Sometimes, to get the perfect home, you might need to renovate. Veronica Morgan tells you more.
Karen and Robert were looking for a family home and had decided that Concord was their ideal area. Concord is a suburb in the Inner West of Sydney that consists primarily of freestanding homes on decent size blocks of land. Most of the houses were built in the early 20th century and there are many quaint tree lined streets populated with rows of period homes.
When we first met, they were not keen on the idea of renovating. They were OK with installing a new kitchen, mainly because they had very particular taste and had no expectation of finding what they wanted. They really did not see themselves tackling a more substantial project in order to meet their requirements. But they did have pretty high expectations in terms of the layout and finishes that their ideal home would have.
The problem is that places like Concord don’t offer many recently renovated homes, so it’s hard to find a family home that needs little or no work. Home owners tend to renovate and stay for a long time. Many of the people selling now have grown up families and their houses were renovated back in the 1970s or 1980s (or even earlier). Young families now buying into the area are looking for their “forever home” so when they renovate, they don’t do it with the intention of selling. And builders and professional renovators are usually priced out of the area because the demand from young families is so strong that there simply isn’t the margin in it for them to make a profit.
Consequently, when a recently renovated family home hits the market in Concord, competition amongst buyers is fierce, as Karen and Robert found before I met them. They had bid on one such home and saw the price soar above their limit.
It didn’t really take too long, in the whole scheme of things, before they came around to the idea of renovating. They also had to take a long term view with regards to their budget and reconcile themselves to doing things in stages. You see, the market was so strong that they were not going to be able to afford to buy the property AND renovate in the short term.
They decided to buy a property that they could rent out in the short term (after making some immediate cosmetic improvements) and save further before undertaking a major rebuild. After all, they were looking for a long term home, so they needed to think long term when it came to achieving what they were after.
The moral of this story? If you are looking to buy a family home on a good size block of land in an area within easy access to the CBD, where the majority of houses were built around a century ago, you may find it difficult to find exactly what you are after, particularly if you want a contemporary finish. These homes are rare, and their sale prices can reflect their scarcity. It would be sensible to simultaneously look for a renovation opportunity. So arm yourself with the right advisors: an architect and a builder. And once you find a prospect, get them to inspect the property with you and ask them about the renovation potential, whether the council is likely to allow you to build what you want and get a realistic estimate of the cost.