Renovate and extend, or knock-down and rebuild?

You love the location of your property, so you don't want to move, but it's not your dream house. Your options are to renovate the existing property, or knock it down and rebuild.

At the start of their journeys, many of our customers find themselves in this position. The first thing to understand is that there is no right answer. It's your property, you do what you like with it. But there are pros and cons to each option, and these are always the same. Let's take a look at them to help you decide.

Keep what you have

There are some definite advantages to keeping what you already have. The obvious one is you don't have to build a new structure. Sometimes you might not have a choice if, for example, it's a heritage building or your council imposes a style scheme.

Talking of councils, with most renovations and extensions you don't need a planning permit, just a building permit. This can save you a lot of time, effort, money, and hassle.

Some renovations, particularly if you’re going to add quite a large extension, will trigger a planning application. So make sure to run your plans by council first. You can always scale things back a little if you don’t want to go through the planning permit process.

Cost, time, and disruption to your life are always the major things to think about with any construction project.

The cost of a renovation will most likely be less than a knock-down and rebuilt. The main reasons are you have the additional cost of knocking the existing house down as well as planning fees. You will also need to build an entire new structure including footings and foundations. And before you can start you will need to do engineering. Modern day engineering far exceeds what was accepted in the past, therefore increasing costs

With a reno you have less technical or ground work to do, unless you’re unfortunate enough to uncover some pretty major flaws. Wiring, plumbing, termites, lack of ventilation, rot from unseen leaks and sub floor frame and footings are just some factors to consider. If all these factors need complete makeovers a knock-down and rebuild may be the way to go.

When it comes to saving time, if your current house just needs cosmetic work then it can be a lot quicker to renovate. However in my experience, once we’re on site and have started work, an extensive renovation with an extension can take just as long to do as a full knock-down and rebuild.

One major benefit of renovating is that you can often keep living in the house while the works are done. It’s difficult to do that with a knock-down! Obviously this depends on the extent of the works and generally works better with an extension.

And why you should start again

Let’s face it, particularly if your house is more than about 20 years old, you’re probably not going to be happy with the layout of the rooms. Almost everything else – the floors, the doors, the windows, the façade – you can fix in a renovation. But when it comes to changing internal spaces, bar removing a wall or two, you’re pretty limited with what you’ll be able to do.

If you truly want the house of your dreams you’re going to want the freedom to build whatever you and your architect can imagine, at least up to the limit of what your finances can support. You get to decide on the location of the house, the façade, and the layout of the floorplan.

You also get the peace of mind that comes with a fresh new build. That includes a 6 star energy rating, which is much easier to achieve than with a renovation. Remember, any parts of a house that you renovate will have to meet modern energy ratings, and if your renovation touches more than 50% of the house then the whole property must comply. That’s going to add time and expense to a renovation.

A new house is also generally cheaper to run and maintain. Your energy bills are going to be lower, and they are usually cheaper to insure as everything including the security system, windows, doors, locks, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors are all going to be the very latest.

A new build also comes with a 7 year structural guarantee and 2 year guarantee for non-structural parts. Your builder’s guarantee on a renovation will only be for the works done to the house, not the whole property.

Finally you can just get very unlucky with a renovation and stumble across something that your architect, planner and builder didn’t know was there incurring you extra costs to fix it or work around it. With a new build you’re starting from scratch so that's not going to happen.

It comes down to your priorities

If the most important thing for you is that you get to live in that dream house you’ve been building in your head for the past ten years, and you don’t want to compromise, then you will have to knock-down and rebuild. Similarly, if it’s going to take the same amount of time, effort and money to get your existing house into exactly the shape you want as it is to knock it down and rebuild, then you might as well call in the bulldozers.

I suggest the first step is to call a builder, tell them what you want, and ask them to come look at your existing property. They’ll be able to give you a pretty good idea of whether you should renovate or rebuild.

If you’re thinking of doing a luxury custom rebuild, renovation, or extension in the Bayside or Peninsula areas, set up a half-hour exploratory call with me and I’ll be happy to answer all your questions.