Planning some home improvements? Expert tips for spending wisely

A room makeover can really bring new life to your home, especially when you’ve been looking at the same four walls day in, day out for the past year.

The rise in popularity of renovation shows, and the fact we’ve been spending so much time at home, means more and more Australians are reaching for their tool belts.

According to experts, now is the perfect time to undertake renovations to get your property into the condition you’ve always dreamt of.

The average cost of home renovations sits at approximately $50 per hour, but rates can go as high as $65 per hour, so you want to make sure you’re spending that money wisely.

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Paul Went, managing director for consumers at Shawbrook Bank, says: “You should be prepared for any unexpected costs, and avoid stretching your finances to the limit by not having set aside some money to cover all eventualities.

“If you’re thinking about borrowing money to help fund your project, then explore all of your options and don’t rush into any decisions. If you want to maximise the return on your investment, it’s important to try and minimise any unnecessary costs,” Mr Went adds.

Want to ensure your money is being well spent before getting stuck into new projects? DIY expert Chris Rice has the following tips to share . . .

Call your builder early
Mr Rice says: “A mistake people often make is assuming a tradesperson will be available the next day, when some of us will be booked up a year in advance during peak seasons. It’s better to call as far in advance as you can to avoid missing out.”

A good builder is worth waiting for
“I’d say up to six weeks is a reasonable amount of time to wait for someone to come in off-peak periods,” says Mr Rice.

Read more: Why tradies are in short supply and renovations costs are soaring

Recommendations are worth their weight in gold
“If you have friends or family who rely on someone, they’ll probably be your best bet,” adds Mr Rice. “Before getting started with any new builder, it’s also worth trying to look at what they’ve done previously. I often let new clients know where they can go locally to get an idea of my work.”

Make sure a cheap quote isn’t a ‘foot-in-the-door price’
If you’re tempted by a cheap quote, consider how much any “extras” may cost. Mr Rice explains: “For jobs like kitchen refits, in particular, it can be hard to give a truly accurate estimate. For example, you may uncover a whole load of rotten plaster that needs to be redone once the old units have been torn out.

According to Hipages, renovating a kitchen in Australia could cost anywhere between $10,000 and $45,000.

The price varies depending on the extent of the work you’re carrying out, the materials and products you use and your kitchen’s size.

“If a price seems too good to be true, ask your builder to provide a list of what it covers, and any added extras they think may come up. This acts as a good indicator of how honest the tradesperson is, and could avoid you getting into financial difficulty.”

Get several estimates
A general rule of thumb is to aim for three quotes per job, but Mr Rice says getting as many as possible will increase the chances of finding someone you like.

A lot of people really underestimate the cost. That’s partly due to a lot of TV shows that give them unrealistic ideas. Let’s not forget a lot of those shows use DIY to save on costs.

If you’re renovating a bathroom, you may not think about things such as relocating the plumbing – and there’s a knock-on effect from decisions like that. Sometimes people might overspend two or three thousand on a room without planning on it because of issues like unseen damage.

According to Hipages, renovating a bathroom tends to cost between $10,000 and $35,000 in Australia. Replacing tiles often pushes up the cost of bathroom makeovers.

Set a clear budget and plan for any potential overspend
Mr Rice says: “Typically, I try to price for a ‘worst-case scenario’ and if it doesn’t come to that, I can take money off. It’s very unlikely that I have to say something is going to cost extra, and I know those are the words that any client hates to hear.”

Read more: What you need to consider when buying a recently renovated property

Let the builder handle materials
Mr Rice says many builders will get preferential rates on materials – so buying them yourself may not actually save money.

Communicate if you’re unhappy
If you let a contractor know you’re are not 100 per cent happy with the work, they may well go straight back and fix it to a high standard.

To help guard against rogue traders, Mr Rice adds: “The best precaution anyone can take is ensuring they have a legitimate home or office address for someone, so that they are able to find them if something goes wrong. Be careful if someone is only offering a telephone number or email address.”

Read more: Older Australians want to build or renovate, not go into aged care

Leave it to the experts
Mr Rice adds: “Find someone you get along with and trust their expertise. Having that chemistry feeds into the whole client/builder relationship.”

Have you undertaken any renovations this year? What was your experience? Why not share your tips in the comments section below?

– With PA

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