Bessie Hassan | Money Expert at finder.com.au
Whether you’re a seasoned renovator or it’s your first time, there are many renovation mistakes that you should actively avoid when starting out on a new project.
From overcapitalizing or renovating the wrong rooms to re-locating plumbing and electrical work, there are several renovation blunders that you should steer clear of if you want your project to be a success.
1) Renovation cost estimation: material and labour costs
Failing to research material and labour costs are one of the biggest mistakes you can make when it comes to property renovation. Whether it’s researching labour costs online, comparing quotes from different suppliers or finding out which materials are the most durable or environmentally-friendly, there are many things to consider when embarking on a renovation project.
Soak up all the information you can to ensure that you make the right decisions for your project and don’t fall into the trap of underestimating costs, as this may lead to you overcapitalising on your project (ie, selling your property at a loss).
Overestimating the renovation budget is similarly worse as you end up paying more than required which translates to a lesser value.
How to avoid renovation cost issues?
Before you start, get a valuation from your local real estate agent. Given that renovation is a risky business it’s a good idea to get a handle on what your home is worth before starting. Why pay big bucks renovating if you won’t make the money back?
One of the must-do’s in the pre-construction phase is budgeting. Prepare a budget like a hawk. Shop around for fittings both in-person and online. You’ll be surprised at what bargains you can pick up by doing your research. Paying in cash is a great way to get further discounts too.
Also, some retailers are keen to get rid of end-of-line products or display models so ask them if they have any available for you to see. And don’t be afraid to haggle!
Many things can go wrong when renovating and it could mess up even the most finely tuned timetable. Assume that if something is to go wrong, it usually will. Make contingency plans for wet weather, unavailability of contractors, and if a job takes longer than expected.
Remember to also factor in any other indirect renovation costs including local council fees, professional fees, finance repayments, rental payments (if you have to move out during the renovation) and so on. For instance, if you’re taking out a loan to cover your renovation costs, use a calculator to forecast your repayments.
And always, always keep some money aside for the unexpected. It’s best to not skimp on quality or cut corners.
2) Renovation schedule and timeline
While a lot of people emphasise the importance of budgeting (which is important, of course), many forget to create a renovation project timeline. Once you’ve mapped out the scope of your work, you should estimate how long each task will take and come up with a project completion date. If you don’t set yourself a deadline, you’ll never finish!
Proper timelining is required to schedule the work of the subcontractors. What if you estimated a different time and scheduled your plumber to work a weak earlier? You might have to pay the cancellation fee adding messing up the renovation budget.
How to prepare a good renovation schedule and timeline?
First, know the basic of building construction. Do your research on the time taken for renovation tasks. Or, consult some on in the renovation space for speeding up the process. Don’t forget to include pre-construction phase where the documentation, approval and planning are gonna take weeks if not months to complete.
If you are new to the space, use templates that help with organizing the home renovation project. Getting started with a tried and tested template is going to save a lot of time and save you from a few risks.
3) Going overboard with DIY tasks
There are some tasks you can definitely do yourself, such as painting or basic landscaping, but there are also certain things that you shouldn’t attempt. When it comes to more complex work such as plumbing or carpentry, you should always consult a licensed professional, which is also the legal way to get it done.
Attempting DIY projects for complex tasks, particularly those that require specific skills, is not only dangerous but it may end up being more costly if you do it wrong and then have to rectify it later down the track.
Where to draw the line for DIY renovation tasks?
While DIY is appreciable for certain tasks, do not go overboard on DIY. Do things that you have learned, prepared to do. And keep in mind DIY is not that easy either. You need to invest your time and money to learn the skill and get the necessary tools.
I recommend doing basic things like painting, tiling, countertop replacement and not touching any of the complex work. Owner builder license is the right place to start if you have enough time to visit sites, plan and coordinate with the contractors. Though, you might need to buy home indemnity insurance if you take the owner building route.
Be it simple or complex work, it is good to get advice from an engineer, architect or experienced building contractor before starting work than having to hire them later to repair the mess you have created. Speak to local real estate agents about the types of upgrades or features that will add the most value to your property.
4) Building Permit, Development Approval and License
Renovation sometimes requires zero paperwork. The other times you need to go through the hassle of getting approvals and permits. It can take longer to process, around 4 weeks for DA alone. It might come in unexpected if you haven’t planned the renovation properly.
Renovation permits and approval are not only necessary to avoid penalties but to make sure the building construction meets the regulations and is safe for the workers and the future occupants.
How to make sure you get all the permit for a home renovation?
Consult your local council, first. That is where you need to start getting permits anyway. If you need a planning permit, hire an architect or building planner to do it.
For Development approval, you can forward the planning permit documents. Regarding the license, there are many types of license to practice various work in home construction.
Finalise the building plans right before you start with permits. Because if you want to change the approved building permit, you need to go through the whole process again to get it approved.
5) Renovating the wrong areas/rooms
Spending $15,000-$20,000 on a laundry upgrade is just ludicrous. When planning out your renovation project. Failing to focus your energy (and money) on the areas that are most frequently used or occupied won’t add value to the property.
Where renovation tasks should you focus if you are renovating for a profit?
Generally, you should focus the majority of your renovation budget on areas such as the master bedroom, the living room and the kitchen (and less on areas such as the laundry or guest bedroom).
You should also consider the demographics of the area so that you know who you’ll need to appeal to when it comes time to put your property on the market. Knowing the demographic profile of potential residents, such as their age, disposable income or living preferences (eg, do they want to own outright or rent?), will help you reach more informed decisions.
6) Relocating electrics and plumbing
Moving around your electricals and plumbing can be extremely costly, so if possible, you should try to leave them in the same location. It requires specific licenses to carry out such tasks.
How to avoid/minimize electrical and plumbing work in a home renovation project?
When rearranging appliances or redoing the setup, design plans that can utilize existing power and pipelines. Especially in the kitchen and bathroom where plumbing and electrical work is more likely required.
Planning and seeing through a renovation project can be timely, costly and emotionally draining, so it’s worth doing some research to learn about common mistakes and how to avoid them. Spend some time reading up on prices, materials, installation methods and industry trends so that you can achieve your desired outcome and live in your dream home.