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How to cosmetically renovate your investment property

By Georgia Brown
Renovating investment property tips

Is one of your properties a little the worse for wear? A cosmetic renovation could add hundreds of thousands to its value, and significantly broaden your prospective tenant pool.

What is involved in a cosmetic renovation?
Cosmetic renovations, in contrast to structural renovations, are changes to the visual appearance of a property. To differentiate between a structural and cosmetic renovation, it is important to first understand what a structural renovation entails. As a general rule of thumb, anything that requires moving or adding load-bearing walls, including adding a storey or an additional room, is considered a structural renovation. A cosmetic renovation, on the other hand, is any other renovation that changes the physical appearance of a property.

A cosmetic renovation could involve:
• Painting
• New flooring
• Replacing light fixtures
• Replacing door handles
• Replacing cabinet handles
• Adding a splashback to the kitchen sink
• New blinds
• A facade refresh with new paint
• New plants in the garden or new fencing
• Replacing bathroom tiles
• Change of colour scheme
• New window fittings

In addition to these small updates to the appearance of the property, cosmetic renovations can also involve much larger-scale projects, such as:
• Ripping out the kitchen to replace it with new cabinets, bench tops and appliances
• Ripping out the vanity in the bathroom
• Replacing an old combined bath tub and shower with a more easily accessible shower
• Pulling down a non-load-bearing wall to open up spaces; for instance the walls of an enclosed kitchen

If ever there is a time you decide to pull down a wall, always consult a professional builder or architect to ensure it has no load-bearing responsibility.

Why cosmetically renovate?
A cosmetic renovation is an effective way to spend a budgeted amount of funds on work that will improve the physical appearance of a property. Even the smallest cosmetic renovations can greatly affect the feel of a home, attracting a wider pool of tenants.

In addition to provoking an increase in interest in your property on the rental market, cosmetic renovations keep your property well maintained and looked after. Tenants tend to have more respect for properties that are well presented. It also means that when it does come time for resale, your property will achieve a higher sale price, as a renovation will add value to the property.

Cosmetic renovations on your bathroom and kitchen
The condition of a property’s kitchen and bathroom are the biggest indicators of a property’s age, which is why it is essential to keep these rooms updated.

Depending on the state of the rooms, you could get by with just a few small cosmetic refreshes. In the bathroom, for example, that could mean a new faucet and showerhead, a fresh coat of paint, or a new toilet seat.

In some cases a few additional and more substantial things could need replacing, like cracked or outdated tiles or basins. Where it’s necessary, and funds permit, a complete rip-out of the bathroom or kitchen could be the way to go. A brand-new, modern kitchen or bathroom can add a huge amount of value to your property.

When making the decision to renovate a bathroom or kitchen, there are a number of things to consider.

Bathroom:
• Does the whole bathroom need a rebuild?
• Could I get away with keeping the vanity and simply replacing doors or handles?
• Do I need a whole new toilet, or would a seat replacement be sufficient?
• Does it have a timeless and bright/clean colour scheme?
• Is the shower easily accessible for people with limited mobility? A separate tub and shower is generally a more practical idea
• Is there enough storage space?

Kitchen:
• Does the whole kitchen need a rebuild?
• Could I get away with keeping the existing cabinetry and simply replacing doors or handles?
• Is the space functional? Is there enough bench space?
• Is there enough storage space?
• Are the stove elements in decent condition or do they need to be replaced?
• Does the kitchen have a neutral, fresh colour scheme that would appeal to a majority of renters?
• Are the appliances functioning property?

Which areas suit cosmetic renovations?
Cosmetically renovating property can have a completely varied outcome depending on the area in which the property is located.

Firstly, if you are renovating a property in an affluent area, it is necessary to spend the extra money on high-quality finishes, as the tenants looking in these areas seek a high-quality feel and will pay extra to ensure they get it.

Secondly, if you are renovating in a less expensive area, there are places where you can cut corners, so to speak, while still achieving an attractive result. In direct contrast to renovating in a more expensive area, tenants looking to rent in a less expensive area don’t typically have a flexible budget, and therefore won’t have the luxury of being able to pay extra for designer finishes.

In addition to this, properties located within popular lifestyle hubs are generally more expensive, in terms of rent, than their sister suburbs. It is important to keep this in mind when renovating, as people are already paying extra to secure a property within the hub, thus won’t necessarily have a lot extra to play with.

Suburbs just outside of a central hub are more affordable to begin with, thus could be more likely to benefit from a cosmetic renovation as they will still be within an affordable budget with a rent increase.

Property investors who are cosmetically renovating their properties need to make sure they carefully consider their target demographic and current prices in the suburb. There’s no point increasing the value of the property to a point where no one living in the area can afford to rent it.

Cosmetic renovating tips
• Consider flat-pack options for things like cabinetry
• Shop around for appliances and consider factory seconds or even near-new second hand
• If you are renovating a property in a less expensive area, consider buying no-name brands of appliances – stainless steel appliances will look good despite the missing badge
• Look for discounted designer stock, as opposed to full-priced, cheap stock
• Set a strict budget and don’t overspend on things that won’t increase the potential value of the property
• If you are renovating a property in a high-end area, don’t cut corners. The tenant pool in these areas are looking for quality finishes, and won’t be fooled by budget renovations
• Choose your tradespeople wisely – ask for recommendations rather than simply finding someone on a directory
• Time is money, so stick to a strict schedule so you aren’t losing incoming rent
• Do a lot of research before you start any sort of renovation – and have a thorough plan to work with

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