Renovating On A Budget

So you’ve moved in to your new home and are champing at the bit to pull out the kitchen, bathroom, rip up the carpet and swap out those tired light fittings.

It’s easy for the excitement and enthusiasm to get the better of you as you rush to turn a tired old property into a modern masterpiece. But no one experienced home renovator says it’s best to take time out and carefully plan what needs to be done, as opposed to what you assumeshould be done and to look at all the options before spending more than you need to.

Mark Trafford of Maintain To Profit has been investing in and renovating property in both the UK and from his current home on Auckland’s North Shore for more than 25 years.

“If you are renovating your own home and you are planning to stay there for some time then wha’s the rush?” says Mark. “I know some home owners who have spent 10 years getting their home just how they want it – one room at a time as they got the money.”

His advice is to live with what you have for a little while and see if the kitchen or bathroom can be remodelled rather than replaced.

“That’s the cheapest, most cost effective option,” he says. “You can even spray kitchen doors and bathroom cabinets,” he says. But you are best doing the work in stages and planning it out over a few years starting with the most important rooms first.

While the kitchen and bathroom are often first port of callfor a rip-out and replace job, Mark says most home owners can get away with a new top for the kitchen cabinets, replacement doors and handles.

“Often the kitchen units themselves are fine; so why rip them out? But the cost is not necessarily in the new fixings. It’s in the new design and the layout and this is where a lot of money can be spent on moving electrical wires, changing the plumbing and gas services too. Those costs can be quite significant, that’s where people tend to get caught out.

You’re going to save a lot of money if you put new units back in the same place as the old ones but that doesn’t mean you can’t add to the layout with something like a kitchen island. You can put granite tops on at very affordable prices.

Apart from doing major works in the bathroom and kitchen, Mark says a lot can be achieved by just repainting the interior walls. “The biggest impact that you can make to a property is to paint it internally. Because what visitors do when they walk into a home is to look up at the ceiling then around the room and gradually look down,” he says. Then you’ll look at the next level of where everything is flat and visible. So that’s kitchen benchtops, bathrooms, vanities, tables and then from there, your eyes will eventually go down to what’s on the floor.

So the four areas that I would put my money into is paint first, I would look at the flooring and then I would look at cost-effectively doing the kitchen and bathrooms.

When Mark renovates one of his properties, he buys lights from the one of the  big DIY chains rather than specialist lighting suppliers with their more expensive options. “Idon’t go high-end for LED lighting and replacement switches,” he says. I go to places where you’ve got lifetime warranties and good quality, middle of the range options that still look good.

“it’s okay to have one light in your kitchen that is stunning. But you don’t need every light fitting to be $300 each. You’re better off saving the money and using it to replace old light switches and power sockets with modern ones. They can have a big impact on the look of your home.”

While cosmetic changes help make a home look great. Mark says home owners shouldn’t forget to put money into insulation and home heating. “if you’re updating your home its is a really good opportunity to look at things like heat pumps and options around bringing your home into the 20th century in regards to being warm and comfortable,” he says.

It might mean that you put in a ventilation system and look at things such as insulation. It is no good sitting in a wonderfully decorated home and shivering because it is cold. Even in Auckland it’s not warm in winter. So while we all want our homes to look great for less, heating and insulation are really important when you come to resell that house. But people tend to overlook things that are going to make the difference.

Bottom line though, says Mark, is having a realistic budget an then making renovation decisions based on the cash available. “That’s where people who haven’t renovated a house before fall down,” he says. You do need to price everything, get quotes, do research.

You know what a car costs because it’s got sticker on the window. But if you’re renovating, you don’t really know what you’re doing unless you’ve done it before.

Finally Mark advises that when hiring contractors to have a clear contract and to only pay a small deposit. “Iget so many calls from people that have paid up front and the builders have gone bust, can’t be found or have headed to Australia. It’s incredible.”

Helpful Tips:

  • Replace kitchen worktops and doors – not the cabinets
  • Spray cabinets and doors in the kitchen and bathrooms for a fresh look
  • Keep water pipes, gas and waste supplies in the same places to avoid hefty bills
  • Paint walls for a fresh look
  • Replace light switches and power sockets for a modern feel
  • If it is your forever home then update it in stages – one room at a time
  • Heating and good insulation are big selling points
  • Research prices, be realistic and set a budget to work to

Courtesy of New Zealand Herald