A Guide on Whether to Relocate or Renovate?

Moving house can be expensive and you may be better off investing that money into renovating your current property rather than buying a new home.

Moving house can be expensive and you may be better off investing that money into renovating your current property rather than buying a new home.

Feeling squashed in your home? Is the floorplan outdated, does it not suit your family’s needs any more? Hate the kitchen? If you’re flicking through (or clicking through) the real estate pages on a regular basis and dreaming of a new home, it can be tempting just to pull up stumps and move to a bigger, newer, or better designed home — but it can also be a very costly mistake.

There’s no way around it: moving is expensive. The median Sydney house price is now estimated to be $1,027,962, and in NSW, that would mean a whopping $42,318 in stamp duty, not to mention agent’s commission, legal fees and moving costs. Melbourne’s median price is $809,468, with stamp duty on that coming to $43,628.

These figures mean suddenly you’re looking at throwing away over $50,000 on top of the purchase price of your new home. But what if that $50,000 could be better spent on your existing home, helping it to become your dream home?

While a full renovation can be expensive, there are a lot of small changes you can make to your home to bring it up to date and make it work better for your family.

Linda and Greg Eagles of Camden, NSW, found just that when they spent about $50,000 on a renovation on their home of 40 years to bring it up to date — and get it ready for their retirement years. Now empty nesters, the pressure was on to move to a new home that suited them better. “We were thinking of moving,” explains Linda, a funeral director. “We had land at Greg’s parent's farm and the grand idea was to build this beautiful home — for my back and our old age — and it was going to be a wonderful option for peace and quiet and all the rest, but it was just too expensive.”

In the end, the couple decided to stay put in their existing house and renovate, a decision they are very happy with. We are so close to Camden and the neighbours are great — and you don’t always get a choice of that,” says Linda. “And we have done things to this house with this reno to accommodate us into later years.”

They didn’t spend a huge amount of money, she adds, keeping the changes under the existing roofline and therefore mitigating the need to get council approval. “We just made better use of the floorplan we had,” says Linda. “Why we didn’t think of this earlier, we will never know, but it’s just marvellous.”

The reworked floorplan created a new master suite for the couple, including a walk-in wardrobe (“be still my heart,” says Linda) and a large, new ensuite on the site of the outdated 28-year-old family bathroom. A large new laundry was established where a largely unused office previously was and a new family bathroom was added and designed specially to be appropriate for their later years, with accessibility in mind.

The updated rooms have been given a modern Hamptons look, says Linda, with new charcoal-coloured carpet linking the new spaces. “It’s cosier, and it just seems to flow much better,” she adds.

Key Improvements to Make

If you’re thinking of renovating rather than moving, it’s a good idea to consult a professional, such as an interior designer, right from the start, especially if you haven’t renovated before. A good designer can help you rework a floorplan to suit your needs or help you redesign those areas you don’t like, such as a kitchen or bathroom. An expert eye might be able to identify how something simple such as changing the position of a door could make all the difference in how your house looks and feels — an inexpensive change that can reap huge benefits.

If you’re worried an interior designer sounds expensive, choose carefully to make sure they are aware of your budget. However, most homeowners find using a professional often ends up saving money in the long term because good plans will always make a renovation run more smoothly. Most designers will also pass on their trade discounts to their customers, which means extra savings on the execution.

Don’t be afraid to specify your budget either. Check out this handy renovation guide, outlining the costs room-by-room here. Big-ticket items such as kitchens and bathrooms can be renovated within the $50,000 range. Both are improvements that will only add to your home’s value if you do decide to eventually sell.

The Ultimate Payoff

For Linda Eagles, the true benefit of their renovation was the fact they stayed in a neighbourhood they loved and in a place that still had a lot of family history — value that’s impossible to put a price on.

“I like the joy of seeing my grandchildren play where their mum played,” she says. “We still have the cubby house in the backyard that the girls played in when they were little. And that’s just nice. The house doesn’t look the same, but there is that familiarity.”

“It’s great to live in a nice street where you are proud to have people come over. That’s what a lot of people don’t have.”

This advice is general and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider whether the advice is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.

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