I’m constantly asked about how to choose a good renovator, so in my ongoing attempt to educate my readers, here are a couple of examples. Basically, I look for a property where I can keep a big portion of the existing fixtures and fittings. For this blog post I am focussing on exteriors, so I’ll be concentrating on what parts of the outside I don’t need to replace or spend a lot of money on. Of course paint is a fantastic, cheap way to uplift a property, so if the weatherboards or trims or whatever are starting to look a bit worn then paint is the instant answer. However, if the driveway is shot, the front fence needs replacing and the roof is asbestos – then you know you’re in for major reno costs.
I look for properties where there are only one or two major things that need renovating on the exterior. If you can get away with a lick of paint and a bit of landscaping then all the better. But if there are significant major costs, you need to really do your sums and work out whether all that expense is going to get you the return you need (you need to do your sums regardless!!).
The other thing you need to do is allocate your budget first. You will (or should have) a budget for the entire renovation. Now you need to work out what percentage of that you will spend on the exterior. This will depend on a number of things; your overall budget figure, the condition of the property overall, current property value, the neighbouring houses, your intention for the property (hold, sell, live in), probable new value of the property. What you don’t want to do is carry out your renovation and THEN add it all up (oh bugger I’ve spent $20k too much – too late now!).
So here are a few examples of properties I found on the internet. I’ve given a brief explanation of why I like them as a renovator.
1) What I like about the following property is that there is lots we can keep. We can re-use the brick without necessarily rendering it. We have a good roof (looks good in this photo anyway). The driveway is perfect. But the landscaping and general street appeal is terrible. By using the right sort of landscaping you can create a soft, appealing frontage to the property that creates a ‘frame’ around the house. This works instead of a fence to contain the house and give a greater sense of ownership. Does that make sense? It’s not just about plonking some plants along the front – from a design perspective, there is a lot more you can do to really maximise the look of this property for very little cost.
2) I like this house because all it needs is a good paint job and some new balustrading. I would paint directly over the timber in quite a dark colour and paint the base (currently white) a mid colour. I would stain the fence and replace that weird gate (make it look more designer while tying through the two different fence heights either side). Replacing the balustrades on the deck and stairs would transform this house and I would spend a little extra on getting this just right (nothing too fancy but equally not too cheap). The driveway is fine but may need a water-blast to refresh. Other than that, I would add some linear style plants along the garden. You may say – yep that’s what I would have done too. The question is, is this the right thing to do – really, for this property? Well, actually I don’t know – because I need to know the probable re-val of this property, the current val of this property and the proposed budget for the entire reno. If the numbers stack up and the project allows me to spend (say) $6,000 – $7,000 for the exterior reno, then these are probably the right things to do. But if the budget says that I can only spend $2,000, then which thing/s will I choose to do?
3) Once again we have a decent driveway that, in this instance, we can probably re-use. The brick looks to be in great condition, so costs to the external wall surfaces are going to be minimal. To modernise this property, I might look at painting the windows and guttering/fascias a colour other than white. I would also get rid of the tree in front of the entry portico and create a great focal point there. This might involve tiling the entry porch and replacing/improving the portico roof-line. To decide if these are the right things to do to this property, I need to work out what I’m doing with it (selling, renting, living in myself), who my target market are and how much money I have to spend. If your target market are retirees, then you probably wouldn’t modernise it the way you would for young families. Equally, if you are holding the property to rent out, then you may spend a bit less on the external renovation works (if you are selling then the exterior is one of the most important areas to get right though).
4) I can’t see a lot of this property, but I do know that if the fence was lowered then this home would be a hundred times more appealing. Your fence is like the cover of a book. It needs to be great (which doesn’t mean it needs to be expensive by the way!). Look for properties that you can add instant street appeal with a fantastic fence. This might blow 50% or more of your external budget, but in some cases it can be worth it (need to guage this case by case). What I love about the idea of lowering this fence is what is now going to be visible in the front courtyard area. Some simple paving or planter boxes can add a quaint, modern effect for not a lot of cost. Oh and a paint job – but you already knew that!
5) This property is lacking interest. It’s too flat and boring other than the brick detail. If this were my property, I would raise and tile or deck the front porch, ‘box out’ the front support posts and add some soft hedging type plants. These are simple things that add depth and definition to the facade – two key things that contribute to a ‘designer’ looking reno – and one that potential buyers and renters won’t be able to get enough of.
So when looking for a property to reno, my biggest tip is to find one where you can re-use or easily restore most of the elements. There’s a bit of an art to knowing exactly what to do to your property once you’ve found the perfect renovator – so check out my Renovation Action Plan service where I tell you exactly what to do to your property in a handy, comprehensive specification document. You can read more about that here.