The Hidden Costs of Renovating a Queenslander

Hi, I’m Jan Hogarth, a residential and renovation specialist architect from PlaceMate Architects in Brisbane and I’ve been in this game for 30 years. We all know that the best real estate strategy is to buy the worst house on the best street, and if you hang in there, you will get lasting value. That is an excellent policy. Primarily, when the Queenslander is located in the inner city suburbs of Brisbane – then you are guaranteed increased value for the next ten years.

1. Get Solid Town Planning Advice Upfront

A lot of people look at renovating as a daunting task; however, at Placemate, renovating Queenslanders is what we do. 

If you’re buying a house and plan to renovate it, please get a pre-purchase inspection – including town planning advice, because certain areas of renovating a Queenslander are stringent. For example, a few years ago, we renovated this now beautiful house in West End. Renovating this house we found it very challenging from a design perspective because West End is notorious for some of the most strict town planning character rules. Taking out the windows and raising the house led to a cascade of town planning issues that made it quite onerous.

Another thing to mention in Brisbane is flooding and noise pollution from the main roads. In addition, if you live on acreage, you must address bushfires and ecological factors before renovating. It is essential to mention that any existing work done to the house must also be approved before renovating to ensure that there will be no complications during the build. That’s all fine, but it’s just an expensive and hidden cost in all renovations.

If you’re considering buying a Queenslander and renovating it for a return, this is a bit nuanced, but at Placemate, this is what we recommend. For example, we recently worked on a “ratty-looking Queenslander.” It’s in a great area, with three bedrooms and one bathroom, but you can get a quick return with a fresh paint job and landscaping. That is real value for money. But if this is your forever home, the three bedrooms and one bathroom aren’t gonna cut it. It would be best to turn it into a five bedroom and three bathroom with a double lock up garage and a swimming pool because that creates long-term enjoyment and lasting value. In the long term, you’ve got what everybody else has, but in the short time, it’s a big hit, and there’s no return on the actual renovations. 

2. Budgeting to Complete a Project

Not only are there build costs, but there’s a whole bunch of other costs that come in after the build. If you’re after lasting value, ensure you’ve accounted for the post-build expenses. Post-build, you must account for the landscaping, painting, curtains and furniture so that the house feels complete. The value does not have an 80% half-done job – the budget must include all the project costs. 

Another excellent example of the hidden costs of renovating a Queenslander is the possibility of having lead paint on your small workers’ cottage. The removal of lead paint is arduous and costly. The painters for WHS have to wear full protective gear and put scaffolding all around the house. The result of all these safety precautions can add up, costing as much as 80 grand. Imagine if you’ve got a larger home with lead paint.

3. Create a long-term Master Plan

At Placemate, we recommend a fixed-price contract; this will take a large chunk of the expenses. Furthermore, a great way to throw away money is to get excited about buying a small home and fixing up a portion because you may save now when you renovate later. This is not the case. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been on the site, and they’ve said, “Oh, we’ve done up the bathroom, and now we’re gonna lift the house.” But where will the stairs go? Well, it should have been where the bathroom went, and the bathroom should be in another location. Now, you have got to compromise or throw away money. It’s worth taking the long-term view, getting lasting value, and seeking opinions from professional consults like Placemate. Another way to increase value is to landscape your backyard. It’s inexpensive and will add value in 5 to 10 years. At Placemate, we often go for the master planning strategy, as it saves money and is a sensible way of renovating your entire property.

Returning to our first point with the West End cottage, this property turned out fantastic, with an extraordinary facelift and a second-floor built-in underneath. Once the owners knew their options and what the council approved, it was an easy process that only cost them a little if they did it separately. This property is a prime example of lasting value and how to avoid the hidden costs of renovating.

If you’re considering a home renovation and you want to talk through your Queenslander renovation architects guide needs, request a site visit so that PlaceMate Architects can help make it come together in a really effortless way!

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