Top 5 Things to Consider Before Renovating

Hello good people. My blogging tool tells me it’s been five months since my last confession – that’s pretty ridiculous.

Why is that? Well, largely because this project has dragged on and on and on. I keep thinking I’m going to make a series of “retrospective” posts where I look back at the finished project and say what wisdom I’ve gained. But truthfully we are not yet at the end.

Nevertheless, here is a quick update and the first of those retrospectives:

So, the main part of the house is complete. It looks a lot like it looked in the last post but I’ll post a full batch of photos shortly.

The problem is all the things that aren’t complete – mainly the boundary walls which have had to be stripped and replastered at a ridiculous cost; and the brand new steps which were finished with some god-awful substance that cracked almost as soon as it was laid. So we are now re-doing the steps. The brand new steps.

Anyway…here is a list of the Top 5 Things to Consider Before Renovating (or Building)

  1. Are you sure you’d rather not just buy a new house?
    Ah yes, the dream of doing things exactly the way you’d like them; the romance of poring over architects drawings and making Pinterest boards and choosing tiles and finishes.
    That stuff is actually true. But the reality is that this will be one of the most demanding and gruelling undertakings of your life. And you will not end up with exactly what you’d imagined for a billion reasons. Buying a new house might not be exactly what you want – but it will be easier and, quite possibly, cheaper.
  2. Do you have good enough taste?
    I don’t want to be mean BUT if there was ever a moment to question your sense of taste, style and design it’s before you embark on a wildly expensive renovation project. You will be asked a thousand questions about which taps, which tiles, which paint, which curtains etc. etc. Of course there are people to advise you but you will still have to make plenty of decisions. If you have a knack for picking great stuff then this is the project for you. If you routinely leave the house with mismatched clothes consider buying someone else’s house (and taste).
  3. Do you have the money?
    My project – like most building projects – went way over budget. I’ll write up a whole thing about budgets later. But don’t kid yourself: no matter what you do, and I mean no matter what, you will spend more than you’d planned to. And if what you’d planned to already felt financially crippling, I strongly recommend waiting on, avoiding or scaling back your project. It not costs a lot but it’s also a cashflow issue: unlike a home loan, renovations cost money now. Sure you can get the cash from your access bond if you have it but that may not prevent you running into serious financial problems if you suddenly need to pay a large, unplanned amount.
  4. Can you handle the stress?
    This includes: can you and your partner handle the stress. This stress will come in many forms: things costing too much, shit going wrong (all flavours), people letting you down, things taking too long, living in chaos, noise and mess; neighbours complaining; kids complaining; you complaining, contractors complaining; time off work while you drive to the Builder’s Warehouse for the 100th time to buy a can of sealant someone can’t live without.
    You need to try to be realistic about this upfront: if you’re not good at stress, or you and your partner fight about stuff at the drop of a hat, or you cash-strapped or you just don’t need any more hassle in your life: DO NOT BUILD ANYTHING.
  5. How much value can your property take?
    Because you are putting money into this project, you should ask yourself how much you will be able to increase the sale price of your property by. That depends on how much you bought it for, how much values in your area are increasing by, how much the renovation will add and when you plan to sell.
    The things that add value are, ironically, the parts of the project you may be least enthusiastic about. Put another way: the cool features like that new alarm system or home theatre or that quirky bathroom tile are often too much about you for someone else to care about. Everyone wants to stamp their individuality on a place and so they look for structural features and tend to change the bathroom and the kitchen you thought were so incredible.
    I consulted an estate agent before we renovated to see what she’d put the changed house on the market for. But a good rule of thumb is: don’t spend more than say 10 or 20% of your money on stuff that is an expression of yourself. Keep to the basics: new rooms, improved flow, more light etc. That’ll be the stuff that others look for if and when you sell your masterpiece.