Just a flourish with the paintbrush can put some wind in the sales.
It is possible to add $100,000 of value to some properties by spending just $10,000, provided you learn to do most of the renovation yourself.
Experts say few property owners who embark on a quick, cosmetic renovation achieve sky-high returns. It is more likely you will get back $3 or $4 for every dollar you spend, but only if you focus on maximising profit with minimum outlay and tackle these critical areas:
If your plan is to renovate over a weekend or two, you need to zero in on improvements that pack the biggest punch.
”The best bang for your buck is with paint,” says Paul Eslick, of Reno Kings, which runs seminars for prospective renovators. ”I haven’t yet met a person who can’t paint, and the results are fantastic. Before I paint I mix up a good cleaner. I use pool chlorine in water. That gets a lot of the mould off.”
If the aim of a paint job is to assist a property to sell, it’s a smart move to do the work a month or two before open-for-inspections begin. The architect Adam Woledge, of James Buyer Advocates, says people smell fresh paint. ”It can turn buyers off,” he says. ”They think you are covering things up.”
Fences and pets
Installing a front fence makes sound financial sense. ”A fence is the frame around the Mona Lisa,” says Eslick. ”It helps create street appeal and at the same time, a fence is good security. A normal family has children and pets, so I always put in a fence.”
Woledge is convinced that charcoal and grey fences look the best: ”A charcoal fence makes a big difference. It lifts the landscaping in front of the fence and looks so much better.”
Australia has one of the highest ratios of pet ownership in the world, so consider this, too. ”If you want to get a higher rent or a larger selling price, buy a kennel and put it in the yard,” says Eslick.
Who’s it for?
If you are updating a rental property, what you do will be different to a renovation aimed at preparing and ”staging” a property for sale. If the renovation is for you to enjoy, you are much more likely to have a money’s-no-object viewpoint.
Valuer and buyer’s advocate, Greville Pabst, of WBP Property Group, says investors need to work out beforehand how much extra rent will be generated by a renovation. Improvements should also be tailored to tenant demographics. Pabst says if you are renovating in an area that has many young families, the renovation should reflect that. ”But if your rental property is in South Yarra, where there are many young professional couples, they will want things that young families don’t want.”
According to Eslick, a quick way to add value to an old kitchen is to buy laminate paint and paint the front of the doors and then install new door handles. ”I use a standard 75-millimetre stainless-steel bow handle, which looks like Robin Hood’s bow,” he says. ”It’s a nice and easy finish.”
The areas that women look closest at are the kitchen and the bathroom. Eslick says one trick of the trade is to retain the ”carcass of the kitchen” – the superstructure that benchtops sit on: ”A lot people will rip out a kitchen because it looks dated. But if the carcass is OK, don’t do that.”
He says applying laminate paint to laminex can deliver great results, but you must use a quality roller and a good brush. ”Don’t skimp on that – you get a fantastic finish.”
Splashbacks and tiles
If the kitchen splashback is made of embossed tiles, use tile paint to repaint these tiles. ”If you want to create some wow factor, you can change the back of a splashback to stainless steel sheeting,” Eslick says.
”Also, get a good-quality, marine-grade stainless-steel polish and polish the sink, and buy single-flick mixers for the sink and install them.”
With more extensive kitchen upgrades Woledge says there is no need to use stone laminate for the benches. A basic white laminate will do.
Eslick says people waste money by throwing out pink and odd-coloured baths from the 1920s to ’50s. ”Invest in Tub’n’Tile and repaint the baths white,” he says.
Wall tiles can be painted with this product, and it pays to keep the bathroom palette neutral.
”There is only one colour you can use in the bathroom, and that’s white,” Eslick maintains. ”It makes a bathroom look bigger, brighter and cleaner.”
He advises renovators to attend free classes on tile laying offered by the Bunnings hardware chain. ”I use a 200mm by 200mm floor tile for walls, because a wall tile can’t go on the floor, but a floor tile can go on the wall,” Eslick says.
Woledge sees merit in large-format tiles, too. ”If you can get rid of smaller tiles and put in bigger ones, it’s a big plus,” he says. ”People get really turned off by mould, or if the grout is not 100 per cent right.”
Bright feature walls and multicoloured interior schemes are seriously passe. Estate agent Daniel Wright, of hockingstuart Chelsea, says it is best if the interior walls are in neutral colours. ”You don’t want to do anything that is only going to attract a certain market,” he says. ”Go for the neutral colours and play it safe.”
Woledge says neutral colour schemes last: ”Neutralising everything helps. I look at a lot of interiors that were done with a neutral palette in the 1990s and they still stand up today.”
Eslick recently painted the interior of a three-bedroom house in one colour in 64 minutes using an airless spray. ”If you can paint inside and don’t want to save the carpets or the floor, an airless spray will save you time and effort,” he says. ”You can hire one for $98 for a day.”
”One thing that people don’t do enough is put in down lights in rooms,” says Woledge. ”Often the rooms in period homes have just one central pendant. If you put four down lights into the corners of rooms, particularly in Victorian and Edwardian houses, it can make a huge difference to the light in those spaces.
”You can put them on dimmers and it just adds a nice mood, particularly for kids at night. And when you are selling a property, if you put all those lights on, it makes a big difference. It might cost you a few thousand dollars, but I think you would get that back.”
Eslick reckons down lights are overrated: ”I go for a fluoro where I possibly can. It emits the best light and it’s the cheapest to put in.”
Costing it out
Timelines for renovation projects should be written in stone. Property adviser Sam Saggers, of Positive Real Estate, says if you cannot complete a renovation within three months, it’s likely you will overcapitalise.
Saggers says to get back $3 for every $1 spent, it’s imperative to know your costings in detail. Eslick could not agree more. ”You want to make sure you don’t spend too much money or too much time,” he says.
Little touches make a big difference
Brother and sister David Anderson and Carolyn Toniolo have just spent $14,000 on upgrading their beachfront townhouse.
The three-bedroom investment property at Bonbeach, 31 kilometres south-east of the city, goes to auction in early May, with expectations the budget renovation will be repaid in spades.
”It’s still a relatively new place, but when you have tenants in it takes a bit of pounding,” Mr Anderson says.
”We replaced all the carpets upstairs and downstairs and gave the place a coat of paint. We’ve also replaced a garage roller-door.”
A landscape gardener was engaged to revamp a rear courtyard and an internal atrium with new plants, mulch and pebbles.
The townhouse has been rented for six years, and the selling agent Daniel Wright, from hockingstuart Chelsea, says the vendors are doing all the right things.
”You will get your money back twofold by doing basic improvements,” Mr Wright says.
”You want to get a property to a level where buyers can come in and they are not able to pick faults and say, ‘We need to do this or do that.’
”It’s all those things that don’t cost a lot of money that make a big difference to the whole package of the property: the gardens, fresh mulch, plants that are pruned and look neat.”
The property at 5/600A Nepean Highway, Bonbeach, is being quoted at $750,000 to $820,000.