How to stick to a shoestring renovation budget

Renovate your house without breaking the bank.

Estimating your budget, sticking to it, and keeping tabs on your expenditure are essential for effective renovation
budgeting and planning.

  • Renovation budget

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 ($)
Bathroom 25% $10,625
Kitchen 25% $10,625
Master bedroom & ensuite 15% $6,375
Guest bedroom 15% $6,375
Laundry 10% $4,250
Contingency buffer 10% $4,250

Use our calculator to find out how much you can afford to borrow for your renovation by entering your details.

  • Value-added

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.

  • Project objectives

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!

ALSO READ: How much will an outdoor renovation cost me?
ALSO READ: How much will a kitchen upgrade cost?

  • Be selective about splashing out

renovation budgetYour 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.

  • Research costs

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.

ALSO READ: How much should I be dishing out for trades?

  • Break-down costs

budget renovationYou 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.

  • Estimate costs

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.

Rates last updated September 15th, 2019
Loan purpose
Offset account
Loan type
Repayment type
Your filter criteria do not match any product
Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comp Rate^ (p.a.) Application Fee Ongoing Fees Max LVR Monthly Payment Short Description
$0 p.a.
Enjoy a low interest rate home loan. Borrow up to 80% (with mortgage insurance) of your home loan value.

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated September 15th, 2019
Loan purpose
Offset account
Loan type
Repayment type
Your filter criteria do not match any product
Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comp Rate^ (p.a.) Application Fee Ongoing Fees Max LVR Monthly Payment Short Description
$0 p.a.
Borrow up to 95% LVR of the value of the property you're buying and pay no ongoing fees.

Compare up to 4 providers

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  • 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 mbudgetcostsinimise 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.

  • Contingency buffer

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.Street appeal is an important consideration for any home renovation.

  • 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.

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