Tips from a Pro Renovator

I’ve been following Adrian from @iseeadrian on Instagram for the past year or so and have been absolutely blown away by some of his incredible renovations. I decided it was time to sit down and figure out the secret to his success.

Adrian started building a portfolio of properties when he was in his early twenties during his career in advertising. For close to a decade he was the head of advertising operations at carsales.com Ltd and although he enjoyed what he did, his passions and interests shifted to all things property often spending most weekends renovating, styling and inspecting properties.

Over the past few years, Adrian has helped other writers to publish their books as well as running his own classes which has grown into a full-time business. With that business, coupled with property reno’s he decided to quit his job to focus on what truly resonates.

I realised I was never going to achieve my goals by staying in the same place doing the same thing, so I took a risk by going out on my own and haven’t looked back since. To date I have undertaken five property projects.

What do you look for in a property you’re renovating? How do you ensure you make a decent profit?

I have a long list of property characteristics to ensure a decent profit can be made on his projects. In a nutshell, he suggests that you look for character, a northern aspect, good bones, a functional floor plan to avoid tearing down walls, the best streets within the location, local infrastructure growth, low vacancy rates and closeness to amenities.

As soon as I walk into a place, I head straight to the backyard to assess the structure looking out for any obvious dampness etc. I then calculate how much cosmetic updates will cost me. If I’m really interested, I’ll always get a building inspector out to inspect the property. The dwelling type also needs to be right for the area not only to ensure strong capital growth, but also for tenant appeal.

Do you have a particular style you like to impart on your properties?

Each project has a different brief depending on the style of the home and the area but I always aim to make the most of natural light, especially if it has a northern aspect. The last project had a 70’s style whereas the current project will have more of a neo-industrial style. 

I’m a fan of Kinfolk Home, so my reno designs and interior stylings follow that theme. I opt for breathable spaces with lots of light, white walls, white wash wooden floors, pastel and neutral coloured furniture and accessories with different textures that compliment each other.

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What has been your favourite property to renovate to date?

Tough one as you become attached with each one becoming your new favourite! But if I had to pick, the most rewarding was the transformation of a 1970’s two bedder. It oozed character and had a lot of reno potential with a northern aspect and soaring ceilings.

I spent many gruelling months on the reno due to the repairs required and the commute time – as many fellow renovators would know, there are always hidden issues uncovered during the process! You touch one thing and then you find out the hot water system no longer works or the heating system gives way.

After all the hard work, the feeling of seeing it finally come together was just incredible!

New timber floors, landscaping, new coats of paint to the interior and exterior façade, new kitchen and bathroom, ceiling lights, new blinds to all rooms as well as little details like new door and BIR knobs.

I’m currently putting the finishing touches to another project I’m really excited about, so I thought I’d give you a sneak peak. It’s a townhouse residence with so much natural light! It needed an update to the bathrooms and kitchen.

Do you have any tips for working with trades?

Double confirm everything, get three quotes in writing, check their references, be firm on dates, negotiate prices and if they charge a call out fee; this should be applied to reduce the end cost.

Unfortunately, despite all the proactive things you do, they sometimes don’t turn up or come at the wrong time! Very annoying, but it taught me how to do some trades myself which ended up saving me a tonne of money.

Use services like HiPages to do most of the scouting for you to save time and they will then shortlist tradies in your area. If you have a bad experience, you can report the trades person so it’s in their best interest to do the right thing by you, otherwise, they will be blacklisted.

P.S make sure you read ‘Look After Your Tradies’ to make sure you can keep the awesome ones coming back!

Do you have any tips or trends you would like to share? Do you have any advice for someone wanting to embark on a similar journey?

Don’t read into the media too much, it only leads to procrastination, fear and confusion especially when it comes to first home buyers and avoid any mass get rich seminars. They tend to plug more ‘woe is me’ type stories only fuelling the negativity. Focus on the hard data. Facts. Subscribe to reputable outlets like RPdata, Property Observer, API and of course, great blogs.

When it comes to your first property whether it be a flip or a buy and hold, get your finances in order to increase borrowing power (i.e reduce those credit card limits), stick to your entry and reno budgets, allow for contingencies, don’t get caught up in the excitement without doing your due diligence (building inspector etc.) and have an exit plan in mind.

When it comes to the design, always have the tenant or potential buyer in mind. It needs to appeal to the wider market, so improving the kitchen and bathroom is a priority. Avoid feature walls or bold paints, niche features and being overly trendy. Keep it simple with neutral colours giving buyers a clean template to do their own thing without having to remove everything they don’t like.