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5 Ways to Get Better Value on Your Home Reno

Posted Tuesday, April 14, 2015 in: Dare to DIY Obsessed With

So as many of you know already, Mr Nerd and I have been renovating our house for a little while. Okay, for years. Okay, from the day we got the keys, at the tender ages of 24. We were slapping up some dodgy DIY render on the kitchen walls even before cracking open the celebratory bottle of champagne given to us by the real estate agent (I know, right, where were our priorities back then?)

But we were just so damn excited. To me, renovating is a really exciting part of having a home. Sometimes I look at my house, or my garden, and I am overcome by this weird heady sense of power. “I can do WHATEVER I want to you,” I mutter, eyeballing a room with Jack Nicholson from The Shining eyes. I imagine this is sort of how dictators feel. Then I look at my bank statement and I am snapped back to reality. Yes, renovations are an exciting part of owning a home. But the thing is; to do them justice you really do need a game plan. Which means knowing your property, researching the possibilities and costs, and most importantly - firming up your finances.

A renovated bathroom in this West Leederville renovation I recently featured uses encaustic tiles to great impact. Good encaustic tiles aren't cheap, but if you are on a budget, try teaming a small amount - like to a splashback - with other inexpensive tiles and affordable fittings to give a bathroom the wow factor. Renovation by Studio Atelier, photo by Heather Robbins of Red Images Fine Photography.

So today, I am sharing five ways to get better value on your home renovation project. Not that I am an expert! But in our five years (and many mistakes) we have learned a few things.

1. Understand your budget and stick to it.

So you’re looking to improve your home. Maybe you have a baby on the way, like we do, and want more space. Or maybe you hate your bathroom, you need more storage or you’ve finally decided it’s time to change your kitchen and decide to start completely renovate your entire kitchen just months before your baby arrives (more on this development in my next post).

I think there are two ways of funding a renovation. One, you can save until you have enough for a project. Two, you can get a loan to cover the cost of the work. There is no right or wrong way - I can definitely see both sides of the equation here. Chances are you might be a whole lot happier paying off an extra bit of loan rather than living in an ugly or depressing house. I know this from having a lot of friends who are interior designers or architects as well as friends that are just crazy about beautiful houses. Some people are very visual and really affected by their surroundings. Living in a house that is dark, depressing or messy actually really affects their mood and saps their day-to-day mental energy. In this regard, there is no better argument for borrowing a little more to make sure you are coming home to a space you really like, that really makes you feel good.

I love this beautifully renovated country home on Design*Sponge - with an IKEA kitchen and styling and decorating all done on a budget and DIY, its owners didn't overcapitalise. (My mother is German, and I do have a soft spot for German houses!)

Before applying for a loan for renovations, make sure you understand the scope of your project, how much money your job will require and your budget. And remember to leave a little room for contingencies and cost overruns that inevitably occur (they WILL!) Your choice of loan will either hold you back or help you meet those needs. For home renovation projects, there are many ways to source financing. For example, if the reno costs up to $30,000 and you have good personal credit, an unsecured personal loan may be an effective way to finance the project over a short period of time while adding long term value to your property (which is also a bonus if you are planning to sell it soon). Unsecured personal loans generally offer more competitive rates and can be cleared in a few years with affordable repayments. You can see what your bank has to offer or shop around for the best personal loan rate. Australia now also has new peer-to-peer lending platforms such as SocietyOne that can help you apply for a personal loan online in minutes. Peer-to-peer loans are fixed amounts that make it easy to budget for and offer rates as low as 9.5% if you have a good credit rating. They are funded entirely by investors, which means you don’t have to go to the bank.

2. Do your homework – and invest in expert help if you need it.

With the web at your fingertips, you definitely can do your research before starting any renovation project! But that said, there is often no replacement for tailor-made help. If you are really stuck or need advice, I really do think it is worthwhile enlisting the advice of an interior designer or architect, even for just a one-hour consult, or for e-consulting, which is becoming increasingly popular and is often a great option if you are trying to save, whether you need advice on the perfect paint colour or you want tips on how to keep your bathroom reno under budget.

This Palmyra cottage I featured a little while ago was given an extensive DIY makeover by the owners, who had spent a lot on the house and were on a budget for their home improvement work. Photo by Heather Robbins of Red Images Fine Photography.

I think I am very lucky in my work to have made friends in the industry who are far more knowledgeable about design than me and who are always more than happy to give us advice. Honestly, these guys are worth their weight in gold and sometimes forking out for someone to just come round, give you a consult and cast a fresh eye over your house is so worth it. Good people will be brutally honest with you about your house, what you should do (or what you shouldn’t). I think it was our architect friend, Yasmin Drake of Lead Design, who really helped give us the final kick up the butt when it came to finally doing something about our house’s decrepit-looking 1970s bar. We asked her if she thought the bar was bad. “It is pretty ugly,” she said, kindly but honestly. “It is the eyesore of your house and it doesn’t make a very nice first impression when you walk in.” I remember we laughed because she wasn’t being rude, she was just being right. Weeks later, we were gutting the bar and now I LOVE how much better the whole house is because of it. It was a pain in the neck to do - I'll admit it! - but so worth it.

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