• WORDS Chris Walkom - Walkom Constructions

Avoid Bill-Shock - What is my Renovation Going to Cost?


It’s the ‘million dollar question’ and the one I am most often asked by homeowners who are at the beginning of the building journey when a renovation or extension is merely an idea or a dream. Before we go further: The first step you need to make is setting a budget, but I’ll come back to this later!

When finding out what it is going to cost to renovate or extend your home, it is a bit like the old saying “You only get out what you put in.” What I mean by that is, the less detailed the information that goes into your design brief, sketches, plans etc. the less accurate and reliable the information will be that you get out of it.

Finding the true costs of your project is a work in progress that it is going to take some time. It will require your investment of time and money to answer. And the cost will change through the design process because at each level; you will uncover more information like existing structural implications, council restrictions, material selections etc.

When you are just starting on your building journey, you should put considerable effort and time into creating a design brief for a builder or architect to work from. Ask yourself, ‘Why are we doing this? What is the main driver, what don’t we like about our current home?’ You should also collect photos to establish what level of finish your project will be, sketches are a great idea.

Step 1: Speak with a professional builder first so they can complete a site consultation to determine what you can and can’t do.

Step 2: Its time to get some simple design sketches drawn up. Plans are the language that the industry speaks, helping professionals to see what it is you want to have done, how big the spaces are, how it works or ties-in with the existing house, what is roughly going to be required structurally (very important). The plans get all parties working towards a common goal.

Step 3: It's now time for a builder to use their skills and knowledge to complete a build cost estimate (not a quote).

Now – back to establishing your build budget!

I once read somewhere that “80% of building designs never get built because they are designed over budget.”

I’m not exactly sure of the make-up of the type of projects in this statistic, but I do know that plans are often drawn outside the build budget. There is not always someone to blame for this; it can happen for several reasons. Trying to work out costings for a renovation or extension is an extremely difficult process and should always be done by a professional builder, not working off a square metre rate.

There are a few ways to work out your budget. One way is to do some real estate research and see what makes sense in terms of not over capitalising your property and understanding what makes sense financially to spend on the property and what is realistic for your family situation.

Then you can speak to designers and builders that do similar projects and determine what realistically can be done within the confines of your budget.

The worst thing you can do is not start with a budget at all, just draw something up and keep going, get approvals and then get quotes and they come back double what you wanted to spend! This happens all too often in the industry, and it is a significant waste of your time and money, and everything from there will feel like a total compromise.

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