Renovations that offer bang for your buck

I’ve never wanted to be one those older folk whose house is so dated and unloved that the only solution is a bulldozer. Which is why many older Australians take a fresh look at what needs to be done in the years before they plan to retire.

But for most people, any renovations at this stage of life need to be money well spent. So which improvements will deliver maximum value? And which are likely to bomb?

Nicole Jacobs, Melbourne-based buyers’ advocate, author of SOLD! How to Buy and Sell Your Home With Real Confidence and regular on TV renovation show The Block, says not all home improvements are created equal.

“While you want to spend time and money on creating your home to live in, it can be done wisely with future planning of a sale too,” she told RACV. “It really comes down to what is the price point of the home. What buyers expect and what they will pay for in a $500,000 apartment will be very different to a home worth more than $2 million.”

Read more: Get ahead of the home renovation curve

Money spent on any renovation should be carefully considered in the context of how long you plan to live there. Real estate executive Lachlan Bishop says that’s especially important if you’re planning to sell in the next few years.

“You obviously don’t want to over-capitalise by spending too much on major improvements that buyers might not want,” he says.

It’s equally important to consider how the house will age with you and support you in your later years. Wider halls and doorways and support rails in bathrooms and toilets can be a good investment.

Get painting
The costs are minimal and the labour is cheap if you can do at least part of the work yourself. Just be sensible with the use of ladders, buy good quality paint if you want it to last, prep the surfaces well and do your research on colour options. And don’t be afraid to be bold if you’re planning on living there for years to come.

Read more: How to choose a real estate agent

A fresh coat of paint on walls, window frames, skirting boards and architraves will breathe life into a worn home. “Buyers love nothing more than a home that is well painted and feels fresh,” says Ms Jacobs.

If you’re planning to hire painters, be sure to get three quotes and check their references. Dodgy paint jobs from fly-by-nighters are one of the commonest scams going around.

Kitchens and bathrooms
Even a modest reno in these areas can be hefty, but Ms Jacobs says kitchen and bathroom upgrades are well worth the money. “Kitchens sell homes, so updating the kitchen is always a good investment,” she says.

She cautions, however, to spend according to the value of your home – a bespoke kitchen is fine for million-dollar homes but kits from the likes of Ikea, Freedom and Bunnings are fine for more affordable properties.

Read more: Are you ageing successfully?

She says bathrooms are another key selling point, but again emphasises that wise spending is smart spending. “You can respray the tiles and the bath and they look amazing – it’s a very cheap way of refreshing, and the buyer can renovate it further if they choose. Shows like The Block have given buyers the inspiration to achieve both small, sometimes cosmetic, renovations to larger more detailed renovations.”

Outdoor upgrades
New plantings, pruning of existing vegetation, mulch and perhaps even new lighting can make a massive difference to a tired garden. And don’t forget the vegie garden.

If you’re thinking of selling, Mr Bishop says it can pay to engage a professional gardener. “When the buyer looks at it, they are seeing … a garden they can move into without needing to do anything.”

A makeover of outdoor entertaining areas can also breathe fresh life into outdoor areas. Maybe a timber deck needs to be reoiled or a concrete space painted.

Built-in robes
If your house is cluttered – and that’s probable if you’ve lived there for some time – consider whether it’s time for storage capacity. Mr Bishop says: “New cabinetry, built-in robes, just more storage in general, is a great investment.” Wardrobe space in each bedroom is a must-have feature for a sale and so are overhead laundry cupboards, he says.

What are your worst and best renovation experiences? What would you never do again? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

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Written by Janelle Ward



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