Top five home renovating tips

Three interest rate rises in a year and a jump in housing prices of 6.2 percent in the September 2006 quarter (10 percent if you live in Darwin). It's not looking like an ideal time to move house by anyone's standards, which is not to say that you can't live somewhere new — it's just a matter of improving your current address until it feels like a different house.
Yes, we're talking renovating. Anything from slapping on some new tiles in the bathroom, to a second-floor extension.

Of course, there are good renovations, there are bad renovations and there is just plain over-capitalisation (putting way too much cash into the wrong kind of 'improvements' on a property that just won't net you any return).

But how do you tell the difference?

We asked Rose-Marie Hillier, Interior Design Editor of House & Garden magazine, and Alex May, author of Planning Your Perfect Home Renovation (Allen & Unwin, $26.95) for their expert advice.

First up, the best places to put your money.

Are kitchen and bathroom renovations still top of the list for adding value to your home?

Alex May: "No! While it's true that potential buyers judge the quality of a house by the kitchen and bathroom, it doesn't necessarily mean you will renovate those rooms and see a return. Plenty of buyers will pay the same amount of money for a house with no renovations to the kitchen and bathroom with the idea of renovating to their own tastes."

Rose-Marie Hillier: "I think people look at bathrooms more than kitchens these days. It's important to do it properly, however. Don't make them too cutting-edge or gimmicky. Substituting inferior finishes is also a mistake."

Okay then, if it's not automatically the kitchen and bathroom, what should I be looking at renovating to impress buyers?

RH: "It's important to look at trends in home use and plan accordingly. For me, a quality renovated home now would have a flexible space — a room that will complement any potential owner's lifestyle. For instance, a media room, home office, guest room, teenager's retreat, a deck, a parents' retreat, an indoor/outdoor connection and a quality kitchen and bathroom.

AM: "Property markets are highly segmented according to suburb, city and the style of property. The trick is to research which renovations work well in your local area. In leafy garden suburbs, an open-plan family room with bi-fold doors to a deck will be in demand. In the inner city, it might be off-street parking. In general, light, airy renovations work. Don't slavishly follow new trends — plenty of agents are reporting that the minimalist, warehouse white kitchens that were so big five years ago have lost their appeal in the market."

What can I do to improve a place quickly?

AM: "Paint, paint and more paint. But only bother if you prepare well. And wash the exterior of the house — it makes it look like new."

RH: "Reorganising the furniture and changing the light fittings can make a huge difference."

Top five tips for improving your home

Let there be light
Whether you exchange windows for French doors (subject to council approval) or add skylights, light is vital in a welcoming home.

Keep it simple
There's no need to utilise every trend and tricky finish available.

Call in the experts
Paint colours can be difficult to get right. Colour consultants are available to help and can give your home the kind of fresh, new look that may have you falling in love with it all over again. Companies such as Wattyl (www.wattyl.com.au) and Dulux (www.dulux.com.au) can help you find a consultant.

Do it right
Don't assume that a cheap job won't show. "Go for quality fixtures and fittings in bathrooms and kitchens. If your budget won't stretch, then stick to the mid-range — never choose the cheapest taps, benches or handles," says Alex.

Plan twice, renovate once
Jumping in to a renovation is a mistake. "People spend money replacing things they abhor (like the daggy old laundry) rather than rooms that will really improve the value of the house," says Alex. "Failing to plan and work out what you really want also means you tend to overspend."

Article by: Allison Tait - http://money.ninemsn.com.au