Five things to know before buying a fixer-upper
If you’re the kind of person who likes to fix things (vintage jackets, bikes, a troubled ex) then buying a property which needs a bit of work is tempting. They’re often a more affordable way to get on the property ladder and you get to make a place uniquely yours. But before you wave a hammer like a magic wand, there are some essential things to check out first. Read on for construction manager and carpenter Tim Biggin’s tips which will help you avoid a DIY disaster.
The oldest trick in the book
‘Beware a thick paint job’, warns Tim. ‘If you’re selling a rundown property and it’s got rotten timber, a lick of paint is what most people reach for first’.
Your dream extension is only viable with council approval. Look into this before buying to avoid disappointment as it could have restrictions or a heritage overlay. While you’re there, it’s a good time to check if your neighbours plan on renovating too. ‘You don’t want anyone blocking your evening sunlight or skyline view’, says Tim, ‘and you never know – a neighbour’s plan to reno could be the reason why the owners are selling’.
Bigger isn’t better
Avoid structural change if you can. It’s much easier to build a wall than take one down.
If you want an extra bedroom, for example, you’re better to split a room in two than try to extend. As soon as you knock a wall down you need a permit and a licensed builder (and the cash that those things cost).
Outside that counts
If your dream digs have a weatherboard exterior, there’s strong reno potential. Weatherboard is a lot easier (and cheaper) to re-work than brick. If the boards are in good condition that’s another plus, but they’re not too costly to replace either.
Bricking it? Check if it’s just a brick veneer or ‘double skin’ brick on the inside, too. If it was built later than the 60s, there’s a good chance the inside will be a timber frame. This is a massive plus, as moving plumbing or electrical will be a lot simpler.
A house on stumps is much easier to reno than a property on a concrete slab. Adding ducted heating to a house with a slab mightn’t be possible and you’d have to re-run any plumbing changes through the roof.
When a property is on stumps, make sure it’s been re-stumped if it was built over 50 years ago. Restumping will cost tens of thousands and put a serious dint in that precious reno budget.
Even if your property is ticking all these boxes, you’ll need to get a thorough building inspection from an impartial builder. An agent might tell you what you want to hear so they get their sale, but it’ll makes no difference to a builder if you buy or not. Then, sleep easy knowing you can demolish a wall without your dreams crumbling as well.