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Renovator’s delight without the word delight

This week is a personal story of struggle and survival, of hardship and pain of the trials and tribulations of buying a renovator’s delight but without the word delight attached to it. 

Let me start from the beginning it was a rainy day and I took my youngest daughter to swimming lessons. My husband went to “check out an auction for a house that he hadn’t seen and definitely wasn’t bidding on”. To give you an indication of the quality of home we are dealing with here it was built in 1911 and the same family lived in it the entire time. When the mother passed away the oldest son remained in the home and decided to become a reclusive hoarder with optional clothing requirements. When he passed the house sat and was left to rot for six years until it was finally sold at auction to you guessed it….. My husband. To say that I was surprised was a bit of an understatement. 

The house is in a great inner city suburb of Brisbane ( a tick from the Hudson property purchasing checklist), has great rental potential (another tick) and was picked up for a great price (ok so another tick from the Hudson list and for my husband). 

Following my initial surprise it was time to get our hands dirty (literally).  Here have been the surprises so far if you are thinking about renovating an old house:

  • Did you know that you cannot remove lead paint yourself? In Brisbane to remove lead paint from a small house inside and out costs around $14,000. I am told this is almost double in Sydney. 
  • Did you know that there is asbestos in lino, old tubs and old pipes? While we had very little asbestos in the house walking around with masks on has been hot and uncomfortable.
  • Did you know that if you want to put a carport in front of a character listed property you have to get council approval to do this? This is expensive and the carport has to be “in keeping with the look of the area”. 
  • Did you know that if you want to put said carport in and you have to dig near the house then you also have to underpin the house? This is not a cheap exercise. 
  • Did you know that old laundry tubs weigh a tonne as do old bath tubs?
  • Did you know that old walls used to be made of horse hair and plaster and this is truly a solid material that does not like to be pulled down?

So these have been the surprises but there have also been some positives and that is that everyone we have spoken to (builders, tradies etc) have said that the “old girl has good bones” and that for its age it is in good condition. 

Lessons we have taken away from this experience. I have learnt to:

  • NEVER let my husband go to an auction alone and two get several quotes before accepting one. 
  • Check your contracts carefully for while several of our tradies quotes appeared to undercut a competitor it was often pointed out to us that they were not including something that someone else was. 
  • Always add parking to a property that doesn’t have it if parking is “like gold” in the area. Renters, future owners and even your neighbours will love you for it.
  • And finally just because you have renovated in the past doesn’t always mean  you know what you are getting into. My husband and I have renovated properties in the past but never one this old. The age of a property can greatly affect the cost of renovating. Those hidden gems of asbestos, old pipe work and lead paint can really put a dent in the budget. 

This experience hasn’t been all bad and in the end, when the project is finished, we will be renting out the property and we won’t have overcapitalised on our initial investment. It has also been a bonding experience and at the end of the day what’s a bit of plaster dust between friends?

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