10 Tips For Financially Savvy Renovators

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Updated 19/01/2024
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Written by

Liv Steigrad

Updated 19/01/2024

What changed?

Updated with new sources, new TOV
Our aim is to help you make better informed decisions. That’s why iSelect’s content is produced in accordance with our fact-checking and editorial guidelines.

Find out more about how we make money.

View our Privacy Policy.

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Tip 1: Set Clear Renovation Goals
Tip 2: Create a Killer Budget
Tip 3: Start with the Essentials
Tip 4: Be Wise About DIY
Tip 5: Focus on the Money Makers
Tip 6: Take Your Time with Contractors
Tip 7: Choose High-Quality Materials
Tip 8: Consider the Impact of Lighting
Tip 9: Put Safety First
Tip 10: Research your financing options
Where can I find and compare home loans?

It’s easy to get swept up in the momentum of home renovation TV shows. We’ve all gone through the gauntlet of emotions after binge-watching episodes of Grand Designs. But not all of us have millions of pounds to spend in the English countryside. 

Before you dive headfirst into the process, here are some tips that may help avoid a financial nightmare when renovating your dream home. 

Tip 1: Set Clear Renovation Goals 

Renovating is a big project and once you get started, it can be easy to lose sight of your overall vision. So before you get inspiration from Pinterest boards for that cozy reading nook, take a minute to sit down and figure out what your goals are for the renovation. 

Are there structural changes you need or want to make? Is it more of a cosmetic thing? Are you renovating the whole house or only a few rooms? 

Think realistically about how the spaces will be used and go from there. Start by writing down your ultimate wish list, then prioritise your list. Categorising things as ‘must-have’ and ‘nice-to-have’ will help you make many of the decisions that come later. It’s also a good idea to think about your timelines. Do you need it done by a specific date or can you be flexible? 

The more specific your goals are, the easier it will be to figure out the rest. 

Tip 2: Create a Killer Budget 

Budget is usually the biggest constraint when it comes to renovation. Before you go and start collecting quotes, figure out what a realistic overall budget is for you. Take your list of renovation goals and find estimates online, then see how your overall budget compares. This is where your ‘must-have’ and ‘nice-to-have’ lists will come in handy. 

Some important things to consider in your budget are: 

  • Do you need an architect, structural engineer, or interior designer? 
  • Council fees 
  • Skip hire 
  • Labour and materials for the build 
  • Cost of appliances and fixtures 
  • Any new furniture 
  • Windows and doors 
  • Cabinetry and hardware 
  • Countertops 
  • Flooring and lighting 
  • Plumbing 
  • Necessary repairs 
  • Potential temporary accommodation during renovations 

Knowing exactly which materials, fixtures and finishes you want before contacting a builder makes the process a bit smoother. Making those decisions before reaching out to contractors will help them give you a realistic quote and help you avoid surprises down the track.  

Tip 3: Start with the Essentials 

Want to skip straight to LED lighting and paint the walls rainbow-coloured? Hold on a minute. Before you enter your style icon era, it’s important to prioritise the essentials. 

Any structural elements that need repairs should be top of your list. Get your plumbing and electricals checked, as well as any water damage or damp that needs to be addressed. This stuff might not be fun, but it’ll save you money and stress down the track. The costs associated with these also tend to be less flexible than, say, your decorating costs. Once you know what needs to be repaired and how much of your budget it’ll take up, you can better decide how to spend the rest on cosmetic renovations, furniture, appliances, and decoration.  

If you’re planning on renovating multiple rooms, start with the kitchen. Kitchen renovation works often involve a lot of dust and debris that you don’t want ending up on new paint jobs or finishes elsewhere in the house. 

Tip 4: Be Wise About DIY 

DIY can be fun when you get started. Once you get a few tiny jobs under your tool belt, Bunnings becomes the most wonderful place in the world. But once that happens, it’s hard to set limits. You might be able to do some of the work yourself, but keep in mind that most electrical, plumbing and major building work is required by law to be done by a licensed, insured professional

When tossing up whether to DIY, weigh up the difficulty of the task, the impact of it going wrong, and your own willingness to learn and put in effort. 

Reinstalling your own bathtub, for example, could lead to big (expensive) issues if you make a mistake. Painting your own walls is time consuming and physically demanding, but mistakes aren’t likely to cost you money. Stick to the easy stuff (like making that Dungeons & Dragons table you’ve always wanted) and let the pros handle any potential risks. 

Tip 5: Focus on the Money Makers 

Whether you’re renovating to sell or simply thinking about selling sometime down the track, focusing your renovation on certain areas will help you. 

If you’re not absolutely sure that this is your forever home, avoid making changes that are too quirky or unique to you. Practicality and timeless design choices will help you appeal to a wider number of potential buyers when the time comes. You can also prioritise resale value by focusing on areas like kitchen upgrades, open floor plans and external touch ups that add to the overall curb appeal. 

Tip 6: Take Your Time with Contractors 

Whoever you engage to work on your renovation is someone you’re going to have a fairly involved relationship with for quite some time. Do your research, read reviews, double check licences and qualifications and get multiple quotes before making your decision

Try and meet any potential contractors face to face or have a phone call to get a feel for their personality and communication styles. Remember, this process will likely be stressful for you as it is, clashing personalities will make things unnecessarily difficult. 

Tip 7: Choose High-Quality Materials 

There are some things you can choose to save money on. Materials aren’t one of them. That doesn’t mean you have to go for the most premium option every time, but remember you’re building for the long term.  

Australia in particular can have quite a harsh climate. If you’re along the coast, concrete, metal, and natural timbers will have a better chance of surviving that salty air. If you’re in the country, get yourself some steel, glass, and brick to stay compliant with bushfire regulations and accommodate the more extreme temperatures. 

When it comes to materials for internal things like floorboards, remember they’ll be getting decades of daily wear and tear. 

Tip 8: Consider the Impact of Lighting 

Disco balls, mirrored walls, and lamps that are in the shape of a full size horse? People have all sorts of different preferences, but one thing just about everyone can agree on is light. While you think about artificially brightening a room or two, natural light adds value to any house and the lack of it can be a dealbreaker for many people. 

If you’re renovating for sale, think about adding windows or skylights to improve the natural light. Pay special attention to the entry areas to make a good first impression. Again, think about how each space will be used. Bright lights make sense in the kitchen where people want to see what they’re cooking, while the living area might be better off with some softer ambient lighting. 

Tip 9: Put Safety First 

DIY can be more dangerous than you think. Regardless of possible hospitalisations involved falling from a ladder, other potential risks of home renovations include damaging wiring or plumbing, toxic fumes from paints and adhesives, accidents with power tools, or even coming across lead-based paints or asbestos.  

Before you get stuck into any DIY renovation, get a professional to come and give you the green light and make sure you have protective gear on hand, including eye protection, gloves, dust masks, and even a HEPA filter. 

If you’re not doing any DIY, your home will still be a construction site for a while. Be mindful of what’s on the floors, wear closed shoes, follow any safety directives the builders give you, and be especially mindful of children. 

Tip 10: Research your financing options 

Method Man once said cash rules everything around us. This is also the reality of renovations. If you don’t have all the money you need up front for your renovation, there are finance options you can consider, including: 

  • Tapping into the equity in your home 
  • Using money from your offset account or redraw facilities 
  • Refinancing your existing home loan 
  • Taking out a construction loan to cover major works. This type of loan is based on the projected value of the renovated property, so can be quite substantial. The lender pays instalments according to a fixed price building contract and council-approved plans, and interest is only charged on money that is drawn down 

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*iSelect is the trading name of iSelect Mortgages Pty Ltd (ABN 86 148 217 181). iSelect Mortgages Pty Ltd is a credit representative (Credit Representative 400540) of Lendi Group Distribution Pty Ltd (Australian Credit Licence 246786). iSelect provides a referral to Lendi Pty Ltd, a Credit Representative of Lendi Group Distribution Pty Ltd (Australian Credit License 246786). iSelect Mortgages Pty Ltd receives a commission from Lendi Group Distribution Pty Ltd, the licensee for each new customer account created and for each home loan submitted through this service.