Renovating a Renovator’s Delight, Without the Word Delight!

Renovator's Delight Paddington

This week is a personal story of struggle and survival, of hardship and pain of the trials and tribulations of buying a renovator’s delight.  But, without the word delight attached to it.

Let me start from the beginning.  It was a rainy day and I took my youngest daughter to swimming lessons. My husband went to “check out an auction for a house that he hadn’t seen and definitely wasn’t bidding on”. Let me give you an indication of the quality of home we are dealing with, here.  It was built in 1911 and the same family lived in it the entire time. When the mother passed away the oldest son remained in the home.  As it sometimes happens, he became a reclusive hoarder-  with optional clothing requirements. When he passed the house sat and was left to rot.  It sat, untouched, for six years until it was finally sold at auction.  It sold to – you guessed it….. My husband. To say that I was surprised was a bit of an understatement.

The house is in a great inner city suburb of Brisbane (a “Tick” when property purchasing ), has great rental potential (another “Tick”) and was picked up for a great price (ok, so another “Tick” for my husband).

Did you know this about a Renovator’s Delight?

Following my initial surprise it was time to get our hands dirty (literally).  Here have been the surprises so far if you are thinking about buying a renovator’s delight:

–       Did you know that you cannot remove lead paint yourself? In Brisbane to remove lead paint from a small house inside and out costs around $14,000. I am told this is almost double in Sydney.

–       Did you know that there is asbestos in lino, old tubs and old pipes? While we had very little asbestos in the house, walking around with masks on has been hot and uncomfortable.

–       Did you know that if you want to put a carport in front of a character listed property, you have to get council approval to do this? This is expensive and the carport has to be “in keeping with the look of the area”.

–       Did you know that if you want to put said carport in and you have to dig near the house, then you also have to underpin the house? This is not a cheap exercise.

–       Did you know that old laundry tubs weigh a tonne, as do old bath tubs?

–       Did you know that old walls used to be made of horse hair and plaster?  And this is truly a solid material that does not like to be pulled down?

So these have been the surprises.  But there have also been some positives and that is that everyone we have spoken to (builders, tradies etc) have said that the “old girl has good bones” and that for its age it is in good condition.

Lessons learnt!

Lessons we have taken away from this experience with our renovator’s delight. I have learnt before, during and after renovating:

–       NEVER let my husband go to an auction alone.

 –      Get several quotes before accepting one.

–       Check your contracts carefully.  Several of the tradies quotes received appear to undercut a competitor. Frequently you will find that some quotes include items that are excluded in others. 

–       Always add parking to a property that doesn’t have it, especially if parking is “like gold” in the area. Renters, future owners and even your neighbours will love you for it.

–       And finally, just because you have renovated in the past doesn’t always mean  you know what you are getting into. My husband and I have renovated properties in the past but never one this old. The age of a property can greatly affect the cost of renovating. Those hidden gems of asbestos, old pipe work and lead paint can really put a dent in the budget.

Renovating wasn’t a bad experience. Now that the project is finished and rented for a great price, I can honestly say I would do it again. In fact, we already have. We didn’t over-capitalize on our initial investment and we have a great house to show for it. It has also been a bonding experience! And at the end of the day, what’s a bit of plaster dust between friends?

The finished product

We wanted to share this experience with others, so my husband put together a blog while we were renovating. Here are the before and after pictures. Enjoy!




*Printed with permission from Hudson Financial Planning

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