Home alterations are likely to be the second highest expenditure you will commit to after buying your home. Most people will only carry out home alterations once in their lifetime, so chances are they have no direct experience to draw on.
Whilst it is exciting to be able to transform your home and be in control of how it will eventually look, there are some common mistakes that we’ve observed people make – mistakes that Addbuild have used our 35 plus years of experience to help them avoid.
So here’s our top 10, and some guidance we think you’ll find useful:
1. Not being clear about your goals
Their are two reasons to make alterations to your home: to add resale value with a view to selling and making a profit, or to create a home that you intend to live in for the foreseeable future.
Be clear on why you are making changes as this will dictate many of the choices you’ll be making from now on.
If you focus too much on profit at resale, but you actually intend to stay for a while, you might create a home that you think other people will like to live in, but isn’t actually practical for your family.
If you focus on what your family would like, but actually want to sell the property directly after home alterations, you might create a home that doesn’t include the features that the majority of buyers in your area are looking for.
This may seem obvious, but we’ve seen how confused thinking at this early stage can create problems down the road.
2. Failing to plan ahead
Committing to home alterations is a big decision that is likely to cause quite a bit of disruption to your living arrangements as well as your finances.
But once the decision is made to go ahead, it doesn’t mean that you need to sprint to the finish.
Planning ahead thoroughly will save you a lot of heartache. We strongly advise against “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” thinking.
We’ve seen homeowners who, excited about their project, jump ahead and fail to think about all aspects of what they are undertaking.
Planning ahead – thinking about everything from start to finish – will enable you to have a more accurate design, be more in sync with your builder, create a more accurate budget, and ultimately execute a project that most closely matches the home your want.
3. Insufficient budget
So you’re clear about your goals and your have been through a thorough planning process. You have a design you love, and have chosen a builder who, like Addbuild, has given you a fixed-price quote based on that building-ready design.
You might be forgiven for thinking that the finances you need to raise should be just enough to cover the quote. In a perfect world, that would be the case.
We’re not suggesting that the fixed-price quote isn’t worth the paper it is written on, it is just that in the real world, you may change your mind about an aspect that you and no-one else could have foreseen.
Having a budget that has a 15%-20% allowance for contingencies is a smart move. Hopefully you’ll never need to dip into it, but if something unforeseeable comes up, you’ll be very grateful you have a contingency budget to draw upon.
We’ve devoted a whole blog post about the subject of over-capitalising and we hope you read it. Maybe this goes without saying, but over-capitalising is more of an issue if you are making alterations to your home with an intention of selling immediately and making a profit.
We aren’t suggesting that anyone should ignore how the cost of your home alterations will affect your home’s resale price, but if you are planning to create a home that your family intends to live in for many years, you have more leeway to think long term about creating the home you will enjoy, and less about how much profit you would make if selling the home after the work is finished.
If you are renovating for profit, then it is important you do thorough research into local property values and think carefully about the alterations you are making and how they will satisfy the market of people looking to buy in your area. As a basic step, talk to local real estate agents and get valuations of your current home as well as for the house you are creating.
5. Spending too much on the wrong items or rooms
Every budget has its limitations, so it’s important not only to have a full list of ‘needs’ and ‘wants’, but also to clearly prioritise what is most to least important to you.
That list of priorities should take into account the most impactful items and rooms whether that is to satisfy your prospective buyer, or your family who will live with the changes for many years.
The most used rooms, like the kitchen and living room, should be a priority over bedrooms and studies, and the most used appliances or flooring over the ones that are peripheral.
6. Not respecting your home’s existing strengths
Before rushing to rip out that original fireplace, the ornate ceilings, the wrought-iron balcony and the stained-glass windows to ‘modernise’ your home, consider how your desired changes could be made to blend with the original features.
Again, this may be more relevant to people looking to sell quickly to make a profit, but if the original features can be restored they often are something that are sought after by potential buyers.
Once they are gone, these features may be hard to put back and expensive to find, and even if you are planning to stay in your home, it might be wise to retain the classic period features for future generations.
Some changes may even be restricted by heritage rules in your local area, which leads us to another potential mistake, taking on the Development Application without any experience.
7. Doing the Development Application process yourself
The process of having home alterations approved can be a minefield for the uninitiated. We have recently published a blog article devoted to the subject of the DA approval process, but needless to say, it isn’t something many people look forward to for good reason.
We might be biased, but we feel that engaging a ‘concept-to-completion’ builder like Addbuild who can design your alterations, look after the DA approval process and has over 35 years experience doing both, gives you a few real advantages.
We have extensive knowledge of what might slow down the DA approval for your area, can often anticipate issues, and can usually make alterations to your plans that give you a better possible outcome.
8. Making changes mid-project
Some may see this as the same point as “failing to plan ahead”, and at times it is. However, some changes happen not through lack of planning, but because of unforeseeable circumstances.
Making changes isn’t the mistake we want to alert you to, it is more how this is communicated to your builder, how you understand the change will be accommodated under your contract, and how the change will affect timing and budget.
No reputable builder will want you to continue on with any aspect of the plans that you really don’t want to live with, but communication is key.
Raise issues immediately no matter how potentially innocuous they may seem. It might be that they can be dealt with quickly and efficiently potentially saving you time and money.
Communication must go through the builder / site supervisor, not the tradesmen on site. Ensure that all changes to the plans or specifications are done in writing (a Variation) even if there is no associated cost.
Variations should be covered in your building contract in terms of how additional costs should be addressed as well as additional time. Building contracts such as the NSW Office of Fair Trading Building Contract (as used by Addbuild) stipulates that any variation to the agreed contract price needs to be put in writing by the builder for consideration by the client. Acceptance or rejection of the variation is also in writing by the client back to the builder.
9. Bad timing
There are many factors that dictate the timing of your building work and some of those are out of your and your builder’s control. Others aren’t.
If, for example, you plan to vacate your house whilst the building work is at its peak, being able to house-sit a family or friend’s home will save you significant money, so planning that period to overlap with that opportunity is smart timing.
If your building work involves a significant period when the roof has to be removed, it’s probably a good idea to plan that for period for traditionally drier weather periods.
10. Using the wrong professionals
It should go without saying, but it is vital that you research the background of the design and build companies you’re thinking of approaching. Recommendations from family and friends are good, but they won’t always have completed a similar build to the one you are planning.
So whether you are approaching personally recommended companies or others, you should find out:
- How long have they been in the home additions industry?
- Do they specialise in the type of alterations you are considering?
- Do they charge substantial upfront fees to prepare concept designs, or is it an obligation free service?
- Can they provide previous clients as positive references for the quality of the service and work performed by the builder? Can you look at the work they have done?
- Do they have any “black marks” with key bodies such as the Office of Fair Trading?
Get multiple quotes, but don’t just choose the lowest price, make sure you understand what is included, and how variations are treated.
To wrap up
There are plenty of other mistakes that we could add to this list, but this top 10 covers the most common issues that we have come across that can be avoided with some clear thinking and preparation.
Over the past three years, Addbuild has offered detailed advice to potential home renovators through our blog as we believe if people’s experience of carrying out home alterations is positive, it is good for the whole industry whether we are or aren’t their chosen builder.
If your plans are more advanced and you are looking for a builder specialising in extensions, additions and renovations, we’d love to hear from you, so please contact us or call (02) 8765 1555.