Renovation? Know what lies ahead

by Stickywire on Thursday April 12, 2012

Most home buyers have had the notion at one time or another – grab an undervalued property and renovate it top to bottom to make it an ideal home, a super investment, or both.

If you are one with such a notion, do the math and consider carefully what you are taking on. 

Renovation is never easy. The rule of thumb is that nothing ever goes according to plan when fixing, adding to or rebuilding a home. There are always surprises and most of these are not pleasant.

The first step is to visualize what the property could be and the vision must be tempered with realism. A 1950s bungalow may become a two or three-storey house but it will never become a mansion unless you are prepared to spend many hundreds of thousands of dollars on new construction. 

It is, however, quite possible to transform a large, rundown house into a larger mansion with such things as four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a swimming pool and even a wine cellar – for a budget of several hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

The best advice is to look for a home in a good location on an adequate piece of land. The home should have ‘good bones’ meaning a sound foundation, good exterior walls and infrastructure. It will likely not have an up-to-date heating and air conditioning plan, newer roof or windows and so on but all these things can be addressed in a renovation at reasonable costs.

If the homeowner has time, he or she can carry out renovations room by room and over time to maintain an affordable budget.  This kind of project will take years, not months.

Any budget should be increased by about 50 percent to make sure there is enough money to complete the job. An incomplete renovation is the road to ruin. 

Some of the things that inevitably push up the budget in any renovation are the discovery of rotted wood or other water damage, enlarging spaces like kitchens to make them workable and attempts to preserve the character of an old house. Today’s materials often don’t allow for restoration of features like plaster mouldings or original flooring. One of the things that can be done to turn an old home into a much more comfortable environment is to update its insulation; in most older homes, insulation will add immediately to the livability of the place. 

Renovation can add tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in value to an older home and make it a real home to a family of any size. Renovation has its downsides but with a good contractor and a realistic vision, renovation can be the best road by far for the home buyer. 


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