2020 is the 40th Anniversary of Addbuild Additions. Owner Chris Books talks about the history of the company, the challenge of building additions and the secrets to Addbuild’s success.
Addbuild officially opened its doors midway through 1980. Coincidentally a ‘construction worker’ was at the top of the music charts: the Village People number one with “Can’t Stop The Music”!
You might expect the first companies specialising in home additions in Sydney would have emerged from the existing home construction industry, but interestingly, that wasn’t the case.
“Some enterprising roofers realised that replacing an old roof was the perfect time to make other changes to a home,” Addbuild owner Chris Books explains. “The opportunity of the removed roof gave scope to adding extra bedrooms before replacing it.”
“They had the vision that homeowners could increase a home’s value whilst creating more space, an idea that’s been popular with Sydney homeowners ever since.”
At the same time, more and more parents wanted to give each of their kids their own bedroom, but Sydney didn’t have enough housing stock in the right configurations.
“Take a suburb like Balmain: it’s in a great position close to the centre of the city, but back then full of small workers’ cottages on tight blocks of land,” Chris continues.
“It was the classic case of the right idea at the right time. Addbuild was formed as the trend for adding bedrooms using first floor additions took hold, and the new company rode the wave.”
Australian families were also looking to ‘live outdoors’ more than ever before and the demand for transforming the back of the home, including a deck for entertaining, also became popular, which is when Addbuild started building extensions.
“In the early days the equation was quite simple. If a family wanted more living space, we were usually designing and building an extension, extra bedrooms equalled an additional floor. To some extent that hasn’t changed.”
Benefits of Specialisation
As these emerging companies completed more and more home addition projects, their skill and the benefits of specialisation became more apparent.
“You might expect new home builders to see this growing market and expand their offering, but that largely hasn’t been the case,” Chris notes, “and there’s a few reasons for that.”
“There’s quite a bit of skill and experience required. New home builders don’t have to consider how to get around the various challenges an old home poses.”
“No old house is straight, plumb and square, and however well you measure up, you need to know a wide range of workarounds. You need a thorough understanding of how to deal with an existing roof or ceiling, and the different ways you might have to resupport the existing house.”
“Working on a semi-detached home is a good example. If you don’t know what you are doing, it’s a potential disaster. There’s all sorts of factors, like knowing how to approach and work with the neighbours. Many can be crucial to how quickly and smoothly the project will go.”
“We’ve completed over 1,800 projects and around 20% are semis, so we have the experience of nearly 400 different semis under our belt as just once example!”
Additions vs Knock-Down-Rebuild
Another reason for the continuing popularity of additions and extensions, as opposed to knocking down and rebuilding a home, is cost.
“The knock-down-rebuild market didn’t take off quite as much as people expected it to. That’s largely because of the additional expense, so people became interested in the alternatives.”
“With knock-down-rebuilds the site is normally ‘clear felled’ so you no longer have a driveway, paths, fences and gardens and they all have to be rebuilt. Existing services like the sewer, power and water connections may need to be upgraded after a new building is finished.”
“And some homeowners have to reduce the footprint of their home because new regulations require the new building to be a greater distance from neighbouring land, whilst their existing building is exempt.”
“So some people who buy a home with the idea of rebuilding it, in the end choose an addition once they look into pros and cons more closely.”
Secrets of Addbuild’s Longevity
Chris explains how customer service continues to remain at the forefront of Addbuild’s success.
“We’re building for busy Mums and Dads usually both working and looking after the kids whilst their home is a building site – that’s stressful for everyone, including us!”
“The most important thing is to be completely up front about what’s going to happen and to set realistic expectations.”
“In the rare event of a mistake, our philosophy is to own it and fix it at our cost, we don’t hide it.”
“We help many of the families we work with stay living in their home whilst we build as this avoids a lot of additional expenses.”
“Especially in those instances, our site manager and tradespeople almost become part of the family, and we’re proud to read some of the recent client testimonials that reflect how that bond has formed.”
Changes Over The Years
40 years is a long time and you’d expect that the market has evolved quite a bit since 1980.
Chris notes, “There are definitely new trends driving why people extend their home. We’re seeing more families helping to look after an elderly parent in their home and they need independent but connected living areas.”
“TV and rumpus rooms have also become more common, and the recent events forcing people to work from home will only accelerate demand for more desk space and home offices.”
“However, the main driver still is kids growing up, needing their own space, and parents coveting their own bathroom once the teenagers have taken over an old home’s only one!”
Another thing that has changed is the development application process.
“We are more tied up with red tape than before,” Chris explains. “It used to take hours to write a development application, now it takes days. It used to take weeks to get it through the council, now it takes months.”
“Streamlining the development application process has been promised many times, but it only seems to become more involved and take longer!”
Advice to Homeowners
Chris suggests that homeowners should “think like a real estate agent” to get the best out of any home alterations.
“You want to make a home that you love living in, but remember, renovations are also an opportunity to help secure your financial future.”
“A three bedroom, one bathroom, one living room home will sell for roughly the same price even if you put in a new bathroom and kitchen or even replace the roof! It’s still a three bedroom home.”
“Making that a five bedroom, two bathroom (one as ensuite) and two living room home raises the ceiling price considerably.”
Looking to the Future
Because of COVID-19, all businesses are rightly concerned about the months ahead, but Chris remains positive about the long term.
“The fundamentals of our business remain. There are still plenty of Sydney homes that are two or three bedrooms with a single bathroom. They are just waiting for a great home improvement!”
“Anyone who adds one or two extra bedrooms and a bathroom is going to recoup that investment in the not too distant future and enjoy that home more whilst they live there.”
“We don’t know how many people will take advantage of the HomeBuilder stimulus package of $25,000 because of the tight deadlines and the time it takes to get a development application through council, but we’ve seen a really big influx of enquiries in recent weeks.”
“It’s another reason the government should look at streamlining the DA process. It would help more homeowners have confidence that they’ll be able to access the grant scheme. If the building trade has a bumper year, it will have a very positive impact on the overall economy.”
Thinking about improving your home? The Addbuild team is ready to apply the benefit of their experience to help you design and build your dream home. Contact us by calling (02) 8765 1555 or use our online form.