How to Start Your Renovation

So you've bought the renovators delight or block of land, it is a very exciting time - mortgages (not so exciting), planning, samples and a feeling of overwhelming anxiety about what comes next! These are all feelings I am told go hand in hand with the early development phase. 

Given that neither Callum or I are architects or builders, we thought it would be a smart idea to call in the experts. Thankfully, we have a wonderful friend of the family who is an architect and has agreed to help us for a discounted rate (you will notice this is a recurring theme throughout the build). 

We asked him to meet us on site so that he could get a feel for the property and more importantly, the suburb. It is important to remember to try and keep your building somewhat in line with what the rest of the suburb is doing - of course it's okay to be modern, but don't stick out like a sore thumb. It might not pay off. 

After going through the place with the architect and giving him our wish list for the property, he then went away and worked his magic on some designs for us. To try and limit the amount of backwards and forwards, I spent a lot of time on Pinterest and Houzz to try to figure out the style and layouts we liked to ensure it was incorporated into the final concept.

Tip: you can share these concept boards with your architect/builders/designers. 

We were lucky to receive two concepts back - one was super modern and edgy and one was a little more in line with the original house. Because we already had a good idea of what we wanted the house to look like, it was easy to pick the design that was most practical - remember to keep in mind what your end goal for the property is as well, ours is to sell it in a few years so we don't want to over capitalise. Of course if this is your forever home, it makes sense to go that extra mile. 

Callum and I also decided to pick one non-negotiable each for the house, mine was a gas fireplace, because lets be honest, we live in Canberra and it gets bloody cold! His was a home theatre with the proper movie lounges. Of course his non-negotiable is about four times more expensive than mine, but given we didn't set any budget limit, I can't really get mad about it can I? I think this was a really good way to 'manage expectations' from the get go. Obviously we are working within a tight budget but know that we have to leave room in the budget for these items to keep each other happy. 

Any decent architect will provide you with shade mapping and ensure you are compliant with your local regulations (ACTPLA for ACT) to make the approval process simple. Don't forget to ask your architect to look for spaces to include a solar system if energy efficiency is one of your objectives. 

Technically you're not supposed to commence work on the build without formal approval, especially if you're moving windows and doors, so we are in a little bit of a hurry to finalise the concepts and submit them for approval. I would recommend at your initial sit down with your architect you agree upon some time frames that will work for both of you to help manage the process. 

To move the process along, settle on a floor plan and design you are happy with and submit them ASAP. Sometimes it can take up to three months for approval and if you're living with your in-laws or renting a property, that can feel like forever! Don't stress that you haven't sorted the finer details out when you submit for approval, you can always do a variation if you are going to change major work. Basically, your approving authority are looking for any major breaches of your setbacks, your shade mapping onto your neighbours properties and compliance with building codes. Your architect should be able to get you across the line. 

So just to recap: 

1 - Seek professional services if you don't know what you're doing, it might cost you a little extra but it will make the approval process that much simpler. 

2 - Get an idea about what you want in terms of layout and design as you're commencing the planning phase with your architect or draftsman to speed up the approval process

3 - Set and agree upon timeframes before you start to manage expectations

4 - If you're doing this with your partner, have a think about non-negotiables, they may save your relationship, who knows? 

5 - Submit to your approving body as soon as possible to get plans in the approval pipeline, if you keep fussing over the finer details it could cost you months! 

Happy Renovating!