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  • Add thousands to the value of your property

    Add thousands to the value of your property

    Author: Helena Keers
    Date: November 7, 2007
    Publication: Sydney Morning Herald (subscribe)

    Smart home owners are using property renovation as a way to invest in their financial future, writes Helena Keers.

    You've got the house and the mortgage - and with rising interest rates you're not about to upgrade to a bigger home. But one thing you can do is maximise value by undertaking extensions or renovations to your existing house. If you do, you'll be joining a growing number of Australians who have chosen to renovate to secure a solid investment for the future.

    The number of people renovating property is increasing to satisfy a growing demand for renovated houses. Some of the most popular renovations include removing internal walls to create more space, adding new windows or doors to create more light and putting in new kitchens or deck areas.

    It's also a busy time for bathroom renovations. A marble, stone and granite tile expert at Forever Tiling, Antonio Cipri, says that "clients tend to want to modernise bathrooms and outside spaces ready for Christmas".


    Darren Suefong, director of companies Maxim Constructions and Beams, Bars and Openings, specialises in new additions, wall removals, project management, maintenance and demolition. He says the average cost of removing internal walls - depending on structural design - ranges from $5,000 to $10,000. Of course, on top of that you need to add the cost of plasterers and renderers and electricians. If you get Suefong to manage that for you, you'll pay him 15 per cent to 20 per cent of the total project cost.

    "Many of our clients have mentioned that the high transactional costs of selling and buying a new property is the main reason for staying in their current home and renovating it to suit their budget and lifestyle," he says - adding that there is also a small percentage of the home-owner market that renovates in order to move up the property chain.


    Whether you're renovating for your own benefit or in order to sell your home, you'll find renovations add value to property. Director of inner city real-estate agent BresicWhitney, Ivan Bresic, says renovated houses and flats are in high demand as time-poor bankers, lawyers, accountants and other professionals are willing to pay more for a renovated house.

    "Unrenovated houses are selling at a discount and this discount is getting bigger," Bresic says.

    However, he warns that building costs have gone up significantly in the past three to five years.

    "The council requirements and development application process has also become harder and tougher and sometimes people are forced to rent somewhere for six months while they wait for their new kitchen or bathroom."


    If you're keen to sell but don't have the cash for a huge renovation, you might want to consider property styling.

    Stylist expert Mel Livermore (pictured) has worked for interior magazines and real-estate agents and has nine years experience of buying and set styling in the film industry in Australia and Britain . She says that visual impact is hugely important if you're looking at selling your property.

    "Extra attention paid to presenting a home or apartment for sale invariably pays off in many ways," she says.

    "Firstly, the styling is adding value to the property and extending the profit margin. Secondly the vendor's return on investment in advertising is maximised. And thirdly, the vendor's negotiating power will be strong, as many people will negotiate on price if the property has not been presented well, or poorly looked after - equally if it's poorly furnished."

    Most people search the internet, real-estate magazines, newspapers, brochures and real-estate window fronts when they're looking for a property to buy. So the visual impact from furnishings, as well as renovations, tends to help with a sale.

    "A property that is styled well sticks out from the crowd," Livermore says. "In today's property market now is the time to focus on ways to separate your properties from the pack and create a wow factor."

    So, if you've got the time and you want to make your capital work for you, perhaps you should be thinking about renovations. Here are three stories of home owners who have juggled jobs, babies and renovations to improve their homes and their property investments.


    Finding the right person for the job is a must when it comes to renovations. So, shop around. The market for new kitchens, for example, is competitive from the higher end - with suppliers such as Sydney Kitchens - to the DIY end - with the likes of Ikea. Make sure you check what you're getting or you could end up with added costs in plumbers, electricians, splashbacks and work tops. You'll also find electricians are busy and pretty expensive, so ask in advance what rate they charge per hour. Rates can range from $60 to as much as $85.


    Mel Livermore, 30, bought her one-bedroom flat in North Bondi in April for $345,000 and reckons she got it for a song.

    "It was painted peppermint green when I bought it and there was a terrible gas fireplace which had to go but I could see the potential." She was so convinced of this potential, she managed to get all her paperwork in order in just two days so she could go to the auction on a stormy Monday night and buy it.

    Mel used all her expertise as a property stylist for interior magazines and real estate agent Bresic Whitney in managing the renovations. She spent six weeks painting the flat a neutral white and putting in a new kitchen from Kitchen Biz.

    "It was important to keep it classic, so it would appeal to a broader market. I chose fresh and neutral tones like creams, whites and beiges, rather than a crazy and personal colour in the kitchen."

    She says the furniture you choose for your home is also important.

    "I've got a slim four-seater dining table in the flat, with four chairs and two end stools. This means I can still fit six for dinner but it doesn't take up too much room. Alternatively I can use the stools as side tables."

    Mel wants to keep her flat as an investment and now plans to live with her partner. They are currently looking for a two-bedroom flat in North Bondi. Mel's flat is in an art-deco block of eight with a shared garden. Similar units in the area are now going for between $420,000 and $480,000.

    Mel has had five real estate agents around to see the place and they've advised she can rent it for about $400 per week, which is a pretty attractive yield.

    "Some people are happy renting," she says. "But I don't want to be priced out of the market and the value of property is always going to go up. I would also prefer to pay a bit more every month on a mortgage, rather than paying off someone else's mortgage with my rent."


    Andrea Gopurenko, 29, and her partner, Dr Duncan Dew, 32, bought their three-bedroom timber house in Dungog in the Hunter Valley last year. Back then it had just one bathroom but they saw plenty of potential in the property, which backs onto a river, and have since completely transformed the place.

    Andrea was very hands-on with the renovations. She painted the bedrooms, including feature coloured walls over the fireplaces, and even created some original art to set off the walls and complement the furnishings.

    Duncan and Andrea have travelled extensively in India and China and lived in the Northern Territory, so they prefer natural textures, weaves and earthy tones that set off their exotic ornaments. When it came to the bathrooms, Andrea used all her expertise to renovate the existing bathroom and create another in the former laundry and small toilet space.

    "We are lucky because our neighbour is a builder and he was a real help," she says. "Duncan gave me a specific brief for the existing bathroom - he wanted it to look like a hotel." She chose shiny black tiles for the floor and shower wall and white-and-chrome sinks and taps. She also sealed all the tiles herself.

    They are both keen gardeners and the property is surrounded by lush plants and trees. What's more, in the middle of all of this renovation, Andrea and Duncan found the time to have a little girl, Ruby, who is 14 months old, and get a puppy, Ripley.


    Midwife Anna Atkin, 31, and her husband Dave, 31, a civil engineer, bought their three-bedroom house in Thirlmere, near Camden, five years ago.

    Anna says: "We bought it as an investment and rented it out.We didn't really expect to live in it but Dave got a job in Camden and we decided to leave Sydney and move to Thirlmere. I was pregnant at the time."

    When they went to check the state of the house they realised they had their work cut out.

    "Two walls were covered with fake brick wallpaper and the rest were mission brown. There was a combustion heater and a revolting corner of mirror tiles and shelving, a shocking kitchen and filthy carpet and it all had to go," Anna says.

    With the help of their parents they renovated the entire house themselves, painting all the walls, putting in new carpets, new floors and building a new kitchen in whites and creams that optimised light and freshness.

    Their son Charlie has his own room decorated with pictures and Anna also made striking red fabric hangings for the lounge to complement a red rug.

    "We did as little as we could to make it liveable and the result was satisfying," she says. They moved in just a week before Charlie, now 16 months old, was born. "The bathroom is still original (and very daggy)," Anna says. So maybe that's the next project.

    "There's one way to find out if a man is honest-ask him. If he says 'yes,' you know he is a crook." Groucho Marx

  • #2
    Landscaping is the first thing that potential buyers normally look for. Good landscaping adds to about 28% of home value.