Deciding whether to renovate your current home or upgrade to another home can be difficult. It's also often a big financial decision that needs to be weighed very carefully.

To renovate or not to renovate? As Hamlet would say, “that is the question.”

First you will need to determine your financial situation and limitations. This might mean contacting your lender or mortgage broker, completing a valuation of your current home, and/or finding out how much you can borrow. Then you can do the number crunching to compare the cost of renovating to upgrading and buying another house.

When working through your calculations be sure to include often forgotten or overlooked items like council fees in your renovation costs, buying and moving costs including comission, pest and building inspections, bank fees, removal costs, and stamp duty. For a renovation you may also need to consider the costs of living elsewhere while the work is being completed.

Deciding what you need

After you have determined your budget you should sit down and weigh up your needs and wants. Ask yourself the following questions to get started:

  • What are your priorities?
  • Do you have an emotional attachment to your current location or would you be happy buying a new or fully renovated home? Possibly in a suburb with lower property values so you can afford something larger?
  • If you decide on renovating can you reduce costs by doing some of the work yourself or with the help of friends and family?
  • Could you stay with a family member during the renovation to save on rent?

Do your research thoroughly

If you decide on renovating make sure to visit your local council to determine what, if any, renovations are allowable on your site and if there are any heritage issues, easements, water pipes and more that could impact your plans.

Then visit display homes and building materials and kitchen and bathroom suppliers to gather ideas and get an idea of costs. This will help you decide on the quality of materials and fittings that will fall within your budget. When you sit down with an architect or building designer you will be able to brief them well before they begin designing.

Don't forget to ask around for referrals to find reliable builders and tradespeople in your local area. The internet is also a good resource for finding local tradies with positive reviews. While you are getting quotes from them, make use of the free consultations to find out as much as you can about each stage of the building process, ways you could save money, and fresh ideas.

Both moving house and renovating are often stressful life events. Approach either in a cool-headed, well-informed manner and seek out the right professionals to help you, and you will come out a winner.

Case study: Simon and Tanya

Building designer Simon and graphic designer Tanya had bought a three-bedroom semi in a trendy inner-city suburb when they were first married. By the time their third child arrived, the small house was bursting at the seams and they needed to make the decision to renovate or move house.

They wanted to stay in the area and, after looking at suitable homes for sale and comparing the cost of buying a larger home against the cost of renovating, they calculated that renovating would be the cheaper option. But only if they stayed in the home throughout the renovation process rather than paying additional rent for a temporary home big enough for a family of five.

All the family’s household possesions except the bare necessities were piled into two bedrooms and the hallway. The children all slept in one bedroom at the front of the house, while the parents slept in the storage space in the roof. A temporary shower and toilet were installed in the small living room and that’s where the family cooked, ate and bathed for almost a year. The rear of the house was demolished and a new light-filled modern extension was built including a mezzanine master bedroom, bathroom, large kitchen, and open plan living and dining area opening out to a rear courtyard.

The couple managed to save further money as Simon designed the extension himself, they shopped around online for bargains on building materials and they undertook some of the final detailing themselves.

Simon and Tanya both freely admit that the living conditions during the renovation were horrendous, but they now have a beautiful home with plenty of room for their growing family and the clever, cost-effective additions have vastly increased the home’s value.


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Marlon Pueblos building design teacher
Marlon Pueblos
Building Design Teacher

Educated and trained in Australia, Marlon Pueblos has completed a Master of Architecture and has been continuously working in the industry for more than 20 years. His passion lies in embracing the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes of design, properties, and construction edifice that suits the landscape.