In renovating there is no way to avoid decision making and even though we have done six renovations so far, deciding how I will transform a project takes a significant amount of my time. Renovation is about finding the potential within a space, it requires clever and creative design, so when it comes to interior design within a renovation - I call it DIY, design it yourself.
Relocating a house is a surreal process. One day you have a empty site and the next there is a house waiting to renovate. The beauty of a relocatable is that your house turns up and you have something to work with straight away. No waiting for foundations to be poured, framing to go up, roof to go on – house turns up, piles placed, house lowered, and you are good to go!
The beginning of this project was a new experience for us. One that took longer than we planned for and provided plenty of learning opportunities along the way. While we have completed a subdivision before in our Hidden Treasure Renovation, we were stepping it up this time around. The simplest form of a subdivision is to create an empty section, like we had done before. The next option is to add a house on the new site – either building new or relocating. Our decision to relocate a house came quickly, we are renovators at heart and in experience (and the feasibility looked better).
We purchased this property in September 2016 after seriously searching for a property for the previous 6 months. We were pretty keen do our next project but careful not to rush into anything, seeing as we had just added another child to the mix. We found this property through a local agent we know who had just put the house on the market. The property that was not going to auction, it had an owner that needed to sell, there was potential to renovate and add value – it seemed like a great option. What really stood out was the opportunity to subdivide and add an additional house on the section without having to move the existing house. The prospect of getting a 2-for-1 project was very appealing to us, so our next renovation journey begun…
Within our renovation blogs we hope to provide others with advice, information and inspiration that they can apply to their own homes. And while we normally focus on a project, there seems to be a question that often pops up “How do you manage to have fun renovating?”. I do understand why we get asked that – and to be honest sometimes I have wondered if we are completely sane!
A common question that we get asked by friends who follow our renovation journey is: WHY? As in why would you consider regularly renovating and give up a significant amount of your spare time? Answering that completely would be a whole blog in itself – but simply because we love it. One of the things I love is the decisiveness required to renovate, there is a skill to making decisions in renovating and experience provides opportunity to develop that. While this is a small-scale renovation, there are still a whole lot of interior design decisions that that took us from Our Plan to Our Presentation.
I am a big believer in designing homes and spaces that cater for the way you want to live. A few months ago we got started on a small project to transform our rumpus room into a home office and kids play room, as well as a storage space for my home staging business. We don't just want more room, we want to transform the way we live. Clever interior design isn’t about making spaces pretty or buying few cushions and doing the “chop”, it is about transforming spaces that encourage living the way you want to live.
It was a simple plan, to renovate an existing area to create workspace and the kids to play all on a minimal budget. The to do list was set: give the walls a new coat of paint, install some flooring, lights and blinds. It was then we realised the walls were lined with MDF, leaks through windows, new guttering was required and very few walls were straight. This is where renovation gets difficult and frustrating, when what you expected isn’t the reality. It is here where you need to pause and reset, regardless of what the original plan was - re-evaluate and determine what the new plan is going to be.
Our next renovation would fit nicely into a House Rules structure – we have our house renovated, we have our outdoors renovated (come on summer) and now we have a rumpus space as our final project. I have been dreaming of this for over a year. The rumpus room had been converted by the previous owner and has served as storage for my home staging furniture and décor. Ultimately though I wanted to makeover the space to create my own home office and a play area for the kids, while still using half the space for storage.
Property investment is not for everyone. It’s also not a guarantee to create instant wealth overnight, or an answer to financial issues. Although there are many stories of the opportunities which property can provide. I have put together my five top tips to set yourself up to buy well from a property investment perspective.
I couldn’t stand in the house a moment longer - the smell was overwhelming. We had been to long lists of open homes and Caleb had been focusing on some select suburbs trying to find the next project for us. I got to see some things I would rather have unseen - inappropriate drawings on walls, bedrooms that feel very “fifty shades of grey” (I don’t mean the wall colour), hoarding. But this was the most memorable of them all. At the open home we entered a room with a male tenant laying across a bed in the lounge, shirtless, smoking, who said we had to keep the door closed as there were four cats who weren’t allowed outside. I counted 8 litter boxes - though from the smell I could tell it wasn't the only place these cats relieved themselves. I stood outside trying not to vomit, Caleb looked at me not sure what to expect and was getting ready to start his sales pitch.
When an agent called me about a property near where we lived that could be a great opportunity - I was naturally curious. A few phone calls, a few visits, a week later and I had placed an offer on the property. A little back and forth with the vendor and the property under contract with 5 days to make sure all was ok to go ahead. Oh, and work out exactly what we had just done and make a plan.
When we first started renovating we were complete rookies. While Caleb knew about property from his studies and beginning his career in project management, he had very limited understanding when it came to DIY or anything practical. And while I had a natural intuition with design and colour scheming, I had no idea about interior design techniques or where to source the products I liked. To sum it up - we had a youthful confidence which is probably best described as pure ignorance. Normally within a blog we would share details of our renovation to provide inspiration and advice - but this is more of an example of what not to do! Our first renovation project was our “boot camp” in renovating - and boy did we realise we weren’t “renovation fit”.
The story of buying our first house together is best shared as a tale of “she said, he said”. Because to say we had a difference in experiences and expectations - would be an understatement. We didn’t begin our property story as a united force, though there was a lot of forceful emotions involved! So as unconventional as our story about Caleb buying a first house is, the way we started ours “together” may be just as surprising...
Its not everyday a 16 year old boy buys a house, but this is where our property journey started back in 2003. Still in school and with no facial hair (not much has changed there) I purchased my first property. So what can a schoolboy afford to buy in 2003? I purchased a 3 bedroom fibre cement home in the kiwifruit capital of NZ - Te Puke. Purchased for $96,000 with a 10% deposit with a rental of $180 per week. The property itself wasn’t anything special, neither was it a great bargain at the time - rather just a traditional cash-flow investment property
Caleb and I have always had a different story to most when it comes to owning a family home. The concept of buying a house that caters for all our needs in an area to settle down is a normal aspiration for most house hunters but not yet been a priority for us. While most have a personalised and detailed wish list of what they are looking for in a house, our focus is on just one - a good buy. I had no idea 6 years ago when picking a colour scheme for the first time that we were on a journey to become seasoned renovators and neither was it our intention. However 6 projects later, we have learnt, grown and gained in our renovation and project experience, our property portfolio and our passion for doing this.
Our fireplace originally stood out for all the wrong reasons, but to replace or remove a perfectly functioning fire place just for looks was not an option for us. So we started our DIY investigation - researching, exploring new ideas and finding products we haven’t used before. The result - our fireplace transformation cost approximately $400 and took us a week to complete by outworking 3 simple projects.
Recently I heard someone making banter about lounge spaces – claiming they had no idea why it was called a ‘living room’. Sure if you have a formal lounge, a family lounge, a kids playroom and entertainment room – the options for living are vast but if you live in our home (or most older homes in NZ) you have one option – the lounge. Our lounge truly is the living room in our house - it caters for our children’s play, our family dance parties, quality TV viewing, hang out with friends and wrestle time with Dad (I’m referring to playtime with Alek in case there is any confusion). For our lounge I focused less on creating a magazine cover look that everyone would be wowed by, rather keeping it simple and flexible, functional for our needs and keeping unity in style with the rest of our open plan dining and kitchen.
It seems to be the way – it’s just starting to get cold and we have completed our outdoors projects! Putting aside our disregard for seasons – we love it and what a vast improvement and transformation from when we purchased our home. After a year in the house, we had a pretty clear idea of what didn’t work with the outdoor layout and what was a priority for us - this formed a clear plan for our renovation. The hero of our outdoor design is the stunning deck which became the feature and centre for our outdoor design and landscaping. From there we looked at ways to finish the rest of the project with minimal cost, which included getting creative with exterior painting, using recycled elements and getting hands on ourselves.
As we were planning our outdoor paving area around our deck, Alice had grand plans but we didn't have a grand budget. When Alice considers “the look”, Caleb considers "the cost" of a project. It causes that balance of what do we want and what do we need, where do we spend money and where do we intentionally save money. We had concrete pavers from our old courtyard and it seemed like a waste to buy new ones. But then again - old tired pavers beside our brand new deck and freshly painted fences was not going to be a good enough look for Alice. Our solution – PAINT THE PAVERS. This transformation is straight forward and total cost is under $300.00.