25 July 2016 Tricks and tips from serial renovators If you’re renovating for the first time, chances are you’ve bought something that may need some work as your budget only stretched so far. The great news is if you get your renovation right, it can be like putting money back into your pocket and can really get you started on the property ladder as well as increasing the equity in your home. Here are some hints and tips for first time renovators from a couple of serial renovators with 12 renovations under their belt. Research is key This makes sense – you are spending a lot of money after all, so spend it in the area that gives you the most value, but also future capital growth. This requires research and homework to consider all types of areas and property types against your budget. However, you also need to consider this in the context of any renovation or improvements. Can you really afford to deliver a renovation that will do the property, area and your effort and expense the justice it deserves? You may need to consider older styled apartments or townhouses to renovate instead of larger scale homes – or consider how you might renovate the property in stages if this is practical. If you cannot afford to deliver a top result, future buyers may not see the value of your efforts and it could be good money wasted. Visit open for inspections and display homes to get an idea of what you like and want to achieve. Plan the budget Every dollar spent has to work as hard for you as possible! A budget cannot be simply what you have saved or an amount that you can borrow - this means preparing a budget that is accurate, achievable and will improve the value of the property in a meaningful way. For first timers, this is not straight forward, especially dealing with builders and tradespeople. An architect or design professional will be able to guide you in terms of potential budget, but you should also request quotations from a number of builders and trades, so you understand what your finances will allow. Don’t be afraid to negotiate and ask for a discount but just be sure you are comparing the same job and ensure everything is in writing. Once you have created a budget, stick to it! Do be afraid to get your hands dirty Pitching in yourself and doing some of the work can save you money on your renovation budget. Generally speaking, most trades are specialists and in a number of cases, will require professional completion for legal sign off, however there are many ways you can assist to reduce some costs of the project. DIY demolition, landscaping and painting can certainly cut costs, as well as selecting and purchasing the materials required by the builder can also help lower the overall cost. My advice would be to definitely avoid any structural works, electrical or plumbing work - areas that need a licensed practitioner or legal sign-off! Find a builder that you can work with This is one of the most important steps. Renovating can be stressful, so you need to be able to have a good and open working relationship with your chosen builder. At the end of the day it’s your money they are spending, so the ability to work together effectively is as important as their price and qualifications. Don’t be scared to negotiate Don’t be shy – again it’s your money and literally, every dollar saved helps. Generally speaking you can obtain discounts of 10% without too much haggling, but always ask if the price is the best available, especially when you are buying materials or supplies. Keep a record of all costs and savings that you have made along the way so that you know exactly where your renovation budget is at all times, and it is good practice to obtain at least three quotes from different suppliers. Look for old or excess stock, off-cuts or go online and visit sites like Gumtree or EBay to see what materials other people might be selling. For things like floor coverings, sites like GraysOnline are terrific. You will be amazed at how you can save money by shopping smart. Plan ahead Another great way to save money is to plan ahead for what you need for the renovation. If you require tiles, shop around and buy them when you can get a good deal or there is a discount sale on – don’t wait until when the tiler says they need them. You can save by purchasing kitchen appliances, lighting and plumbing fittings when you purchase these in advance and can often get amazing deals on discontinued stock. This will mean that you need to purchase and store the items in advance, but it’s a great way to potentially save some cash. Clever selection of materials What always impresses the judges on The Block is when contestants mix and match different materials and textures to achieve a great result. The same result can be true for you too! For example, when updating kitchens or bathrooms you can avoid additional expense by mixing more expensive items with economical pieces. Consider investing more of the budget on kitchen bench tops and appliances or tap fittings and then contrasting this with simple cabinetry and design. Neutral, inexpensive tiles can look timeless and simple especially when teamed with a glass splashback for example. Keeping the existing plumbing in place can also keep costs considerably lower, however remember that you are also trying to update and modernise, so it’s a balance. Take your time And finally, the best piece of advice I can give is to ‘take your time.’ As keen as you are to get started, don’t rush your renovation. Take your time to select the right tradespeople, manage your budget as you save and seek out new ideas as well as refining your original plans.