Renovate on a budget

Renovating can be very expensive, but there are a number of ways to keep costs to a minimum. If the cost of renovating is putting you off, consider these options.

Make a budget

  • Once you have a general idea of what you want to do, talk to your Mortgage Choice broker about the maximum amount you can afford to borrow.
  • Determine how much you want to spend and keep to your budget as much as possible.
  • Research as many options as you can, including design, materials and suppliers. Architects can help you with ideas of alternative ways to keep costs down while still achieving the result you want.
  • Get at least three quotes from builders and try to use one with a personal recommendation. 

Renovate in stages

  • You don’t have to do the whole renovation at once. If you can’t afford to do everything you want initially, but hope to complete it eventually, designing the renovation to be completed stage by stage allows you to get started.

Coping with a cost ‘blowout’

  • Be very specific with builders about what you want so there are no misunderstandings.
  • Avoid being too optimistic about costs-the reality is, renovating is expensive. It’s a good idea to plan for a 10% budget blowout – and be able to afford it – so you don’t get a nasty shock if it happens.
  • It’s not unusual for unforeseen circumstances to arise that can really blow out your budget, such a last-minute excavation of newly found sandstone, or finding a structural problem. It’s very hard to prevent this, but find an experienced builder who can check as thoroughly as possible before you start, to prevent any nasty surprises.
  • If you have designed your renovation in stages, you can pull the pin after a stage if there is a major cost blowout.  

Reuse and recycle

  • You don’t have to buy all new materials. Buy online, shop at auctions or look for materials from other people’s demolitions. Get creative with second-hand items  A thorough Google search and Pinterest session can unearth lots of great ideas for upcycling. You may even be able to reuse materials already in your house, such as bricks or timber from your demolition.

Buy on the cheap

  • Keep an eye out for great sales, such as near the end of the financial year or Boxing Day. Negotiate hard for a lower price on the showroom sample, ‘damaged’ goods or last year’s model.

Think ahead

  • Try to include energy-saving items in your renovation, such as LED lights, rainwater tanks, solar panels and insulation.

DIY or call in help

  • One of the best ways to save money on your renovation is to do it yourself – if you’re capable. You may be able to borrow tools from a friend and there are many DIY resources online. You may be able to do things like painting, fencing, landscaping, stripping and polishing floorboards, flat-pack kitchens and simple tiling jobs.
  • However, you should employ contractors to do electrical, plumbing and structural work unless you are qualified, as a failed DIY will cost you more.
  • Some builders will allow you to work alongside them to keep the costs down. Or if you have handy, willing friends or family, consider hosting a working bee, and return the favour the following weekend.