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5 Crucial Questions to Ask Yourself Before Renovating

By Laura Anderson

Renovating your home can be enormously exciting. But it can also be stressful, exhausting and expensive. Before you start picking out tiles and knocking down walls, it’s important to clarify in your own mind exactly what you’re hoping to achieve – and how you’re going to pay for it.

1. Why are you renovating?
Are you renovating for your own enjoyment? Is it to sell for a profit? To increase your rental return or improve capital value? Your answer to this question will influence almost every decision you make before and during your renovation.
For example, if you’re renovating to sell for a profit, your decisions will be impacted by what your target market wants – not by your personal preferences. If, however, you’re renovating your own home to live in, you can make decisions based on your personal tastes. You wouldn’t want to over-capitalise on the property, of course, but it’s not as critical to have a significant financial margin between what you spend and what you stand to make.
2. What’s your budget… and how are you going to stick to it?
Your budget will dictate the type, quality and length of your renovation, and is a crucial question to address during the planning stages of your renovation. Ensure your budget is as accurate as possible to avoid a major blowout that leaves you with an unfinished home – or, in some cases, debt.

My advice when working out your costs is to always allow a buffer of at least 10 percent to ensure that you are covered for the unexpected (and trust me, there are always unexpected costs, even for experienced renovators!). To keep renovation costs down, decide what your ‘hero’ items are – the more costly items you won’t compromise on – then decide what you’re willing to spend less on. It’s crucial to factor in costs beyond the aesthetics too, such as stamp duty, insurance and property-improvement costs. And don’t forget about hidden costs, such as demolition and site clean-up.

So what makes a good ‘hero’ item? I’d suggest splashing out more for a better-quality benchtop material for your kitchen island or bathroom vanity, as they tend to see so much wear and tear. Or, you might consider paying more for lighting or an amazing splashback – items that will set the mood in a room and immediately draw the eye.

3. Is it a cosmetic or structural renovation?
Decide if you will be changing the floor plan, removing walls or extending your property. If so, you will need to obtain planning and building approvals before beginning any work. You’ll also need to contact your local council to find out about their regulations and ensure your home improvement adheres to them.
If your home is just undergoing a cosmetic renovation, your costs will usually be lower. But that’s no reason to rest on your laurels: if your goal is making a profit from your renovation, you’ll need to nail the visual appeal of the property. Look to improve those elements potential buyers notice as soon as they walk into a property, such as your entrance, window furnishings, light fittings and flooring.
4. How are you going to manage stress and fatigue? 
During a long renovation, there may be times when you need to lean on others for support. Reach out to nearby friends and family and see if they can offer you a place to spend the night, do a load of laundry, have a hot shower or just give you some moral support.Make sure you take some time for yourself too. Even a quick walk in the park or getting some fresh air on your lunch break can make a huge difference to how you’re feeling. Plus, putting some distance between yourself and the renovation site can give you clarity and minimise stress.

Another idea to reduce the stresses of renovating is to pare back and pack up the work site. Keep the things you’ll still need to use during the renovation in an accessible location and pack the rest into boxes. If possible, move the boxes to a storage area that’s away from the main flow of traffic through the house – it’s going to feel crowded enough with your tradespeople and all their gear.

5. How hands-on are you going to be? 
Decide if you are going to manage the renovation yourself or hire a project manager or builder. Employing a project manager can keep the work flowing and they can be tasked to employ a team for you. If you are looking to keep costs down and want a more hands-on approach, you will need to build your own team. Ensure that any trades you employ are fully licensed and insured, and that they carry out work to Australian standards.
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