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Renovate or sell? The big question

Renovate or sell? The big question

So you’ve outgrown your current home – maybe you need more space or maybe you’re a little more flush than you were when you bought your first place and want something a little bit more flash.

That’s when the inevitable question arises: embark on a radical renovation or sell up and move on to a new, more spacious home?

Making the decision may depend on a number of factors including lifestyle choices, future plans and your budget.

Architect Sam Crawford of Crawford Architects says the decision comes down to just two factors – quantity versus quality.

“Families generally consider renovating or moving when they need space,” he said. “Sometimes that is another bedroom or a second living room so the kids and parents can get away from each other.”

“But when you drill down, it’s often better functioning spaces, spaces that are more comfortable, get winter sun, catch the breeze, are inexpensive to heat in winter, open to the backyard, or enable the parents to keep an eye on their young children playing without stepping on them. Often that does not involve more space but more intelligent use of space.”

Smart space

A bigger home – and a bigger home loan – will not necessarily meet those needs, said Crawford. Buying a new, bigger house can sometimes buy you more “dumb space”.

“Dumb space is usually a large ill-defined living room that does not have a good connection to other rooms in the house or to the backyard, does not have good light or winter sun, has no outlook, is cold in winter and hot in summer,” he said.

What’s your budget?

Mary Anne Cronin, principal of Raine & Horne Bondi Beach, sees a lot of families facing the renovate-or-sell dilemma. Her advice is to consider the cost before making a decision.

“Renovation costs have blown out a lot,” she said. “People think they can get away with spending $100,000 on a renovation, but in most cases it’s around the $500,000 mark.”

One client of Cronin’s, she said, bought a semi-detached home in Sydney’s Bondi for $1.1 million and spent another $750,000 on an extensive renovation. The renovated home would not fetch $1.8 million on the market if the owner wanted to sell soon.

“It depends on your long-term view,” Cronin said. “If you’re staying there for many years and you are doing the renovation for your enjoyment, then it’s worth it.”

So before you embark on this life-changing journey, research all costs associated with renovations and selling and buying a new home, including comparing home loans to find the one most suited to your needs.

Follow the rules

If you go down the renovation route, check with your local council’s regulation and approach to renovations before going ahead with work, Crawford advises.

“It is worth asking an architect for advice if you are not sure,” he said. “Most architects will give you relatively inexpensive pre-purchase advice. A few hundred dollars spent pre-purchase could save you hundreds of thousands later.”

Keep calm

Renovating can be incredibly stressful – it may mean months (or more) of living with building dust and materials around the house and contractors walking in and out of your personal space. And then there is the budget to consider! So it’s worth honestly appraising whether you and your family are up for the challenge before getting started.

“There are always stresses. Choose the people you work with carefully,” advises Crawford. “Stresses can be minimised by going into the process knowing that things will come up that need to be dealt with in a balanced way. If you deal with people honestly and fairly, they will generally respond in kind. Builders and subcontractors are no different.”

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