The last year or so has seen a decline in the number of development approvals for new dwellings in NSW. This has been matched, however, by an increase in the number of alterations and additions being approved. This turn-around is largely due to the real estate slump. Before 2004 it was safe to assume that a property would quickly gain in value, and that reselling within a few years would result in a significant profit. Certainly the real estate boom in the 90s meant that many unassuming home-owners found themselves millionaires. How quickly things can change!

Although the bottom has not completely fallen out of the market, owners who five years ago might have chosen to sell up in order to gain extra space are realising that they might not significantly gain by selling at this time. Instead, many are thinking about altering their existing homes to meet their needs. This is especially true for those who bought property between 2000 and 2004 when prices were at their highest before the slump occurred.

Improving an existing property can be a sensible route for those who need to accommodate a growing family, home business or the flat screen TV. Often an owner will find that it is not necessarily a case of adding more floor space. In fact, some may discover that their home already exceeds the council-imposed floor space ratio. Rather than giving up on the idea of renovation altogether, it’s worth looking at the idea of creating a more functional home by simply rearranging the space. Demolishing walls, adding joinery and upgrading kitchens and bathrooms might result in the home you want without adding floor area.

When floor area isn’t an issue, the most common ways to extend an existing house are rear living room extensions or lofts. The rear extension may be a way of opening your home up to the back yard and providing an open plan living area. Adding a level can employ valuable roof space for use as bedrooms or studies without eating into your outdoor areas. Keep in mind that most councils have height limits and will need to be convinced that your addition does not impact negatively on your neighbours. It may be necessary to submit shadow diagrams with your development application in which case you might need the help of a professional. Whatever the case it’s important to check local council requirements to make sure your proposal complies with their guidelines.

Another advantage in renovating your home is that you can stage the work to make it more affordable. It’s also often a case of the devil you know. Buying a house is always risky due to the possibility of hidden problems being revealed after purchase. If you’ve lived somewhere for a while you know what needs fixing and there is a reduced risk of nasty surprises.

On top of all this, prudent improvements can significantly improve a property’s value so it will sell for more when the market improves. In other words, renovation is definitely worth consideration in today’s climate.

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