Australia has become a renovation nation, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are collectively spending a billion dollars a month on home renovations, a boom that has partly been fuelled by the COVID government building stimulus.
While renovating offers many rewards, both in terms of lifestyle and capital gain, it is also rife with pitfalls to avoid.
Contestants from this year’s series of The Block recommend the following for anyone planning to embark on a home renovation project.
1. Do your research to find the right builder
Choosing the right builder is critical, especially for first-time renovators. The best way to find the right one for the job is to go by word of mouth and testimonials/reviews. Look for a builder who has strong credibility and will work closely with you to ensure your budget and timeframes are met. Ensure they are fully qualified and have the necessary licences and insurances in place.
Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. In fact, the more questions you ask, the better. A good builder will be happy to take the time to answer any questions you have.
Once you have a shortlist of builders (obtaining 3 quotes is the minimum standard), ask for some addresses of properties they have worked on so you can have a look at their work. It’s even better if you can have a walk-through of a property that is nearing completion. Many owners will be happy for you to take a look.
2. Timing is everything
Before you commit, it’s a good idea to ask how many other projects the builder is working on. Ask about the size of their team too, as finding contractors down the track if they don’t have the right expertise on board can be difficult. This could delay your project and increase the cost. Make sure they can provide you with a detailed timeline you can both agree on. If you’re renting while the renovation is happening, any timeline extensions will add significant cost in rent, as well as other potential costs.
3. Don’t be tempted to choose the cheapest builder
While it can be tempting to go for the cheapest quote, remember that the bargain price up front may end up costing you more in the long run because it could be an indication of inferior quality work and/or a lack of expertise. Even if they offer you a fixed price contract on the lowest fee, an unscrupulous builder may constantly look for variations they can charge you extra for once they have hooked you in on the lowest quote.
4. Plan, plan, plan
When plans change mid-project and the scope of a project grows, that’s when the budget and timeline can blow out.
The better and more detailed your plans are from the outset (including the selection and specification of your fittings and fixtures ahead of time), the less likely it is that the builder will need to modify their plans and increase the cost. Making hasty decisions on the run can cost you dearly.
5. Seriously consider moving out while the renovation is in progress
The question of whether to live at home to save money or move out when renovating is one of the most common questions asked. While avoiding rent is an attractive proposition, the reality of living on a building site with tradies turning up at 6:30am, dust and mud everywhere and the water and electricity being turned on an off can be enough to challenge even the best relationship. It all comes down to the size and extent of the renovation. If it’s a major renovation, the advice from The Block 2021 contestants is to factor the cost of moving out and renting into your budget.