Renovation rescue

Some people are good at home renovations, some are not. I am squarely in the latter category. I have never bought a house that needed rescuing and the thought of all of the elbow-grease required to turn a shack into a super-star gives me heart palpitations and night sweats.

Both of the properties I have bought have been nearly new or brand, spanking new. The most involved I’ve ever got with interior design is picking the colour scheme for my new apartment, which also was the first time I’d ever said: “I’ll go for the beige” in my life.

My first property was only five years old when I bought it and didn’t really need much in the way of a face-lift. It did need new curtains downstairs though and for five long years I looked at, and untangled, those vertical blinds and promised myself I would invest in some fabulous new window coverings, perhaps red with big white spots, sometime very soon. When I rented that property out, those vertical blinds were still there and I was secretly glad that I hadn’t let my penchant for rainbow colours turn away hundreds of prospective tenants.

The problem is my aim for 2013 is to buy a small workers cottage and, on my budget, that will mean renovations. I trawl the listings on and often see the “perfect” cottage, jam-packed with character and within my budget too, but then I see the internal pics and the need for a new kitchen, bathroom, floorboards, VJs, roof, entry stairs, garden and letterbox and I feel completely and utterly defeated before I’ve even really begun. Perhaps I need to marry a builder? Or better yet an architect who used to be a builder.

Either way, when (and a very big if) I eventually buy my little fairy cottage, I will do my utmost not to overcapitalise. To start with I will follow some of these basic REIQ guidelines to prevent just such an eventuality:

  • Overcapitalisation occurs when an owner spends more money on improving a property than the profit those improvements could be expected to bring if the property were sold, which would be bad;
  • The REIQ recommends research and a simple formula to minimise the risk of overcapitalising, while adding value and valuable living space;
  • First of all, note the price you paid for the property, add the expected total cost of the renovations, add another five per cent for landscaping and you have the cost of your house and improvements;
  • Let’s say the total cost is $450,000. Next look at houses in your street and check real estate ads on featuring nearby homes;
  • If there are no homes valued as high as the $450,000 mark, then you are probably overcapitalising. Only proceed with the renovations if you plan to live there for the next eight to 10 years, or if you’re confident your suburb will be the next to shine;
  • While it’s an overused real estate phrase, always remember that choosing ‘the worst house in the best street’ is clever buying for those wanting to renovate – although I’m not too sure how long my “dream cottage” will remain the worst house for given my long-held reluctance to renovate.

By REIQ Executive Manager Corporate Affairs Nicola McDougall