4 things to consider when buying a property to renovate

Brisbane couple Roisin and Zac bought their first home in 2018. New to renovating, they made their Geebungalow Instagram account to keep family and friends updated on their home improvements – and caught the attention of budding renovators across Australia. Fast forward to today, the couple has amassed more than 50,000 followers, and are working on their second renovation project in Toowoomba – not bad for a couple of first-timers!

We’ve teamed up with Roisin and Zac to find out their top tips for buying a renovator’s delight.

There are common things everyone considers when buying a house: location, size, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, proximity to transport and schools – the list goes on. But there are a few additional things you’ll want to look out for when you want to renovate a home.

1. Make sure your house is structurally sound.

It might seem obvious, but as the property market gets more competitive, some real estate agents will try and encourage you to remove the clause for a building and pest inspection from your offer to speed things up and help sweeten the deal.

Even if the owners have provided a building and pest report, we always opt to do our own independent inspection to be 100% sure we’re across any major issues that could significantly impact our renovation plans.

2. Look for a layout you already like.

One of the most expensive parts of renovating can be switching up the layout of your house. If you can find a home that is already set up in a way you like, it could drastically reduce the potential cost of your renovation.

Big jobs like moving load-bearing walls or changing the location of plumbing and gas lines all start to add up very quickly! 

3. Look for design features that would be expensive to replicate.

The beauty of renovating an old home is they often have design features and character that you’d never find in a new build today. Restoring these features is almost always more affordable than installing them from scratch.

A few examples of these features could include:

High ceilings

Both homes we’ve purchased have 2.7-metre high ceilings. This makes small spaces feel bigger, and gives a beautiful, spacious feel to the home. Changing the height of your ceilings is almost impossible in a renovation and would be a significant cost, so this is a good one to look for!

Hardwood floors

A lot of old homes have beautiful hardwood floors hiding underneath carpet or laminate floor covering. There are a couple of ways to see if a home has this. The first and quickest is to check for timber floorboards in any wardrobes or cupboards. Another possible way is to go under the house (if it’s lifted), and check from underneath whether the subfloor is timber.

Windows and doors 

Replacing windows and doors in a house is another very expensive exercise. We have always looked for houses with nice big casement windows that let in natural light and a breeze for hot Queensland summers.

4. Be aware of dangerous building materials.

Some things to be aware of are dangerous building materials that can be present in a lot of older homes. Lead paint was being used up until the 1970s, and the use of asbestos was only banned in Australia in 1990.

The presence of these materials doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy a house – in fact, both our houses have had traces of asbestos in them – it just needs to be factored into your budget calculations and your negotiations when buying the house as you will need to pay professionals to remove these safely for you.

If you’d like more useful advice on home improvements, or want to follow Roisin and Zac’s renovation journey, you can follow Geebungalow on Instagram

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