The ultimate guide to your home renovation

The ultimate guide to your home renovation


As I have mentioned previously, renovating or building your dream home can be a very exciting process, but it can also be a daunting task to undertake without the right planning and consultants in your corner from the start. Regardless of whether you are renovating to sell for a profit or to live in your dream home, the process doesn’t change. You need to pay very close attention to the details of the project and what is involved. This is where having the right experts and consultants from the beginning can save you a lot of time, headache and money. Here we are going to look at a number of things to consider before undertaking your dream project regardless if your renovating your first home, on a budget or undertaking a luxury home renovation.

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  1. Planning

This is an extremely important part of the process and as the saying goes ‘if we fail to plan, we plan to fail’! There is a lot of work that needs to be done before engaging any consultants. A good starting point is to come up with a list of what you are trying to achieve from the renovation ie. What are your goals? Are you after more rooms, an extra bathroom, new kitchen with a butlers pantry, more functional floor plan, add a home gym, convert the garage etc. From here you can start to break down the list into must haves and nice to have. Really think about what your priorities are and put them in order of relevance to you. Once you have come up with a list of what you would like to achieve, start to put together a mood or vision board. This is simply collecting a number of images from Pinterest or even Houzz and putting them into a folder of what you like. For example, if you like certain pictures of master bedrooms then save them and add them to your board as inspiration. This is also a good time to start to think about the types of finishes you are after from PC items to joinery and flooring options it is always a good idea to think about these as it will impact your overall budget. 


2. Budget

This is crucial and should be thought about long and hard. Really think about what you are willing to spend on your renovation and always add a contingency to that number. If you are not sure if your budget will allow you to get everything you want on your wishlist, that’s completely fine, don’t worry too much about that at this point. What you really need to decide on is what is my absolute maximum I am willing to put into the build including consultants and associated fees.

Let's take a look at an example where you would like to add an extension to your existing property and renovate the inside. Say your budget for the renovation is $250,000, and your property requires a DA to be lodged with council. Some consultants you will need to engage are (but not limited to):

- Architect

- Surveyor

- Structural engineer

- Hydraulic engineer

- Water Servicing coordinator

- Arboricultural report

- Heritage Impact Statement

- Town Planner

- Energy consultant for BASIX (NSW)

- Overland flow assessment report

- Associated Council fees

All of a sudden you could be paying in excess of $50,000 before you even start. You need to be realistic in terms of your overall budget and what you may need to spend on consultants which will determine what is left for the construction. In this instance you could be left with $200,000 for the renovation or even less, which in fact may cost $300,000 for the build. The best way to get an indication is to get a preliminary assessment done by a suitable person such as an architect who can determine the planning parameters and what consultants may be required. From here we can come up with rough costs for the planning phase of your project.


3. Engage an architect or designer

There is a misconception that architects and designers are expensive and eat up too much of the budget. There are so many architects and designers out there and you can guarantee there is someone to suit every budget. An architect or designer will firstly understand what your brief is and what you are trying to achieve. Together with your mood or vision board they will have a clear understanding of what your goals are. If for example you are wanting to incorporate a home office into your existing space, a good designer will be able to see the pros and cons for each scenario and put that forward to you. It is important you don't choose a designer based on their price and rather choose someone who you can relate with, get along with and truly understands your vision and what you are trying to achieve. This is a long term relationship and you need to be happy with who you are working with. They can then give you a fee proposal on what it is going to cost for their services and if you are happy they will proceed with the initial concept design. During the concept design phase you will generally be given 3 different options based on your brief for you to decide on and work with. It is crucial you ask as many questions as possible during this phase as you will be locking in your overall design for the more detailed drawings to follow. This will ensure you have a working document to go off for the demolition and construction itself. Without this it becomes very difficult to complete your project and can be very time consuming and costly. When you have decided on a concept that you like it is at this point you can start to get some rough prices from builders. Bear in mind that this will be an indicative price to see whether or not the initial budget together with the concepts is achievable or not. More often than not, your initial budget will always be too small for what you may want to achieve. This is where we need to go back and look at our list of priorities and must haves vs nice to have. Another option may also be to choose fixtures and fittings or even materials which cost less without skimping on quality of course. It may mean choosing cheaper tiles, pc items, appliances etc. An architect will also be able to put together a full comprehensive set of documents for all of your statutory approvals including council and strata. Whether a DA is required through council, CDC or strata documents, a good architect will provide this as part of their service. To learn more about the process involved with architects, check out my interview with award winning architect Nathalie Scipioni from NSStudio here.


4. The approval process

This may sound like a daunting and sometimes nerve racking part of the process. We all hear so many horror stories at family barbecues of how much everyone hates councils because of their personal experiences. Like anything you should take this with a grain of salt. The approval process does not have to be as painful as what some people may make you believe. This is where having the right consultants on your team from the beginning makes this process much more seamless.


One thing to make sure you are looking for is your consultant, such as an architect, having a good track record of approvals and working with different councils as well as the one you will be working with, although this is not an absolute necessity. Depending on the scale of your project it may also be worthwhile having a town planner involved who can be another part of your arsenal. Good architects with a vast array of experience will understand all the planning and development controls within your council and also state based regulations. They will have these regulations at front of mind when they are designing your dream home and tweaking with the footprint. Your architect will also put together all of your documentation for submission to council on your behalf to further alleviate any need for you to worry or stress about anything. Now this doesn’t mean that the application will be approved straight away but it definitely increases your chances of it getting approved or even very little changes having to be made.


If you live in a strata or company titled dwelling then you will also need to factor in your strata approvals. The list of documents required for this approval is not as exhaustive but its a necessary step in getting all our ducks in a row. Generally for your strata approvals you will need the following documents:


  • Demolition plan
  • Construction plan including any engineering reports
  • Scope of works
  • Builders details such as Public Liability insurance and license


Also keep in mind that if your renovation falls under the category of minor or major renovation then a special by-law will have to be drawn up by your solicitor. This will have to be done prior to your strata meeting so it can be voted on and approved with your renovation plan.

If your renovation or build doesn’t need council approval, you may be eligible for your project to go through the approval process under a Complying Development Certificate. If this is the case you will need to engage a private certifier who can act as your Principal Certifying Authority. Don’t know one? Don’t stress. Between your architect, designer or builder there will be a number of Private Certifiers you will have access to.


5. Finding and selecting a builder

With so many builders out there, it’s no wonder it is confusing to know where to start and to then decide on who to use. Just the thought of starting the process could be enough to put your dreams and plans on hold. But the process does not have to be this way. This is where the experts come in and help you through the whole process. Just like having the right consultants around you during the planning process is essential to helping you make your dream a reality, having the right team of experts around you when it comes time to choose a builder is just as important. Just like when choosing an architect to design your dream space don't always choose the builder who is the cheapest or is closest to your budget. Always choose the person you are most comfortable with and can have a good relationship with as this is a long term partnership to deliver your dream space. When it comes time to choosing a builder there are a few questions you would want to ask and clarify.


The first and most obvious is to check the builder is licensed to carry out the work. You will also want to check their ABN is current as well as their insurances. If possible ask your builder if you can see any of their previous or current work so you can see the quality of the tradesman yourself. Will the builder be the main contact during the construction or will there be a senior project manager / foreman overseeing the process? It is not uncommon for the main builder to not always be on site as they could be juggling multiple jobs, but it’s a good idea to have this sorted out from the beginning.


Another thing to check is that you will be receiving Home Warranty Insurance for any work over $20,000. This is a legal requirement and you would want to clarify that the builder is licensed to provide you with such a certificate. Other things to consider are the build contract with all the inclusions and exclusions, itemised scope of works and variations to the original contract.


6. Finance

There are so many options when it comes to finance including cash, equity and even construction loans. We are living in unprecedented times where interest rates are so low that your dream build or renovation may not be that far out of reach. But there is a caveat. Although interest rates are so low that doesn’t mean that everyone can get finance. Gone are the days where you could release 80% of your property’s equity and sit it in an account of it’s own. Banks are scrutinising now more than ever and whether or not you can release equity is purely based on your serviceability. Depending on the scale of your project will determine which avenue you could take. As I mentioned it may be possible for the smaller renovations around the $50k mark that cash could be used if you have it saved. For those that can release equity, this may be a better option where you don't need to spend your cash you have saved. But there could be a scenario where your equity may not be enough to complete the renovation. In this instance, a construction loan may be a viable option or even a hybrid, where part equity is released and part construction loan. For an in depth discussion on all things finance you can catch my podcast with Australis's number one mortgage broker Justin Doobov from Intelligent Finance here


7. Construction

The day has finally arrived and the builder is on site with a sledgehammer or bulldozer waiting to start. It can be nerve racking but also a thrill to see the work finally begin. It is always a great idea to be in regular contact with the builder or whoever the delegate is overseeing the project. This maintains open communication and allows the relationship between yourself and the builder develop further during the build. Don’t be surprised if problems arise. If something can go wrong it generally will. This is why we always stress the importance of having a contingency for those unforeseen circumstances. One thing to note is that during a renovation when demolition is occurring or walls are being knocked out and old structures are being exposed, this can reveal a number of structural issues and also damage or potential problems with the services such as plumbing and electrical. For these particular items there is just no way of knowing until these milestones occur. Allowing a contingency of 10-20% of the construction budget is sensible depending on the scale of your project


8. Handover

The build is finished and you are finally ready to start moving back into your new home. But before you jump up and down with excitement there are a number of items you need to tick off with your builder. The first is to do a complete walk through of the property and do a defects check. Take your little stickers or tape and mark all the spots you are not happy with for the builder to rectify. The builder usually allows for a general builders clean but personally I would also budget to have professional cleaners come in and give the place a full top to bottom clean. Once you are happy to start moving back in you need to make sure you get all your documents, certifications and warranties from the builder. These can include plumbing, electrical, waterproofing, glazing, home warranty, appliances warranty etc.


As much as this looks like an exhaustive list of things to consider, renovating or building doesn’t have to be a burden. Everyone should be able to enjoy the process of being involved in creating a brand new home and seeing it come to life. With the right team of experts and consultants around you the whole process can be a lot more smooth and streamlined. That is why we are here to help you. If you are thinking about renovating or building we would love to help you out. We can put you in touch with one of our world class architects or designers to come up with your concept plan as well as your final drawings. We will then put you in touch with a number of our reputable and high quality builders to give you a number of quotes suited to your needs and budget. And don’t forget, our service is 100% free to you, the homeowner. So what are you waiting for? Get in touch with us today.



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