggestions. The internet can also be a useful source of information with reviews and social media quick to call out dodgy operators. Once you have decided on a short list, make sure you take the extra step of asking for licensing and insurance details, as well as references for previous work done.

7. Due diligence

Once you have found a property that meets your criteria and your offer has been accepted, it’s time to do some snooping. Investing in a reputable pest and building report is money well spent when purchasing a renovator. However, do not be to be alarmed. Most older style buildings hold up quite well. Remember to look at council zoning and building restrictions concerning your property to see whether any limitations exist in your renovation options.

While these points are brushed over in most home improvement shows, they are important steps to take when planning to renovate. In the words of Benjamin Franklin “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”.

Perhaps it is time to investigate whether your next home is waiting to be created, not discovered. Rather than pushing buyers out of the market, perhaps they are being pushed into re-evaluating what it is they need in their next property. With a little planning and reflection, you could unearth a hidden gem, and reap the rewards of renovating and take the next step in your real estate journey.

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