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Large renovations: any regrets?


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#1 null

Posted 19 February 2020 - 05:47 AM

We live in a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house which is typical for our area. Our house is tired but still has plenty of life still in it. The house is in the perfect location for us and we were fortunate to buy when there was a lull in the property market.

The problem is that we don't seem to have enough personal space and I am worried, as the children get older, that they will need their own rooms. It is likely our children will live with us for another 10 to 15 years and in to adulthood.

So we are thinking of almost doubling the size of our house to turn it into our dream house. We have a fixed price quote from a builder and it would cost about what we paid for it. Given current property prices it would mean that the total amount of money we have spent on the house (purchase price plus renno cost) would be roughly the same as the current market value.

If you have done a big renovation, do you have any regrets? Do you think you made the best decision?

#2 Veritas Vinum Arte

Posted 19 February 2020 - 06:19 AM

Yes we did it. We ended up paying (all up including 18m of rent) more than we originally paid for our house). Valuation of our house is now even higher.

You can PM me if you want to see photos. We took a 3bd single fronted victorian house near high st, station and tram and transformed it to formal living/guest, master WIR ensuite, 3 further beds, study, kids rumpus and bathroom, full laundry (other house was laundry in cupboard), powder room and a large open plan kitchen/living/dining room.

We moved in 1st July last year. Still loving my house and loving a house made to my design and specifications.

No regrets.

You can see though some venting posts in home improvement/renovations section of EB. Process was painful but end solution beautiful.

#3 null

Posted 19 February 2020 - 06:33 AM

Thanks for sharing your experience Veritas Vinum Arte. It sounds like your renno was bigger than ours but with a lot of overlap with ours. I am pleased to hear the end result is what you love.

We have so many people saying knock down and rebuild and go for a project builder but I am not sure we will end up with what we want without standing out like a sore thumb! I am yet to be convinced it would be cheaper either. We have a sloping block too so digging out would cause massive drainage issues.

Our house with renovations would take our budget level house in to the mid to high range of houses in our area and wouldn't look out of place.

I think I will be here to complaining about renovating soon too!

Edited by null, 19 February 2020 - 06:34 AM.


#4 Grassyrat

Posted 19 February 2020 - 08:37 AM

Yes we had a house exactly as you describe...3,1,1 and turned it into a 4br, 2 bath, 2.5 car garage. Most people actually think we knocked the original house down but just did a massive renovation which was 2/3 the cost of the original house and land. It’s now valued at 2.5 times what we owe so it has been very financially beneficial for us.

We love where we live and our neighbors and by doing a Reno you avoid all the moving costs like stamp duty. We lived in ours while it was being renovated which looking back was the worst part (making toast in my bathroom and having a dining table in the 2nd bedroom was a highlight), so I’d say get out if you can. We had a fixed price too but always allow 20% extra for hidden costs, renovating can be tricky to estimate and you may want extra things done. Go for it, we have no regrets!

#5 Crombek

Posted 19 February 2020 - 08:42 AM

We also did it and no regrets at all. It was tricky as we lived in it during the build and only moved out when the external wall was knocked out & kitchen installed. Definitely worth it for us though.

#6 Grassyrat

Posted 19 February 2020 - 08:49 AM

Looking at your extra response Null we had people saying the same and we are glad we didn’t knock down. It definitely would have cost us more and our street really doesn’t suit new builds.

We also have a very sloping block..... our front and back yard each have 2 terraced levels in them and there are 15 steps to the front door, but we walk out the back on ground level. A way we got extra space without sacrificing our back yard was to excavate in front of the old house and put our garage there, and just add our new bedroom on top.

Edited by Grassyrat, 19 February 2020 - 08:49 AM.


#7 null

Posted 19 February 2020 - 09:00 AM

Grassyrat thanks for reminding me about how much we like our neighbours, stamp duty etc. The stress of selling one house to buy another is also not appealing to me. I will also consider the extra 20% advice. I think you are right that we will probably want variations.

I am also getting tired of people telling us we could have a new house for 200k. Most people I know who have gone with project homes have gone at least 30% over the listed base price. And we would end up with drainage problems. We would really need an architect to suggest a knock down for this reason which would add to the costs.

Crombek thanks for sharing your experience. We plan to do the same as you and aim to stay in the house as much as possible.
I hope we can handle living in tight quarters for a while because we would like to save on rent. I see washing ourselves in the laundry or under the hose in the backyard in our future!



#8 YodaTheWrinkledOne

Posted 19 February 2020 - 09:14 AM

I know a few people who have done major renovations and extensions to their places (usually doubling the effective floor space). One friend went up (essentially added an entire floor above their existing place), three friends extended out the back, one friend extended both front and back. Two friends had to keep the facade and style of the house (council planning requirement). Without exception, all of them have said it was worth it in the end, although it was painful during the experience (most needed to find alternative accommodation for at least 3 months during it).

However, one friend has mentioned a couple of times that she wishes that they had done it in one go, rather than over 3 stages (it honestly took them over 5 years to complete and ended up costing more money than had they simply done it in one go).

Agree with others that you should be prepared for 20-25% for unexpected costs. And keep an close eye on your builder and their tradies.

#9 null

Posted 19 February 2020 - 09:19 AM

View PostYodaTheWrinkledOne, on 19 February 2020 - 09:14 AM, said:

And keep an close eye on your builder and their tradies.

Oh my gosh! Why??

#10 YodaTheWrinkledOne

Posted 19 February 2020 - 09:23 AM

View Postnull, on 19 February 2020 - 09:19 AM, said:

Oh my gosh! Why??
to keep them moving and on the job.

#11 can'tstayaway

Posted 19 February 2020 - 09:23 AM

I’ve renovated a few times and our current house is still mid reno (deliberate stages to not interfere with life).

It would have been cheaper and faster to knock down and rebuild and many a time did I wish we could have done that. Our house is protected so we had to work with what we’ve got.  It’s also why our reno is staged because we have to work within certain heritage rules which can be tricky.

Things that adds costs in a reno compared to a fresh build is that you are not working with a blank canvas where everything is predictable and therefore, able to be accurately costed. In a reno, you don’t know what challenges the house will throw at you until you scratch the surface. Even with a fixed price contract, there will be variation clauses that can really add up when the house isn’t as expected.

An example of this in our house was that the plumbing was not up to code. That meant I couldn’t just replace the bathroom fittings to spruce it up, we had to rip out all the pipes - even the stuff set in concrete and redo them all, repour the concrete slab, get the council and engineers to sign off on it all, redo the flooring before we even got to the taps and fittings.

We also had to completely rewire the house. There were too many generations of wires and the modern electrical needs of a home is vastly different to 20 years ago, let alone 100 years.  We redid the power coming into the property to be 3 phase. I don’t fully understand it but I was told things like the air conditioning and my induction cooktops require it/work better with it. We have more outlets and ports per room then our electrician had seen before yet I still want more. You know how double adapters upon double adapters are not a good thing to do, the electrician explained it’s the same with the electrical sockets. It’s much safer to run separate cables than to piggy back off just one.

We pretty much gutted the house and rebuilt the same thing with better quality materials and up to standard. We removed all the old insulation that was mouldy and replaced it with a low allergen, fire retardant one. Our plasterboards are the denser sound minimising one which also has a better fire rating. All these things hopefully means that if our house was ever to catch alight, we might have bought ourselves a little extra time to get out safely.

All the windows we have replaced is the thicker laminated glass that has better sound and heat properties. We need to get approvals to replace the rest of the windows. Because it’s an old house, nothing is standard sizing so everything has to be custom made. That equals lots of dollars.

We are well over the one mil mark and we essentially have the same house - 4 bed, 1 living. If we were building new, we could have built a palace for that sort of money.

A sloping block and drainage issues also screams alarm bells for me. We had an 80’s build house which was built into a slope. Great views above but underneath there was drainage issues that caused the beginnings of concrete cancer. We caught it early but it was still expensive to repair. We essentially had to build a new support wall with proper waterproofing and add drainage behind it. We realised after the fact that we should have knock down and built fresh for that house after pouring lots of money into the house.

Modern materials and know how has allowed for improved building methods. I would definitely rather deal with potential problems directly rather than adding a big extension and then realising there’s an underlying problem that wasn’t dealt with.

Unless you know for certain the history of your house, or have heritage restrictions, I wouldn’t be doing a big renovation if I could help it.

#12 can'tstayaway

Posted 19 February 2020 - 09:31 AM

View Postnull, on 19 February 2020 - 09:00 AM, said:

I am also getting tired of people telling us we could have a new house for 200k. Most people I know who have gone with project homes have gone at least 30% over the listed base price. And we would end up with drainage problems. We would really need an architect to suggest a knock down for this reason which would add to the costs.
With either a reno or new build, I would strongly advise getting a couple of architects and drafties/designers to quote and give you suggestions. Yes, it will cost you extra money upfront but I can potentially save you so much more at the end.

A new build doesn’t have to be a volume builder. A custom build also doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s a matter of finding the right people to work with you and being as educated as possible.

My advice to friends is to have 50% of the budget in contingency because there’s always something that goes wrong or you might want to splurge on something. Having money leftover at the end is preferable to not having enough to finish the job.

#13 null

Posted 19 February 2020 - 09:33 AM

Thank you can'tstayaway. You have given me plenty to think about. Our house is old circa 1973 but not heritage. But you are right we don't know what is waiting for us with regard to wiring and plumbing. I will have to think hard about that aspect. I think I need to have a chat to the builder about the quote.

#14 Gonzy

Posted 19 February 2020 - 09:36 AM

We are at the very tail end of this now - literally about to move into the new section of our house at the end of this week.

We started a little over 12 months ago with a new kitchen, new flooring throughout, all new light fittings, paint, and a new back deck.  Then in August of last year we moved onto 'stage 2' and have added two new bedrooms, 1 for our two year old (he's been bunking in with us), and a large 'master suite' for DH and I which includes a deck off our room, walk in robe and en-suite.  

If you are willing to live through a bit of chaos with building, some hit and miss time-frames AND never-ending dust and plaster etc until it's all completed, then do it.  We have been living in our lounge room since about November so it's been disruptive, but it'll all be worth it in the end and if you keep your expectations realistic about the disruption and chaos, it makes it all much more manageable.

We have no regrets at all.  I've never built a house from the ground up so have no comparison, but I have found this experience to be great and we are extremely happy with our 'new' house and the fact we stayed in a suburb that has everything we need and want.

The only thing I will add is you do need to be prepared for unexpected costs.  We had a fixed price contract also but have so far found ourselves digging into our own pockets many times and will have a variation to our final progress payment at the end.  Our builder has communicated with us all along about this so no surprises.  Also keep in mind that things like window finishing are not generally included in price so just make sure you have a good idea of what things you'll still need to consider at the end of the build :)

Good luck with whatever you decide.

cant'stayaway - Oh man, we are house reno twins!  Some unexpected costs for us were also entirely new plumbing, which in turn also meant we had to get part of our driveway re-laid to cover where old pipes were dug up and replaced. And we also had to get all new electrical wiring and an entirely new switchboard as the original one was no longer compliant.  You've hit the nail on the head about scratching the surface and being prepared for variation costs :)

Edited by Gonzy, 19 February 2020 - 09:38 AM.


#15 can'tstayaway

Posted 19 February 2020 - 09:44 AM

View Postnull, on 19 February 2020 - 09:33 AM, said:

Our house is old circa 1973 but not heritage. But you are right we don't know what is waiting for us with regard to wiring and plumbing. I will have to think hard about that aspect.
If we didn’t touch the bathrooms, we could have left the ‘not up to code’ plumbing alone. But because the plumbers identified it, it had to be repaired to standard or else the plumber would be risking his license. Same with our wiring. The electrician who disconnected the power for the builders to start asked us not to call him back to reconnect the house because he didn’t want to risk his license. These were things that a building report could not have foreseen because they were hidden (the plumbing didn’t actually match the plans approved by council!).

Having said all that though, we love our home. We love the location and the house is customised for our family. Rarely a day goes by where one of us doesn’t comment on how great  some aspect of the house is.

#16 Crombek

Posted 19 February 2020 - 09:53 AM

OP I should clarify that we also staged our reno over 5 years. And did the vast majority of electrics/plumbing/slab pouring etc ourselves so it was vastly cheaper.

And had 0-1 child only in that time! Now with 3 I would not do it again.

#17 Gonzy

Posted 19 February 2020 - 09:56 AM

The other thing that I might add, it is truly worth having an architect or draftsperson do some plans for you if you don't already have them.

Architects can be expensive but they are also an excellent source help with all the approvals, engineering, certifiers etc.  Not to mention it actually makes it easier for the builder to genuinely work off plans and keep closer to costs (not withstanding the unexpected ones).

Our architect did so much of the legwork for us and the builder has commented many times that it's preferable for them to have concrete plans as opposed to 'wish-lists'.

Actually, I assume you would have plans of some kind because if it's anything like our state, we had to submit our plans to our planning authority to get approval before any ground could be broken anyway.

#18 RichardParker

Posted 19 February 2020 - 10:01 AM

View PostGrassyrat, on 19 February 2020 - 08:37 AM, said:



We love where we live and our neighbors and by doing a Reno you avoid all the moving costs like stamp duty. We lived in ours while it was being renovated which looking back was the worst part (making toast in my bathroom and having a dining table in the 2nd bedroom was a highlight), so I’d say get out if you can. We had a fixed price too but always allow 20% extra for hidden costs, renovating can be tricky to estimate and you may want extra things done. Go for it, we have no regrets!

I always think of that episode of Kath & Kim where Kim and Brett are planning a renovation and Kim says, "Yes!  Let's renovate the house and live in the house while we're renovating!  It'll be great!"

But then it's not always possible to move out during revocations.  Short term pain, long term gain.

#19 null

Posted 19 February 2020 - 10:02 AM

We have paid for a concept design but the building company will do the plans to submit for approval. It's like an all in one type of arrangement. They have drafts-people and people that can check if certification is likely.

I think I may give more consideration to a knock down and custom build rather than discarding the idea out right.

#20 countrychic29

Posted 19 February 2020 - 10:10 AM

We are not quite up the the building stage but are taking our 10sq 3 bed 1 bath into a 50Sq URL (15 of that is garage and verandahs)

It has taken us 2 years to get to this point and we havent yet signed contracts - we are essentially building a new house and connecting to the old.

We need to replace all windows with double glazing even in the existing.

Our quotes have varied from $450 - $650k we are going with the builder in the middle

We will be living there during construction as well - but we have acreage so it should feel to bad (i hope)

We looked at Knockdown rebuild as it was cheaper to knock down our place then just redoing the bathroom but even with a volume builder we would have been looking at $450 ++ and not actually got what we really wanted.
Like others, we love where we live, have great neighbours and we will still have more than 30% equity after the build

#21 Kiwi Bicycle

Posted 19 February 2020 - 10:12 AM

Just to chime in that you can get more traditional style houses ( often listed as Hamptons) that blend very well into existing suburbs, you don't have the have the ultra modern,  mono sloped roof houses advertised by new builds in new subdivisions. Where I live there has been quite a few knock down and rebuilds of 1960s era houses replaced with Hamilton's look with verandahs, corbiles, wide sashed windows which look amazing and fit in so well.
I would get a builder to inspect your current home first to confirm if it truly has good bones, and if not, go knock down and rebuild. My parents have a 1920s villa in which sadly, most the the interior character has been removed when it was converted into 2 flats and the bones of the house are just not there. There's bad wiring, plumbing, no insulation on one side, walls out of level, etc that they are going to knock down and rebuild. But what they are putting back will be very similar but with double glazing, insulation, inbuilt heating and cooling. Timber framed homes are just not supposed to last over 60 years, and modern homes are only rated for 40,  so we need to accept that as well.

#22 can'tstayaway

Posted 19 February 2020 - 10:15 AM

View PostGonzy, on 19 February 2020 - 09:36 AM, said:

cant'stayaway - Oh man, we are house reno twins!  Some unexpected costs for us were also entirely new plumbing, which in turn also meant we had to get part of our driveway re-laid to cover where old pipes were dug up and replaced. And we also had to get all new electrical wiring and an entirely new switchboard as the original one was no longer compliant.  You've hit the nail on the head about scratching the surface and being prepared for variation costs :)
Oh man!  We have to rip up our driveway because the idiot previous owners concreted over the inspection holes of the sewerage pipe. Duh!  We’re holding off doing that until we get the next stage done and then hopefully doing the landscaping in one hit.  The plumber did the camera down the pipe thing and we also have some cracks in the old clay pipes so there’s another 70k to repair something that you can’t see.

#23 null

Posted 19 February 2020 - 10:27 AM

View Postcan, on 19 February 2020 - 10:15 AM, said:

The plumber did the camera down the pipe thing and we also have some cracks in the old clay pipes so there’s another 70k to repair something that you can’t see.

Okay you are scaring me now!

#24 RichardParker

Posted 19 February 2020 - 10:39 AM

Yeah, I shouldn't have read this thread.  We're looking at purchasing a heritage-listed house that's 150 years old.  It's liveable now, dnwe don't need to extend, but could do with a new bathroom upstairs and a new kitchen.

Sorry to hijack, but before we put in an offer, is there anything we should make it "subject to" - I've already got an engineer's report, building inspection, Heritage Council report.  Am I missing anything?

I know the insulation, plumbing and wiring has been updated in the last 10 years, as it was converted to B&B accommodation and had to pass all the requisite standards.   But yeah, getting scared now.

#25 Moukmouk

Posted 19 February 2020 - 10:55 AM

RP we own an investment property that is 120 years old and our newly renovated house is 110 years old. A builder friend once told me that the beauty of old houses is that you know they have good bones to survive. And old double brick, high ceilings and original kauri pine floors are lovely to live in. I think it’s a great bonus if you know the plumbing and electricals are already updated. We found some .... interesting things when we pulled out an old bathroom.

Edited by Moukmouk, 19 February 2020 - 10:56 AM.





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