Should I renovate or sell up and move somewhere else?


It’s a critical question to get right because all building work is expensive. In Brisbane, new custom renovation construction work costs around $4,500 – $5,000 per square metre and upwards. That means your house and site must have the right ‘bones’ to be worth renovating and a worthwhile investment.

If you are thinking of renovating, the very first step is to work out if your house is worth renovating.

Let me tell you a story of a house that wasn’t worth renovating.

A while ago, a new client called Rebecca approached me about renovating her kitchen and living areas because they were dark and disconnected. So I went around to have a look and give her some ideas.

My first idea was to rearrange the floor plan and move the kitchen to another room where it would connect to the deck and get better northern light. But all the other rooms were too small. It was impossible to rearrange the plan without moving lots of walls, which would have added too much cost.  My next idea – to deal with the small rooms – was to extend out to the sides to get a bit more space.  But all the walls were asbestos. Any changes would be much more work and cost – because you cannot work on asbestos, it has to be removed.   And… there were more problems. The ceilings were low at 2.4m high and some were lower, and I could hear road noise from a major road outside.

Some houses are easy and cost-effective to renovate, and some are not.

The more we explored, the more obvious it became that Rebecca’s house was definitely not worth renovating. I told Rebecca it was wiser to sell. This wasn’t the advice that she was expecting and so she was quite upset and disappointed. But I had to tell her the truth. I couldn’t let her waste her money.

Having to sell your home can be incredibly difficult emotionally. But it’s far easier to face the hard facts before you invest money and even more emotion creating designs and drawings for your dream home. Don’t leave it until you get right up to construction stage, only to find that you are unable to build because the construction costs are much higher than you expected.

If you are planning a reasonably large renovation, make sure your house is worth renovating first.

If you are not sure, always get advice from an architect, a building designer or builder before you start.

So what happened to Rebecca? She called me a few months after we spoke to tell me she had sold and bought a much better home. She was so happy and relieved that she wasn’t still stuck in her old house with all its problems and thanked me for helping her face what she knew was the truth.

If you are trying to work out whether to renovate or sell, find the answers you need the Renovation Collaborative courses.

In Course 2. Houses: What to look for and avoid, I tell you what makes a house a great investment and a great place to live – and when to walk away. The course contains professional architectural information that I regularly give to my clients. It’s a 60 minute read, full of practical usable information to help you move forward, such as workable room dimensions, building materials, what to look for on the site and neighbourhood. Plus information about climate responsive design, and links to find council information and advice if you need help.