18-20 October 2024
International Convention Centre Sydney

Best ‘Bang for Buck’ Renovations

10 questions you should ask when engaging in a building designer

Not all renovations are created equal! Some changes to your home can add greater value to its resale price than the cost of the work, some may not affect the price much at all…. others may even be a barrier to potential buyers.

If the aim of your renovations it to make your home more liveable for your family, things like resale value may be less of a consideration.

However, we all want to keep an eye on the value of our home and ensure that what we spend on improving it won’t harm our personal finances.

So here’s a guide to the improvements most likely to add to your home’s potential resale price:

An Extra Bedroom … or Two

A three-bedroom house will fetch more than a two-bedroom house every time, right?

This does makes sense, but there are some things to keep in mind.

If you add an extra bedroom to the detriment of your living space, you may be reducing your ability to resell your home. The main consideration is how tight your living areas are, and if a reconfiguration will release space or steal space.

Another factor is making sure your home’s layout is in balance. If you have 4 bedrooms and just one bathroom, that might reduce the liveability – and desirability – of your home.

One of the reasons that additions and extensions are a popular choice when adding a bedroom is that they don’t eat into living areas that much if at all, even when incorporating a stairwell to a new storey.

Additions and extensions also give you more leeway to add that ensuite bathroom, study nook or TV room at the same time.

A New Kitchen

A new kitchen is probably the most popular renovation, but what about adding value?

That really depends on the answer to a few questions:

  • What is the state and location of your current kitchen?
  • How much are you planning to spend?
  • When are you planning to sell?

If your current kitchen is looking tired and out of date, but well positioned, the improvement of a new kitchen will be relatively inexpensive and could add immediate resale value.

On the other hand, if your existing kitchen just isn’t to your liking, updating it may not radically improve the value of your home.

And spending big in those circumstances is betting your taste against that of potential buyers.

In many old homes, the kitchen is towards the back of the house, but poorly positioned, blocking access to the garden rather than allowing your home to flow.

In these circumstances, remodelling the rear of your home without considering an extension into the garden could be a missed opportunity to improve the layout, increase space and add other rooms and amenities.

So having an open mind and a bit of imagination could be a profitable decision.

A New Bathroom

Next in terms of value and potential comes the other favourite renovation, a new bathroom.

This is similar to the kitchen in terms of the questions of age, taste and position.

A new bathroom can be an opportunity, especially if relocating some of the plumbing, to look at how you might maximise your return:

  • Is it possible to create a further ensuite bathroom at the same time?
  • Can a better configuration lead to adding storage like walk in wardrobes that add greater value?

Bathrooms need a refresh every few years, but make sure that your consider whether cosmetic improvements and sensible maintenance would be more cost-effective than a brand new room. Some fresh grouting and a new shower screen can do wonders!

And if you are going for the complete replacement, think about the other things you could do at the same time to add value.

Outdoor Upgrades

You know what they say about first impressions!

If you are renovating with resale in mind, making sure the presentation of your home stands out from the get-go is a smart move.

In terms of the front of your house, this can be as simple as a lick of paint, some tasteful landscaping and a refreshed driveway.

At the back, adding a deck that allows for outdoor entertaining is a cost-effective move.

Keeping the back garden simple but attractive is also smart. Some people will be judging that garden by how much work it will take to keep it looking good, whilst others might want to add their own green-thumb ideas.

What to Avoid

Apart from some of the cautions we’ve listed above, there are other things that may cost you much more than just their price.

Bold tiling, wallpaper, and paint that makes a statement might make your home stand out, but it also might put off potential buyers.

If you are looking to sell for the highest price, you’ll need to interest the widest possible number of potential buyers.

Keeping things simple and neutral can be the smarter move. Create more of a blank slate that others can project their ideas onto.

Swimming pools are one addition that we do specifically warn against in terms of adding value vs cost.

A pool will rarely add more value to your home than the cost of building one, and once again, this may reduce the number of your potential buyers.

if you are looking seriously at home improvements and want specific advice on the improvements that are cost-effective and potentially profitable, seek advice from a reputable builder experienced in the areas of change you are considering.

 Living Through A Home Addition

If you’ve been thinking about adding a floor to your home, you probably are agonising over whether the ‘gain’ of extra space is worth the ‘pain’ in terms of the disruption and cost of the building work.

People usually work out that the cost is mitigated by the additional resale value you create by adding rooms to your home, and the fact that the alternative of buying a new, bigger home would cost you a substantial amount in stamp duty, moving fees and potential disruption, from finding new schools to connecting to new neighbours and neighbourhood.

The big unknown is living through the building work. You’ll probably only ever do this once in a lifetime, so it’s unlikely that you’ve experienced anything like it before.

How much stress will turning your home into a building site cause you? Should you stay at home whilst the building work is being carried out? Can you stand the mess? In short, will you regret your decision to build?

Anne and husband Paul live in the western suburbs of Sydney. With a growing family, their home was starting to feel cramped. Their teenage children wanted their own space away from each other … and their parents!

An extra bedroom, bathroom and study/second living room become a priority. The family loved their neighbourhood and home, and, having weighed up the alternatives, settled on adding a second floor to their home as the solution.

Anne notes, “we were lucky that we all agreed on the plan and were pretty excited by the thought of making our home better but it hadn’t been our first thought.”

“We had done some looking around to start with, but trying to fit in the children’s weekend sport with looking at houses wasn’t easy, and then we just didn’t see anything we really liked. That’s when we started looking at how we might expand our home and realised it made a lot of sense.”

“We looked at several builders and after a few quotes, discussions and doing our research, we chose Addbuild – they were competitively priced, had a great track record, and had experience of exactly the type of addition that we wanted. We also liked the idea of working with their designer to create a plan, and that they looked after the DA Process.”

Getting Everything Approved

The Development Application process wasn’t completely straight forward and took a bit longer than expected. “Yes, letting the builder handle the DA was a good call.” Anne explained, “We found dealing with our council frustrating. The builder obviously had a lot more experience of what happens and took the back and forth in their stride. They found smart solutions to the issues raised. We’re not bagging the council, we just had no idea!”

Staying or Going

With the DA approved, the family had another big decision to make. Do they live in the house through the work, or move out:

“The big thing was that we still had use of our bathroom and kitchen. So we decided to save money by staying.”

“Our builder told us that at certain times we might be dealing from leaks, holes in walls, tradies coming though the home, noise, debris, dust and more. I’m glad that they didn’t sugarcoat it. There is no hiding from the fact that, at times, you feel like there is dust everywhere despite all the protection they put up and cleaning up they do. Be prepared!”

Building Work Starts

There’s no hiding it: building is a messy business

“We were all excited but also very nervous when all the building materials, scaffolding and a big skip arrived.”

“We had been warned that the first bit was one of the worst stages because obviously, to put a whole new floor on your house, they have to take your roof off first! The skip filled up pretty quickly when that was happening.”

“And they do put tarps down, but as was explained to us, they are temporary until a special tarp goes down which they make to fit over the house. That can only be measured after the roof is off, so there a few days when you are at risk of leaks.”

A note to the reader: the temporary tarps Anne mentioned aren’t as watertight as the “special” fitted polytarp which provides much better protection. This stays on until the roof is secured. However, neither tarps are 100% waterproof compared to a fully fitted roof. Rest assured that if there are any leaks, get guarantees to repair and fix any damage caused.

Polytarp keeping the rain out as wall frames go up around it

Framing and Floors to ‘Lock Up’

“From memory, it was about 3 weeks for the carpenters to do the new floors, then the timber frame for the walls and roof. This was on top of the special tarp so whilst the roof wasn’t on, we still felt a bit better protected.”

“A fair bit of dust still makes its way into the house, but this wasn’t unbearable. We were lucky that no heavy rain tested how waterproofed we were but we felt well protected.”

“Within another couple of weeks, a plumber had added the gutters and drainpipes, then the roofer put on the insulation foil and tiled the roof and we felt even better after that.”

That stage is something builders call “lock up” and usually takes up to 6 weeks to reach. Whilst the house is still slightly vulnerable as there will be gaps to be filled as the new floor and roof settle, work can now start on the interior of the new floor.

Trades Get To Work

Now the pace of work can vary quite a bit as different trades come in to work. Usually they will come in one after the other and factors such as availability and weather may dictate the speed of progress.

“We mentioned to our building supervisor that there were some days when no one was on site working which we hoped wouldn’t be the case,” Anne recalls, “but he explained that whilst it was also in their interests to avoid this, when using quality tradespeople their schedules don’t always overlap perfectly.”

“Everyone was friendly and professional, but whilst the plasterer was fantastic, the mess his work creates was without doubt the worst stage for us! Sanding of plaster leaves a fine coating of dust everywhere. This is unavoidable, and we were warned, but nothing can prepare you.”

“We played count the tradie: sparkie, carpenter, waterproofer, plasterer, plumber. They came and went over several weeks and everything started to take shape but because the outside goes up so quickly, you think it’ll all be finished soon, but obviously it takes longer than you’d like.”

“The supervisor warned us there might be short periods when no one was on site as people’s schedules don’t always fit together perfectly. It made sense: if someone is good at their job, they are working somewhere all the time.”

“By this point we were itching to get everything finished, so it feels a bit frustrating when that happens, but we were happy to wait if it meant the person coming in was good at their job.”

 Home Straight

Once the made-to-measure staircase goes in, the bathroom can be completed. Given the weight of tiles and cement that need to be moved, ladders are best avoided.

The project has now officially entered the home straight and, well, it is time to get the home straight: painting is the final stage followed by cleaning to get rid of any remaining dust and debris to transform the home back to how it was, now with the addition of a brand new floor.

Was it all worth it? We’ll leave the final word to Anne:

“When you live in a building site, time does seem to drag on, especially in the middle, but once you start seeing a glimpse of what you’ll be living in, the excitement starts to take over. You are definitely glad when it’s all over, but looking back, we couldn’t be happier with the result and how everything was handled by Addbuild.”