What we learnt from The Block contestants about diligent and practical renovation budgeting?
As the Blockheads are swayed by luxurious designs, premium materials and high-end fittings, they’ve been carried away as far as budgeting is concerned. In the first 24-hour competition, Kingi and Caro went over their budget by $12,000 (that’s 40% over their allocated amount) for the first challenge, while Shay and Dean were guilty of a record budget blow-out when they spent $40,000 on their main bathroom (a third of their overall budget).
Meanwhile, Suzi and Voni lost track of their trade spend, claiming that they had “champagne taste on a beer budget”, which put them on the verge of bankruptcy prior to winning the latest bedhead competition.
Luckily for them, the contestants have the chance to redeem themselves if they win competitions or room reveals throughout the show, but even still, it’s risky business.
For the rest of us, we don’t get a second chance (or a $150,000 budget, complements from Channel 9).
So how can you successfully complete a renovation without a budget blow out?
Renovation budgeting tips
Estimating your budget, sticking to it, and keeping tabs on your expenditure are essential for effective renovation budgeting and planning.
Typically a realistic renovation budget is around 5% of the purchase price for the property-- although this will vary greatly depending on the scale of your renovation budget-- this gives you a starting point. For example, for a $850,000 property you would need to set aside $42,500 for the project.
While it may be tempting to opt for a heated towel rail or a home theatre system, you need to be careful.
It’s a good idea to break-up each component of your renovation so you know what percentage of your budget you should allocate to different areas.
The below is an example of how you could break up a $42,500 budget.
|Room||Budget percentage (%)||Budget amount ($)|
|Master bedroom & ensuite||15%||$6,375|
Use our calculator to find out how much you can afford to borrow for your renovation by entering your details.
Before you start a renovation, it’s a good idea to discuss your renovation plans with a conveyancer to get an idea of how much value the renovation will add to your property.
The aim of a renovation is to increase the future value of the property. To forecast your return on investment (ROI), you should multiply the total cost of renovating the property by 10%. For instance, if your budget is $42,500 (and you stick to it), then you would expect to make a ‘profit’ of $46,750.
When setting your renovation objectives, it’s a good idea to start with the end in mind. To ensure your renovation is realistic, you should set SMART objectives that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
For instance, if you’re planning a landscape renovation you need to consider exactly what features you’re spending the money on (e.g. pergola and outdoor BBQ), the amount of money you need to spend on each item (e.g. $15,000), whether or not you can afford it, and the projected timing of your project (e.g. 3 months).
This will not only help you gauge your cash flow for the project, but it will also help with your time and project management- if you don’t set a deadline, you’ll never finish!
Be selective about splashing out
Your renovation will likely involve some degree of compromise, so be careful about the elements where you decide to splash out, and those where you cut costs. You need to separate ‘needs’ from ‘wants’ (you don’t need to spend $500 on 3 pillows like Ebony did on The Block).
Consider where it will be worthwhile cutting costs and areas where it makes sense to spend more. For instance, splurge on high-traffic or frequently used areas such as a kitchen floor and opt for cost-effective solutions in areas that won’t be used as frequently, such as a guest bedroom.
You can speak with a local agent to determine where you can save and where you should splurge based on similar properties in the market. This will help you understand what will add value to your property in the long term.
Not only should you research material and product costs, but you should also become familiar with the labour and installation costs of different trade services, such as plumbing, electrical work and concreting.
You can use resources such as PayScale, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) or Service Seeking to compare the average labour costs for different Australian states.
For each renovation task (e.g. bathroom tiling), you should source at least three different quotes from suppliers to ensure that you’re getting a fair market price.
During this research stage, it’s a good idea to contact your local council or building authority to ensure that you’re not breaching any codes or regulations.
You need to break down the costs of the renovation by each individual task. For instance, rather than labelling one element "tiling", you need to break down this task into separate cost items such as ‘area clean up’, ‘cost of tiles’ ‘waterproofing’, ‘labour’ (by square meter) and ‘disposal of waste’.
As well as estimating the separate costs, consider the property value and the risk of over capitalising with your project.
Understanding the value of your property can help plan the renovation budget. For instance, a kitchen renovation may cost between $5,000 to $50,000 depending on the scale of the renovation as well as the appliances and fixtures you select. Generally, it is recommended that you spend 5% of the value of your property for a major kitchen upgrade.
When enlisting a team of professionals, make sure you get itemised, written cost estimates to ensure that there is no ambiguity about what is included, or not included in the price.
Consider hiring a building inspector to assess whether any structural work needs fixing, because any major repair expenses will need to be factored into your budget.
Additionally, you should speak to an architect and request detailed drawings of your renovation plans, as well as licensed builders and specialised tradesmen, to get a complete outline of the costs involved for each project element.
Need finance for your renovation? Compare the loans below.
When you're renovating you may need a different type of financing to help pay for trades and for supplies as the bills come in. Compare the below personal loans and lines of credit to see which one could suit your needs.
Beware of hidden or unnecessary costs
It’s worth considering DIY projects, such as painting or creating your own furniture, to cut costs.
Speak with people to highlight any costs that you may not have considered in your budget and planning, such as the cost of waste disposal. However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can minimise costs by purchasing fixtures and materials yourself- remember that professionals buy in bulk, so they’re entitled to a trade discount.
If possible, don’t move plumbing and electrics as this can add significantly to your costs due to the cost of removing and installing new pipes.
Ensure you consider all possible costs involved for the renovation- council fees, architect or conveyancer fees, or the cost of your mortgage repayments, may be easy to overlook at the outset. Make sure you conduct a complete cost analysis to ensure that all expenses are accounted for.
One of the most critical components of budget planning is to have a contingency buffer of funds to ensure that you're financially stable if things don’t go as planned. As a rule of thumb, you should set 10-15% of your overall budget aside for any unexpected costs that may arise in future.
Track your expenditure
Keep a record of your receipts and maintain a budget spreadsheet that's up-to-date. By keeping track of invoices and receipts, you’ll have a clear idea of your cashflow and you’ll be less tempted to splurge on that underfloor heating.
Remember to speak to a tax specialist before you start your renovation or investment project so you understand the tax implications involved.
Make sure you record any variations or unexpected costs for your project, as this may help with future planning and decision making.
Consider a fixed-price contract
Some builders offer fixed-price contracts which may be useful because it will allow you to know your costs upfront which can facilitate your cash flow and budgeting.
Think about street appeal
You should consider the exterior of your property and think of ways that you can boost its appeal to onlookers. This may involve small tasks such as installing a new fence, investing in a modern letterbox, sprucing up your outdoor pathway or altering the front door with fresh paint or a new handle.Back to top