HOME > BLOG > Home and Lifestyle > The ideal type of home to update – the partial renovator

Many places for sale require some kind of renovation, however there is one type of property that won’t break the bank or your spirit – the partially renovated home.

Above photo credit: Julien Kerdraon, ma!ca architecture

Despite Australia’s love affair with TV renovation shows, the reality is many Australians just can’t be bothered doing a massive amount of renovations. In other words, the lure of the “fixer upper” has now been surpassed by the ease of the “partial renovator”.

In a new national survey of 1,022 people conducted for State Custodians, half of all respondents (48 per cent) say they want to buy a home that is ready-to-live in straight away and doesn’t need fixing up for years as they don’t want to deal with renos.

One quarter (25 per cent) of those surveyed say they only want to buy a partially unrenovated home so they can make it their own with updates that suit their style – such as adding in a fresh new kitchen or bathroom - but not one that requires a great deal of major structural work such as an entirely new back extension. Meanwhile, another one quarter (25 per cent) say they want to buy an unrenovated home because it’ll be cheaper and they can make improvements in time as equity is increased. Only 19 per cent say they want a totally unrenovated home - as in a true fixer upper.

State Custodians' General Manager Joanna Pretty says more people need to consider getting their hands dirty in the name of property ownership if they are having trouble getting a foothold in the market.

“So many properties on the market these days need to be fixed in some way,” she says. “Young people especially really have to be prepared to compromise and look at nabbing places within their price brackets, even if they require work. Minor cosmetic renovations don’t have to be expensive. If you’re prepared to put in the effort you can really put your own stamp on something but also increase the overall value of a property which is the smart way to go.”

Experienced renovators and interior stylists Alisa and Lysandra Fraser who won The Block: Sky High in 2013 know just how much work is required with a major renovation.

The pair who now run Alisa and Lysandra Interiors are currently redeveloping a $2.2 million development site in the highly sought-after area of Albert Park in Victoria and are filming the project for their new online TV URL channel.

They share their thoughts on the appeal of partial-renovators.

Alisa and Lysandra Fraser, The Block: Sky High (2013) Winners

What should you bear in mind when buying a partially-renovated house?

  • If the seller has already fixed up a lot of essentials like downpipes, broken paths, flooring and plumbing and it’s just a question of you smartening up some dated interiors, that’s not too bad a deal! However, if the rooms look okay but there’s structural issues that you need to fix that potentially could be a problem, so you need to be prepared.

What are the most important things to look for when buying a house to renovate?

  • If you’re at a viewing, try to assess the level of renovation required – is it cosmetic, structural or both? Most importantly, avoid a house that needs structural repairs as they tend to cost a lot more. Always look for a house with good foundations and keep your eye out for easy additions. For example, can you easily jazz up a courtyard or add in an all-important entertaining deck or patio? Can you knock down a non-supporting wall and create an open space living area? Doing simple renos allows you to put your own spin on a house, but also prevents you from overcapitalising too much.

What should you try and avoid when buying a house to renovate?

  • Any structural problems and issues with electrical wiring, plumbing, termites or asbestos can really be a nightmare. If it’s a house that you know requires renovation, request a building and pest inspection before you commit to a sale so you’re aware of what you’re walking into.

Is it better to buy a house with the kitchen and bathroom already done, or are these areas better to put your personal mark on?

  • This is a personal choice and largely depends on your budget. Many people are okay with an already renovated kitchen or bathroom if it’s not dated. However, if you really want to put your own mark on a kitchen then look at the current design and assess whether or not your kitchen allows for remodelling or updating with the current cabinetry. In most cases we usually recommend you start from scratch i.e. new cabinetry, improved layout, new finishes and to customise your look-and-feel to suit your interiors and your lifestyle needs.

What are some of the most surprising or unexpected costs when renovating?

  • Unfortunately, unexpected costs are part and parcel of the renovation process. The main blow-outs occur when structural issues are worse than you initially thought, so always leave money for contingency. Hidden damage such as bad wiring, rotting wood and termites that are only uncovered once a reno is underway can also be a headache. Permit fees for things like adding a swimming pool, extra room or garage can be costly and time consuming, and insurance can be painful – especially if there’s been an increase on the premium after the build’s complete. Also make sure you thoroughly read the fine print in any builder’s contract so you’re aware if there are extra costs for things like tool and materials.

  • Use a calculator to get an estimate of how much you can borrow.
    Try one here.

  • See if you qualify. To get a more accurate idea of how much you can borrow with State Custodians,
    click here.

  • Call our Lending Specialists and they can do the calculation for you over the phone plus answer any questions you have at the time. Talk to us on 13 72 62.