Insider insight into renovations

Close up of builder

“What do you mean $400K…?!” she said with a sound of disdain.

There was a long silence…

“But… our architect said it would be less than $200K… That is all we have in the budget and we have already spent over $20,000 getting it through council,” said the quivering voice on the other end of the phone.

I tried to reassure her. “What I suggest is that I put together a detailed quote with all the quantities and the costs…”

She cut me off sharply. “Look! Don’t worry, I will call around…” And just like that she was gone.

Two weeks later I get another call.

“Hi, it’s Erika. We spoke recently about our renovation and you offered to do a detailed quote? I have been requesting prices from several builders and those that have bothered to respond have not included many details. It feels like these guys are just pulling prices out of the air because they are busy and can charge what they want…”

I get calls from people like Erika all the time. The truth is that 95% of builders are honest.

And in reality putting together even a basic quote takes them a lot of time, usually after-hours time that was previously reserved for family.

In Erika’s case, she was looking to add 100 square metres to her house.

Her architect had estimated $2,000/sq mtr but that is very conservative. $2,500 is more realistic for quality workmanship and $3,200 on the high end. Then there was everything the architect had forgotten to mention in his estimation like:

  • New roof
  • New kitchen
  • New bathroom
  • New floor linings
  • All existing walls insulated and re-gibbed
  • Whole house painted
  • All new joinery
  • Remove load bearing walls and put in beams

Now Erika was faced with the bills for plans and a building consent on a project she couldn’t afford to complete.

This situation could have been easily avoided. Here are the five mandatory steps that anyone considering a renovation or extension must do before starting.

Find a builder

  • It is vital that your builder is a Licenced Building Practitioner so you have protection against major defects.
  • Can your builder do renovations? If your builder can only do new builds he will struggle with the complexity of renovation and the communication process needed.

Get a concept design

  • Design the house of your dreams. If you’re doing it once, why not design what you would be happy with and would enjoy for years to come?

Get it costed

  • Bearing in mind, at this stage, we would typically only have 50% of the details, but we can normally get a budget expectation based on your design within 30% accuracy.

Make compromises

  • Make sure your design and budget align. Don’t get your design through council after spending $30,000 and realise the building of your home is unattainable.

Now you can get working drawings

  • Be aware, after this, we have 80% of the information we need to get it priced or quantified so get it costed again to make sure, before you spend money at council, that your budget is on track.

There is lots to learn about renovation and when you do it, you want to do it once and do it right!

So, be honest with yourself

  • Can you afford an extension?
  • What is your line in the sand – is it better to move or do a small renovation?

Keep this in mind when moving forward. Remember, free advice always costs the most.

Graham Cooper is the founder of Cooper and Cooper Renovations, who specialise in residential extensions and alterations. We know that when builders work in your home, you want a tight-knit team that you can trust and communicate with effectively. Our unique approach to cost control in the design stage enables you to move forward into your build knowing you will have a quality home to enjoy for years to come... and within your budget.