By Bernadette Janson, The School of Renovating


Renovating can be addictive and many of us justify the compulsion to be continually spending money on improvements believing that we are adding value. Unfortunately not all renovations add value and if you don’t want to be pouring good money down the drain it’s wise to be conscious and informed about where you spend your money.

So before I go on, it’s important to understand that renovations fall into two categories:

The first is the improvements that expand the function or livability of the house. These are structural in nature such as changes to the floor plan and additions, they usually cost more but the flip side is that they have greater potential to add value and the added value has longevity.

The second category is the cosmetic or aesthetic improvements including painting, rendering, floor coverings, even kitchen and bathroom upgrades can fall into this category.

While they still have the potential to add extraordinary value, the value begins to depreciate the minute they are finished.

So when you are planning your renovation, keep in mind that some of the improvements will grow in value with the capital value of the home but the cosmetic improvements will do the opposite, they will reduce in value as they date and deteriorate. If you want to realise the full potential of your renovations, they need to be completed no more than 18 months before the property is put on the market.

You can watch my presentation `The Top Ten Tips To Adding Value through Renovating’ filmed at the Build & Renovating Expo online HERE. I have also included a free download of the `30 of the best ways to add value through renovating’ e-Book.

My first tip would be to:

1. Expand the floor plan.

Look at where you can expand the livability of the home. The first place to look is the kitchen, if you can open it up to a more open plan it’s an easy value add.

If you are able to add an extra bedroom say taking a 2-bedroom home to a 3-bedder, it will add significant value because it will bump the value of the home up into the next price bracket. The amount it adds will depend on where you live; in my area that’s about $100,000 to 150,000. The bigger the home ,the less the impact. If you were to take a home from 5 to 6 bedrooms there would be little or no impact.

It is important to remember that any floor plan changes should be well considered, avoid creating a rabbit warren effect and don’t have bedrooms opening onto living rooms.

Which brings me to my next point.

2.Engage an architect.

Before you do anything, engage an architect to develop the concept plan for your renovations, even if you are not doing the work in one go. It doesn’t cost a lot and can save you from making expensive mistakes. Architects have a highly developed and unique mix of technical skills and creativity. They understand how space and light work and will not only help you realise your dreams for your home but will maintain the integrity of the design of the home.

While we are on the subject, if you are a follower of the TV shows Grand Designs you may have some appreciation for the fact that `over the top’ architectural designs rarely add sufficient value to cover the costs. The reason for this is that they are pitched at highly individual tastes and values, which in the long run will narrow the market of buyers. Property values are driven by supply and demand, for maximum value you want your home to have broad appeal, but if you opt for a highly individualized home then you are getting into minority territory.

That aside, for your family home, value should not only be measured in financial terms. If living in a home that is tailored to your individual taste is important to you then you are investing in quality of life that has benefits that money can’t buy.

3. Keep the style, look + feel consistent.


It is important to ensure that it fits in with its surrounding by keeping the style consistent with the streetscape. For example if your home is in a street of predominantly Victorian terraces, plonking an ultra modern renovation in the middle of them is not the smartest move.

This does not mean that your home should be identical in style to the surrounding homes but it needs to be sympathetic. So before you lift a finger, make a decision about the style you are going to adopt and then stick to it.

The need for consistency also applies to colour. Establish your colour palette at the outset and take the scheme right through the house. This will give the home a look of quality. While staying neutral is important, it doesn’t need to be boring, the colours can be quite strong and you can play with the strengths for different effects.

Rather than spending a lot of time and energy with test pots trying to establish the right paint to reflect your colour choices, for $150 Dulux will send a colour consultant to your home to help you select the paint colours. Most of which is redeemable on the cost of the paint.

4. Improve the street appeal


This is a powerful way to add instant value, by virtue of the fact that it broadens your market. The first thing to look at is the front door. If the home is tired and dated, start by giving the front door a modern upgrade and paint it in rich oil based gloss paint. It can cost around $600 installed and will instantly transform.

On dated brick homes, cement render is another high impact value add. Have sloping windowsills are knocked off and squared for a more modern look. The down side of cement rendering is that it requires painting. The acrylic alternatives don’t, and while they cost more, will look good for years to come.

The front driveway is highly visual so needs to be spotless. Resurfacing concrete driveways is fast and effective but my advice would be to get plenty of quotes as they can vary significantly.

Add a well-manicured front garden and lawn and some external lighting for some after dark charm.

5. Create views


Water views are the holy grail of house value with salt water being the most prized. If you home is not in a view worthy setting, a lush garden can be a good alternative.

Interestingly a framed view is more desirable than an expansive view. Plan to create views from every window of the home, by cultivating the garden.

This does not mean spending large amounts of money on expensive landscape design but strategically planning, planting and maintaining your garden so that it looks good from inside and out.   In addition this will help to maintain privacy which is another huge value add.


For more information on Bernadette Janson and The School of Renovating, visit her website