Finding the ideal house for renovation and development

I’ve actually learned a few things over our years of buying and renovating properties, some of these have been hard lessons where we made mistakes that cost us, while others I have learnt by listening to others who have trod a path before us. Now that we are getting to the end of our current small development I can see that those earlier lessons have paid off with positive results. Recently I have been reflecting on what we did right and what could have been done better, at least with the renovated Queenslander and general development process.

Finding the right property is essential when planning for a development. The costs can blow out if you don't do your homework.

When we initially ventured into purchasing properties for renovation we generally didn’t end up making a lot of money or creating much equity in the property; mainly this was because we didn’t purchase the right properties. After listening to, and learning from, other more experienced renovators and developers I gained a better idea of what we needed to look for when seeking a property to develop. This time, when I went searching for a house in our preferred area I had a couple of key criteria on my list. I needed a house on a minimum 809 sq. metre lot plus it had to be two separate lots under one title. This would mean that I wouldn’t have to apply, and pay, for a subdivision; it was just an application to the Lands Titles office for two separate titles. Additionally my preference was for a Queenslander home that could be easily modified to fit onto one lot; Queenslander’s being a popular house style in this part of Brisbane. Finally I had a couple of preferred streets in the suburb. Fortunately for us this house came up at the right time.

The house was ideal, it had some lovely features inside with breezeways over the doors and 12 foot high ceilings, additionally was all timber, this meant that moving the house would be easier with less chance of damage compared to a plaster house. Although it was wider than would fit on a 405 sq. metre lot, there was the ability to remove the side verandah to allow the house to fit on the one lot. A huge plus was that the home was in a good liveable condition, gone are the days when I am prepared to live in a dump.

We lived in the home for three years before renovating. This gave us an idea of what we liked or didn’t like about the house plus helped me build up the courage to take on the challenge of a full scale renovation. It also assisted in defining what the local property market demanded, four bedrooms, two living areas and an outdoor living space. With the move to smaller lots in the area there is a need to get cars off the street, however with a train station on our doorstep, a single carport was seen as adequate. As so many people need storage we also decided to retain the full size, single garage set to the rear of the property, this allows for future tenants to store bikes, set up a home gym or perhaps create that essential – the man cave.

The cost to renovate can exceed the cost to build new, as we found out, so there needs to be a payoff somewhere else.

It costs more to renovate than to build from new, this needs to be taken into account when planning a development.

The time spent researching the ideal property paid off when it came to the development – while we encountered a small hiccup when we found the house was approximately 7cm too wide to fit on the one lot, the use of an architect helped us work around this problem – although it did mean we had to develop the two properties simultaneously (meaning that we had to commence building the new house before we could get the renovated property signed off by the Certifier ). While this was not a huge problem for us as we wanted to retain the land and build, it would have been an issue if we had wanted to subdivide and sell the second lot.

Splitting the block into the two 405sq. metre lots was easy and relatively cheap. The major costs were the surveyor at just over $1800 and the additional water connection, approximately $3,700. The cost to apply for creating an additional title for the second lot was only $310. That means that overall the cost to create the two lots was less than $6000, this is where the major benefit of purchasing a two lots on the one title came into play as if it had been one lot the development costs would have been significantly higher.

If you are interested in knowing how much the full renovation of the Queenslander cost just add your email address and we will send you a copy of our spreadsheet.

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4 thoughts on “Finding the ideal house for renovation and development

  • April 26, 2016 at 1:28 am

    I think it’s crazy that the house was 7cm too wide to fit on the log. It just seems like such a small amount to be off that I’m surprised anyone even caught it. However, it’s a good thing that you had spent so much time researching the property so you could work around it eventually. It’s interesting that you had to start construction on the new house before the Certifier could sign off on the renovated property, though. Thanks for sharing!

    • April 27, 2016 at 10:00 pm

      Thanks Hazel, there always seems to be something when renovating, thankfully we used an architect this time and he was able to guide us in finding a way around the issue.

  • September 1, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us. This will also help us to find a better property with money profits. Thanks:)

    • September 21, 2017 at 8:47 pm

      Glad it has been helpful

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