Important things to take note of before you embark on your next renovation project


I have just spent the last 3 months extremely busy on my very first major structural renovation. I can proudly say that the project completed as per schedule and right on budget, I was off by just $2000 but for a spend of over $150K on this project, $2000 off was a great accomplishment!
I have spent a lot of my time earlier on educating myself on how to do renovations successfully and having completed this one with hardly any issues, I am extremely positive about my next ones
I also had the support of my facebook group of investors at the “The only aussie mastermind group” to assist with ideas when I faced any issues and needed some advice, invitation only by sending me a request on facebook, but you must be an investor to join.
To be able to do a major renovation like this, one would definitely need to have at least a part time job or work solely just on the project as it took me many hours of working till 2-3 am in the morning every other day during this project to make sure things happened and that I was always on top of the project.
I had to be a fast decision maker as well especially when I was let down at the beginning of my project by the plumber and later on I had to terminate the contract of the tiler as I found him incompetent, luckily with my contacts and negotiating skills, I was able to source for a plumber and tiler pretty fast. I probably went through 15 tilers and close to 10 plumbers before I found perfectionists!
I had to make site visits every week, and even make the time after picking up my 4 year old from pre-kindy to drive down for 3 hours to the job site and accept deliveries of items, and then drive back for another 3 hours. It does take a toll on you after 3 months of doing this every week and sometimes even twice weekly
I did absolutely everything from scratch – from selecting my builder to sourcing close to 26 suppliers (I think) It was difficult to work with tradies whom I have never worked with before- so I had to use my judgement (skills that I picked up during my 15 years in the Corporate world) to select my tradies and I am happy to say, that not even one of them let me down.
I also sourced for my own materials and drew up plans for the builder on exactly what I wanted and where I wanted stuff. I designed the kitchens with the help of a great contact I found finally on Ebay,  it was a great learning though and I feel proud to have been involved in every detail of making the house look like what it is today
As much as the tiredness showed every morning, I woke up and thought positive thoughts and this positivity is the thing that helped me get through times when “things weren’t going my way, eg. Plumber decided he didn’t want the job because he was too lazy to give me a detailed quotation” and tiler was dictating to me what size of tiles I should put and kept on complaining about the type that I  wanted, so he got the boot!
I have made a list of some of the items I could remember, that were a must to know – especially if I go into my next project, hope this will help you renovators out there.
  • Don’t tell anyone else about the budget especially Tradies.
  • Always ask for a fixed price quote if you can, insist on this. Most tradies who give fixed quotes would normally consider variations in their quote – may be high sometimes, but it’s a lot better than having several variations towards the end that could take you way off your budget.
  • Must always have a scope of works and both must sign off
  • Any variations must be in writing and signed off by both parties
  • You must try and visit the site once a week, when people know you are watching, work gets done
  • Try and source most of the materials if you can as builders will normally add their margin if you ask them to do it
  • Try and project manage it yourself if you are able to do this, else getting a builder to do this means you will pay them at least 10 to 20% of the contract price to project manage the job for you
  • Try and source for sub-contractors yourself as I noticed that the builder adds his margin as well to the sub-contractors prices when he quotes for you
  • Never pay the entire balance for the job, until you have gone round the house ticking off items completed against the scope of works
  • Don’t believe the fact that just because they are tradies, they get the best price, I proved this to be wrong as I was able to source for materials at a much cheaper price than what the tradies were coming up with even after their discounts
  • Always get 3 even 4 quotes per job
  • Always negotiate and tell them if they do a good job, you will recommend their services, and don’t forget to keep to your side of the bargain if they did look after you
  • Tradies love to be praised, so try and do this at every opportunity, everyone loves praise!
  • Try and get tradies to add things that you may have forgotten to add to the scope of works
  • Always keep on checking at every point – what your actual spend is against the budget and make decisions to try and keep to the budget
  • Be wary of tradies who quote extremely low for a job – be aware that you may be up for variations
  • Try and get a Tradie to put in as much detail as possible about the work they will do for you, as if it isn’t detailed, they have the opportunity to say that what you are asking them to do wasn’t part of the scope of works
  • Be extremely clear with them, if they say they will provide an item and fail to provide it, then they must give you a credit back .
  • Don’t let Tradies dictate to you what you need to do, you dictate to them what you need done.
  • Make it crystal clear that you do not want variations unless of course you have changed things around yourself.
  • If you can, project manage it yourself else you could be up for 10-20% of the purchase price in project management costs
  • Try and do demolition yourself only if you can, else it costs money to get the builder to do this – assess for yourself though whether he would be faster than you in getting this done as time is money..
  • Get a skip bin that charges a fixed rate and not one who says it depends on the weight of the skip bin
  • Try and sell stuff off on gumtree, ebay or just get people to come and collect stuff, saves you money for the skip bin. I was able to make at least $200 from items that I never thought would never sell!
  • Scrap metal: advertise for free pickup of this as well, saves you money for the skip bin
  • Make sure you get a security tool box to store all your items especially tapware, lights, etc things that normally get stolen at a site – bolt it to the ground if you can.
  • Store your keys on site if need be, but using a security lock, this would allow tradies to come in early if they want to and leave late without having to leave the keys with the builder.
  • Try and source for materials sometimes from outside the location you are in eg if you are doing a project in a regional area, I found it was actually cheaper to source material from Sydney than from the local stores in that area, I saved heaps like this

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Kenyan-born Anna Correia and her growing family have lived all over the world, but sought out Australia looking for opportunity and sun. Since arriving in 2006, they have built a $1.6m portfolio and Anna is building a network of like-minded investors through a group she founded on facebook. She and her virtual ‘friends’ are looking to make real money through their first joint venture. You can learn more about her family, and their adventures in property, in this story featured in YIP magazine. 

Top Suburbs : windale , sunshine , padbury , ferntree gully , wentworthville

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  • Anna says on 16/10/2013 12:08:08 PM

    Some people who have read my story here would love to join my group, you are all most welcome to join us, just post your comment here giving permission to the administrator of this forum to forward your emails to me or vice versa and we can take it from there


  • emma says on 17/12/2013 03:40:40 PM

    Good Article

  • Hala says on 15/03/2014 03:47:37 PM

    Hi I really enjoyed reading your story and have a profound interest in investing. Would love to interact with people who have the same interests. Please get in touch!

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