When you watch TV renovation shows, it all looks so easy! What they don’t show you is all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. They also don’t warn you about the most common mistakes renovators make. In this article we’re talking about renovating for profit – in other words, in order to sell. People renovating their own home require a completely different “mistakes” list.
- Who’s Your Target Market?
Before you pick up a pencil to sketch a design or grab your hammer, you MUST answer this question. Who is going to buy the house when the renovation is complete? This information is crucial. Take the time to do your research. Talk to real estate agents about what sells well in the area. Scan local listings for recently renovated properties and see which ones sold quickly at top dollar and which ones didn’t. Go to open houses and check out what types of people are wandering around having a look.
In your head, start to create a picture of your ideal buyer. For example – Fred and Wilma Flintstone, a couple in their early 30s. They have 2 small children, and their current home is too small. They want areas where the kids can play and still be supervised while a parent is working in the kitchen. Preferably some outdoor space to run around in. They’re looking for a home that’s easy to look after, can take a bit of a hammering from small kids growing up, but is still stylish and inviting when they have friends and family over.
See? It’s that simple. But in that single paragraph, there’s a whole lot of information you can use to make sure your renovation delivers what they’re looking for. Think: surfaces that are easy to maintain and clean, rather than those that retain sticky fingerprints. Open plan living spaces, with storage space to hide the kids’ toys. Colours that are robust and don’t show every speck of dirt. Are you beginning to get the idea?
Start with the end in mind, and you’ll dramatically increase your chances of a profitable renovation. This leads into mistake number two…
- Don’t Renovate For Yourself
This is another very common mistake. How often have I heard renovators say “I love it! I could live here myself!” Unless your profile is exactly the same as the ideal buyer you imagined in step 1, you shouldn’t love your renovation. The problem with falling in love with a property and renovating it to suit your own taste and needs is there’s a very high risk that when you put the property on the market it will struggle to sell.
Those very on-trend bare bulb light fittings that everyone on Instagram is raving about and you love? The most gorgeous tiles in the latest patterns? Your renovation photos might impress your friends, but you risk crossing over into a renovation with limited appeal. You only have to live with it for a short period – someone buying the house has to live with it for years, and trends change very, very quickly. Some buyers will still love the trend and buy it anyway, but plenty of others will just be put off.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have little quirks or introduce elements that are very much on-trend – just try and stick to elements of the renovation that are easy to replace down the track. Alternatively, keep the colour palette, fixtures and fittings reasonably simple and timeless, and use styling to introduce the contemporary, stylish look you’re after.
- Spending Too Much
This one happens far too often. Once you start mucking around with the inside of a house, it’s amazing how fast the bills can pile up. Often this happens because the renovator is ignoring steps 1 and 2. Your ideal buyer wants a comfortable family home? Why are you spending $1500 on an incredibly ornate bathtub you love?
It also happens because renovators don’t do their research beforehand, and so have unrealistic ideas about the cost of renovating. You might think it’s okay because you’re saving money on tradespeople by doing a lot of the work yourself. And that can be true, up to a point. But if it means you take 12 months to complete the renovation instead of 2, you have to factor in the extra costs of holding the property for so much longer. It’s far too easy to get swept away in your enthusiasm to choose the best paint colours, and forget about doing a detailed cost analysis of the work required. And if you have a budget – STICK TO IT! That’s what it’s for. It’s a budget, not a list of random figures for you to ignore because you just had to have the light fitting that cost double what you had allowed.
The good news is that if you take the time to identify your ideal buyer, be clear about what type of renovation you need to do so your ideal buyer is falling over themselves in their rush to buy the property, and then spend time assessing just how much it’s realistically going to cost to achieve the end result you need and stick to that budget, renovating for profit can be a fun, exciting journey with a profitable sale at the end.
By Felicity Walker, Graduate Renovation Mastery and owner of Property Reimagined