6 Tips to Help You Renovate Your Rental From Afar

Have you bought property interstate? Here’s how to get your investment tenant-ready, without the trouble of constant travel.

If you’ve bought an investment property that you can only access by aeroplane, a renovation might seem like a laborious project to take on. But don’t underestimate the value a facelift can add. Done right, your returns can increase significantly – a fresh new look can boost demand from potential tenants (and the amount you can charge in rent) or attract cashed-up buyers if selling is the goal.

Before you embark on your interstate renovation, here are six must-know tips to save you unnecessary stress and help you manage the project smoothly from a distance.

1. Plan your trips around the building schedule

In an ideal world, your renovation can be executed from go to whoa without you needing to be physically present. While this is possible, there may be times, depending on the nature and length of your renovation, that you will need to be around.At best, it’s likely you’ll need to make a few trips at the beginning of the process to meet with service providers so they can tender for the job. To save time and money, make sure you schedule several meetings in advance for the one trip.

Following the initial trips and providing you have hired good people for the job, you may not have to travel again until the property is ready to go. Most established builders will provide you with a building schedule, so if you want to get more involved, plan your travel around this.

Cutting out the architect and interior designer can save money, but you need to be confident enough to select the finer details on your own, and be happy with the existing structure and layout of your property.

Be sure you’re hiring the right professionals by reading reviews on Houzz (you can find these on each professional’s profile page) and asking to talk to some of their previous clients personally. Photos can show the kind of work they do, but the detail around their quality of workmanship and services should be investigated further.

One thing is for certain – the more reliable and self-managing your builder or project manager is, the less you’ll have to be involved. That’s why meeting prospective service providers in person is a great way to get a feel for who might be suitable for the job. That said, even with a ‘gun’ professional, you’ll need to have your phone handy at all times to answer questions as the project escalates.

If you end up hiring a builder or project manager who is reliant on your direction, you may have to deal with more phone calls, emails, and possibly even trips to the site, than you planned for. A self-managing professional ultimately equals less stress and money for you, so research as much as you can before diving in to the reno.

3. Be realistic about your budget

It can be easy to embark on a renovation thinking it won’t cost a huge amount because it’s only an investment property. While it shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg, it’s unlikely you’ll end up with a profitable result if you skimp on the detail or lack an understanding of the full scope of work that’s required.

One of the best things you can do before you start is educate yourself on the industry and terminology, and chat to people in the know. Assigning the right professionals for each stage – and the right number of them ­– will save you money in the long run. When you know what each trade is responsible for and the steps involved in renovating each room, you can understand what the necessities and added bonuses are, and what they might cost.
It’s also important to make sure the scope of work is clearly outlined in your contract from the get-go, so you don’t get asked to spend more money down the track. Some unforeseen items include certification fees, structural costs and insurances.

4. Use local suppliers that freight interstate

If frequent travel between cities is unrealistic, use larger Australian suppliers that are equipped with showrooms in your local city. A lot of the time, these companies are serviced by a centrally-located warehouse or even several warehouses spread across different states, so they can assist you in finding stock that’s closest to your property, and which will be cheaper to freight.

Be aware that if the supplies you’re after are only available in a more distant warehouse, freight between states does add an additional cost. However, choosing a national supplier can often work out cheaper than having to fly or drive interstate to select things like flooring, joinery, and bench tops from local stores close to the property. Your builder might also have contacts that supply carpet or paint, and they can often send photos or, better yet, swatches in the mail to help in your decision making.

5. Avoid the temptation of fast trends

As with all investment property renovations, try to avoid selecting supplies that are ‘hot right now’, but are likely to date quickly. If style is important to you, it can be tempting to devour all the latest trends and want to replicate the same in your own property. But if you plan on leasing it out, you will reap the rewards of the update if it’s still as desirable and liveable in the future as it is today. In addition, choosing classic rather than fashionable options is often more cost-effective, while still looking modern and sleek.

6. Inspect the property before making final payment

If you’re new to the renovating scene, you must know about this vital final step: handover and final payment. In all building jobs, the client is entitled to do a final inspection of the property before handing over the last sum of money. This is the time where you, or a trusted friend or family member, should meet your main contact on-site to thoroughly inspect the property, flag any final issues and collect the keys.

Almost all building jobs are expected to have minor defects – a chip of paint, a light switch not working, joinery out of alignment, and a fair bit of accumulated surface dust. So make sure you’re creating a checklist as you go through the property and send a copy to your builder so they can work off it too. Knowing this, if you’re going to inspect the property yourself, you might need to spend a couple of days during the week at the location to give your builder some time to make the changes, and then for you to re-inspect.

Remember, once you hand over the money, there is no incentive for your builder to fix up these issues, so don’t rush to finalise payments before making sure you’re happy with the end result.

 

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Have you renovated a rental property from afar? Tell us what your experiences were in the Comments below.

Harel, A. (2016) 6 Tips to Help You Renovate Your Rental From Afar Houzz blog. 11 August 2016. Available from: http://www.houzz.com.au/ideabooks/69272413/list/6-tips-to-help-you-renovate-your-rental-from-afar [Accessed 2 November 2016]

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