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Upgrader-ready properties: How to spot ’em

By George Hadgelias

Looking to buy an upgrader home but starting to realise you may be better off with a fixer-upper? You’re not alone. Here’s what you need to know before taking the plunge. 

Former winner of The Block, Shannon Vos has done his fair share of renovations. In fact, he recently bought a fixer-upper in Sydney’s south to turn into his dream family home.

So, what advice can he share on finding a home that’s ripe for a reno? What are the logistics in this search and how can you avoid investing in a bottomless money pit?

We asked Vos what to look out for when buying a home to renovate.

A good floor plan

Depending on your council and the property in question, you may hit your biggest bureaucratic hurdle trying to alter the floor plan of your home.

“In the area we are in, you have to go to council if you want to change the floor plan,” Vos explains. “So, one of the main things we tried to find was a home with a floor plan we were happy with.”

A single-storey home was also high on the Vos’ priority list. The more storeys, the more complicated or consuming the renovations could become.

‘Flexible’ walls

If you do want to play with the floor plan, another barrier can be solid walls. So, while you want a home with good foundations, concrete walls may not be the answer.

“I wanted a house with no brick walls because once a brick wall is in, you can’t really do much with it,” Vos says. “Ours are timber cladded on the outside and because of this it’s been a really easy home to work with.”

Elevated base

Vos advocates looking for a home “on stumps” if you want to renovate.

“I wanted to avoid a house on a slab, which makes it really hard to get under the home and change plumbing or electrical wiring,” he reveals.

“So, when it comes time to do the bathrooms, I can get under every bathroom quite easily, do pipework and access those things.” It also helps that as well as his design credentials — Vos is a plumber by trade.

Reasonable liveability

Vos believes it’s important to find a home you can live in first.

“I would suggest buying something you don’t have to renovate straight away,” he starts. “If you’re buying something that needs instant attention, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. If you buy something that’s liveable, you can sit on it for a couple of years and save up the money to renovate.”

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