The New Build – Part 4

6Part 3 of the new build left us having signed the contracts in December 2013. Now we just sit back and watch the magic happen…or so we thought. Of course a lot of builders and people in construction take a well deserved break over the Christmas and New Year period and there were also permits still in the process so it was anticipated that work would commence (with demolition of the existing home) towards late February/early March 2014. What wasn’t anticipated was the local city council and the delays associated with obtaining a demolition permit to commence the work, closely followed by other delays in getting things signed off so that work could begin. OK, so these things can take time but as the months went by with no visible progress I did start to get concerned. Fortunately the agent put up with my regular calls to see what was going on and reassured me that things were progressing in order to enable works to commence. I know I’m not the only person to sometimes be a touch cynical about what real estate agents tell you so by the time July of 2014 came around I was ready to start building the place myself. You can imagine my relief when I was informed that demolition was commencing and things were starting to move…hooray! It was a useful lesson for me to learn regarding red-tape and associated paperwork and also that when it’s in a larger development you really don’t have much (if any) influence on the speed of the project happening. In August of 2014 the existing house on the block was demolished and work officially commence on-site September 1st 2014, 9 months after we signed on to the project.

By this stage I had started on my Renovation Rescue which had, in part, stemmed from the fact that the new build was taking so long and I was gagging to have another project on the go. Knowing that it would still take considerable time for the construction to be completed I was happy to have the renovation to go on with. Meanwhile back at the building site, temporary fencing, portable toilets, and a site office were initially set up. Then site preparation work involved the removal of existing vegetation from the site. The first stage of construction works on the project were the ‘civil works’. At this stage, all the services were run into the new complex with a deep service trench dug through the common area and the various services including power, gas, water, and telecoms laid in the service trench. Large amounts of rock were encountered during this process, which required special rock breaking machinery to be used which you can see in the attached photos.

Finally though, progress had started. I picked up my paintbrush and went back to the renovation in the hope that now progress would speed up, it certainly did!

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The evils of Negative Gearing?

article_05082013Barely a day goes by in the media that there isn’t an article published discussing the challenges of the Australian housing market and how much prices have risen over recent years. The long held ‘Great Australian Dream’ of owning your own home is frequently trotted out to tug at the heart strings of TV viewers when trying to find a suitable scapegoat for sky high property prices. Throughout much of 2014, focus was being placed on foreign investors landing on our shores with suitcases full of money and pricing us locals out of the market. Currently the place for blame is on negative gearing. Whilst I’m happy to agree that negative gearing may have had some contribution to price rises, it’s important to take into account the huge amount for factors at play here. Although I’m no economist, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that the combination of negative gearing, foreign investment, historically low interest rates, ease of finance, ongoing agent under-quoting and the sense of urgency portrayed in the media all play a role. Not to mention the fact that almost 70% of Australians choose to live in capital cities and that there is only so much land available in these relatively tiny pockets of our enormous country. Geography and demographics certainly play a role.

Of course I’m biased…but while I do think that negative gearing has an important role to play in supporting investors and in turn the housing market in Australia, I agree with statements made regarding investors only investing in property simply for the tax advantages. To me, purely investing for the benefits of negative gearing is completely the wrong approach (although plenty do it). Following here are two videos worth a watch. The first is a clip from ‘The Project’ on Network 10 which aired last night and fired me up to write about this topic. Pay careful attention to the generalised statements and overall tone of the clip, it’s enough to make you go out and push the nearest property investor under a bus. The second clip by well known Australian property investing wunderkind Nathan Birch is intriguingly entitled Negative Gearing Sucks Balls. Nathan’s explanation about negative gearing and why people get caught out by it is spot on in my view. My thoughts? Negative gearing is a useful bonus for investors but certainly not a reason in itself to invest in property. Check out the clips below and make up your own mind!

Renovation is Rescued – Day 19

After almost 3 weeks of work the renovation is now complete. Today I walked out of the property for the last time and I was incredibly proud of the transformation that has taken place over the course of 19 days. Starting with a property that really needed a lot of love, the place is now completely revived and livable. The last day was all about finishing off small jobs and the biggest job was packing up and removing all of the tools and equipment that had gathered in the place over the last few weeks. It’s amazing how invested you become in every element of the work being done and while there are still some things I would have liked to do I had to draw the line somewhere and call it finished. I thought that I may have been sad when I left today as there has been a huge amount of hard work and sweat put into the place but I was just really pleased with the end result and now it’s time for someone else to enjoy it.

I could not have done the job in the time that it was done without the never ceasing help from my father (and I can’t forget mum as well in keeping the team going throughout the project). More than just the foreman, he kept me sane throughout when I was about to have a meltdown over things such as a dodgy hinge or an ill fitting door handle (yes, I need to chill out). I continued to learn a huge amount from him and may have just taught him an odd new thing or two as well (he was skeptical with the bench tops but amazed with how well it worked out). My advice if you ever take on a project like this is to make sure you have a great support team, it really made this a much more enjoyable project.

I won’t ramble on  but wanted to say a big thank you to everyone that has followed the work for the last few weeks, I continue to appreciate all of the great feedback. This week I’ll sit down with a calculator and do the sums. I’m really looking forward to presenting the numbers to you all and showing that it really doesn’t take much to pull off a very successful project with property investment. The property is now open for inspection and the first few prospective tenants are inspecting the place tomorrow, wish me luck!

This week I’ll be putting up a post specifically with before and after shots as I’ve had a few requests and I also love to see how the place has transformed. Clicking the original sale listing will give you a taste.  But for now I’ll leave you with my final tour though 4/11 Vale St.


Renovation Rescue – Day 10

After a week and a half of going hard at this renovation, I’m really starting to feel for the contestants on The Block. Two weeks of this full-time is going to be pretty exhausting, eight weeks must be crazy but I’m sure I’d be finding it easier if I was being followed around by TV cameras every day. After having a few wet and cold days last week today it was almost 30 degrees so although the other extreme it was a great day to get a heap of things done. Fortunately for me the partner of one of the owners in this block of units is a plasterer, so calling in a favor I was able to get him to really tidy up a lot of the damaged plaster throughout the house as well as cover the brickwork in the kitchen. A lot of these style of units have exposed brickwork and although a hit in the 70’s now it’s not so much of a feature. I decided to go halfway and cover the kitchen brickwork and leave the lounge. It also helps to brighten up the kitchen and make it feel like a truly separate space. Unfortunately the plasterer won’t be back until Friday morning to sand it all down (and there’s a surprising amount to do) so that will delay the rest of my painting by a day but it won’t be a big issue as there are plenty of other jobs for tomorrow.

Whilst the plasterer was inside it put a hold on any work in there so I got back into the front garden. Some advice to gardeners of the 70’s – please don’t cover your garden beds in black plastic sheeting to try and keep the weeds down, it doesn’t work and it’s a nightmare to pull up 40 years later. Moaning over, I dug up the garden bed, made an edging out of the many volcanic rocks that I dug up and started planting out more of my long suffering agapanthus. I got half done before the combination of heat, the plasterer finishing up as well as it being lunchtime and I threw in the garden shovel for the day.

After lunch it was time to start hanging up some curtains that were purchased last week, these were for the bedroom and the lounge area (a venetian blind for the kitchen arrived by courier today but that will go up later). Coupled with a few sturdy but inexpensive curtain rods from Ikea they didn’t take too long to go up. One thing I must say though is although the Ikea rods are great their curtain rings are terrible. They do the job but in a not-quite-right and quirky Ikea way. I was eager to get these up so that the creases have a chance to start falling out of them. They are a touch too long but the rods can be raised up so that they will sit correctly.

Finally today it was time to do something special in the kitchen in order to prep it for my next fun activity that I’ve been busting to do for ages. As you’ll see by the photos it looks like I might be concerned that the oven had a case of ebola, don’t fret though, the oven is perfectly fine (if in need of a good clean). Stay tuned tomorrow to see one of the most fun activities that I’ve been up to so far!

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Renovation Rescue – Day 9

Today really felt like a major turning point in the renovation. In what is quite a small property it seems that there are hundreds of tiny jobs to do all the time and you get to the end of the day and think what have I achieved? Even though you’ve been flat out since 8am you look back and think, well I spent 3 hours washing down walls or 2 hours digging up old roots out of the front garden…not exactly something to write home about. So after the success of the vinyl installation yesterday I was very excited to be finishing off the floors with the carpet being installed for the lounge and bedroom. I have been looking forward to a big ticket item and this was just the one! Yesterday the vinyl installer arrived right on 8am so I was there ready to go at the same time today. 8am…9am…10am…11am…and then a phone call. Wavering between glass half full and half empty as I sometimes do I was expecting a no-show but fortunately they were just confirming the address and would be there in 5 minutes. As promised they soon arrived and got straight to work.

Having already removed the carpets and underlay was a huge time saver and after a brief inspection (and confirming the carpet was the one I selected) things progressed really quickly. The carpet underlay was amazingly put down in less than 10 minutes. Rolled out, cut to size and stapled down in no time. My glass had suddenly turned to more than half full! The rolls of carpet were soon in and the two guys had it down in just over an hour, they even trimmed up a nice section to finish off the base of the bedroom wardrobe. I couldn’t be happier with the end result and it has made an enormous transformation to the place. I’m really starting to see what the end result is going to look like now.

The other interesting achievement today was something that ‘the foreman’ had been thinking about for a few days. There is a cupboard in the lounge that has 4 shelves in it and on the top shelf gracefully sits the old hot water heater. Now I have no idea how it would have been put in there in the first place but even less of an idea how we could ever get it out (without some sort of helicopter and cable setup) so we needed to cover it whilst still allowing the cupboard door to close. Along comes the foreman with a tailor made piece of plywood with two holes with string through them. Liquid nails goes around the outside and it’s inserted into the cupboard, pulled tight and fastened to a nail either side (see the pictures for this to make sense). Once the liquid nails has dried the string is cut and the holes filled. The end result once painted is a neatly covered up old hot water service that no one will need to ever know about! Very impressed.

Tomorrow I’m going to be in the mood to get plastered!   

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Renovation Rescue – Day 8

Now that things are on the home stretch and I have a maximum of 6 days left before I have to go back to the delights of my full time job, I’m starting to get a bit nervous about the amount of stuff I have left to do. Probably not so much that there is a lot, more so that what is remaining is fairly time consuming and not necessarily things that I have done before. Whilst I feel pretty confident with a paintbrush, screwdriver or garden shovel in my hand this week will test my skills with some fun activities planned for the remainder of the kitchen and bathroom!

Today though saw two exciting things happen in the property. First was the removal of the hideous brown veneer bench extension that sat between the kitchen and the lounge and secondly, the first of the new floor coverings was delivered and installed…a momentous occasion! From the day I saw the pictures of this place for sale on the internet I immediately disliked the bench extension. Not only was it dated, it looked out of place with the rest of the kitchen being both a different colour and a different height to the other benches (it felt like more of a breakfast table). The other thing was that I felt it made the place feel smaller (it’s small enough as it is) and anything to make it feel larger and more spacious I think is a good thing. So out it came in about 5 minutes. I was so thrilled once it was gone and you can see from the photos below that it instantly made a great difference in the space.

A quick clean of the floor (which was soon rendered pointless anyhow) and Errol the vinyl installer arrived ready to go. Initially it was discussed that when installing the vinyl they would simply go over the top of the old stuff but upon further inspection it was decided that it should go. Most of it was loose-layed anyhow so it was removed pretty easily. The preparation seemed to take the longest amount of time here and Errol was pretty busy for a good hour or two making sure the surface was prepped and ready to lay the new vinyl. The selection of the vinyl is something that I don’t think I’ll be certain about until I see the place completed at the end of this week. Initially I was eager to go for a wood look but was convinced otherwise by the flooring supplier to go for something that would not as clearly show any damage over the years, this design I was told is easier to repair if you have to and not be noticed rather than something with a distinct pattern in it. I took the advice and whilst I’m 90% happy with the end result I’m keeping the other 10% up my sleeve until the end of this week. The great thing was that there was also a lot of large off-cuts so I’ll be putting them to use later in the week. I’ve got to admit though, it mad a HUGE difference in the kitchen and once I paint around the kick-boards under the cupboards that’s pretty much all of the hideous brown skirting gone…hooray!

Tomorrow will be the last day we need to look at the stained floorboards.

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Renovation Rescue – Day 5

One thing that I think can really date a place and make it look old and tired are the light fittings. This place had a far from delightful selection including the kitchen fluorescent light that I think looked more suited to a garage, a range of batten fixtures that were starting to disintegrate when you took the globes out and a ceiling fan in the lounge that you could possibly date by cutting it in half and counting the layers of dirt that had built up each year. The other thing that you will notice in older places is that they are not designed for the 21st century lifestyle that constantly needs somewhere to plug in and recharge. The two individual power outlets in the lounge I think will struggle once you need to plug in the phone, laptop, tv, dvd player, PlayStation, lamp, heater, vacuum cleaner, personal foot spa etc, etc. So additional power points are a necessity. A knock on the front door at 8:30 am and in walks my new best friend for the day, Grant the electrician. Within about 10 minutes he had converted the majority of single power points to double outlets instantly improving the ability to power-up once you walk in the front door. Then up the ladder he goes to replace the kitchen fluorescent with a more modern and less intrusive kitchen light. 10 minutes later he’s removed the ceiling fan and is working on removing the wall control for it which is approximately the size of a small European car. A few replacement batten fixtures and he’s finished. Although batten fixtures themselves are not design features, I do like them in an investment property as they give you the flexibility to add whatever addition you like as far as light shades and fixtures go. There is an increasing amount of DIY fitting for batten fixtures and it gives you the option to easily update the look in the future as tastes change.

Whilst this was all going on and my offer to hold the ladder steady for the electrician was politely turned down, I got on with removing the tiles from the kitchen splash-back in preparation for a great new look next week. Fortunately the tiles were either put on in a hurry by a very lazy tiler or age had just worked its magic, as most of them came off easily with some gentle encouragement of just a few choice words. Tiles removed and electrician farewelled, I had a mirror awaiting installation in the bedroom that I purchased the other day. Now one thing I’ve started to notice is that in older places things often shift over the years and things are not always as square as they once were. I noticed this when taking the measurements to place the mirror in the correct position in the bedroom. Once I realised it wasn’t meant to go on the ceiling I installed it above the dresser and I think it looks a great improvement on the original (and smaller one) that was there.

At the end of some days I like to get a taste of what I have planned for the following day. Bedroom almost finished, tomorrow I need to start washing the walls and ceiling in the lounge so I thought I’d do a test patch. With the former owner being a pipe smoker I knew it would be noticeable but wow, I ‘m considering tomorrow bringing along the high pressure hose and just going nuts…if only the floor had drainage holes.

In tomorrow’s exciting installment we’ll see if I can get some poor sod to part with their hard earned money in order to buy 20 square metres of 30 year old carpet!


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Renovation Rescue – Day 4

At the end of yesterday’s post I said that today I would work on getting the carpet to match the curtains…I’d like to forewarn all readers to avoid typing this in to Google and hitting images. It certainly didn’t assist in any way to help me choose colours for new carpets, vinyl or curtains. It was however, quite a learning experience but not anything you’ll see on any home renovation shows any time soon. In all seriousness though, today had a target in mind and that was to order new floor coverings and to get some curtains and drapes for the bedroom and lounge.

I had arranged quotes for carpets and vinyl a few weeks earlier when I was not at the property and I’m glad I did as this was an immediate time saver. Knowing who I was going to get to supply and install the floor coverings all I had to do was select what I wanted. The criteria was simple – new, hard wearing, inexpensive (for carpet) and a more modern look than what was already there. About 45 minutes after walking in the store I walked out having selected ‘Pebble Bay’ carpet for the lounge and bedroom (I don’t think it describes the colour but see the pics) and a complementing vinyl which I’m sure will hide a lot of sins over the coming years. Installation is occurring next week so stay tuned.

In the car I then go to Spotlight as I’ve got a meeting booked with my other renovation consultant (my mum) to look at curtains and drapes. If I thought the speed of choosing the carpets was going to reflect this stage I was wrong. After the two of us rummaged through the entire store I had undergone a crash course in sheer, blockout, drops, pencil pleat, pinch pleat, overhangs etc, etc. Thanks goodness mum was there to guide me through (and to pester the very patient sales staff). After quite some time and holding on to about 10 different pairs of curtains (just in case someone else picked them up and we decided they were the ones we wanted), we settled on 2 sets in different colours (this is me taking a risk here people, I live on the edge) as well as some simple sheer curtain to go behind the blockout drapes…phew, I need a drink.

Back to the property, a quick paint around the cornices in the bedroom to finish them off, another window sill painted out in the bathroom, hanging the sheer over the bedroom and lounge windows (I’ll leave the drapes until after the carpets are in) and it was amazingly another day done.

Tomorrow I’m expecting a visit from someone who will hopefully brighten up my day!

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Renovation Rescue – Day 3

After the great results yesterday with a coat of paint on the bedroom ceiling, the non-stop, thrill a minute wild ride that is painting continued today (it’s hard to make this sound exciting). It probably took almost all day day to get two coats on the walls, but with drying time in the middle it allowed some other minor tasks to be completed (like going to get a new mirror for above the bedroom dresser). Returning from the hardware store with a fairly large mirror still intact (and no bad luck caused by breaking it) the finished product looked excellent. The room went from a space that had not been lived in for a number of years and was dirty and marked everywhere you looked, to a space which was bright, fresh and clean (I do love a good before and after as you’ll see over the next week and a half).

Basking in the glow of the newly refreshed room it was time to try out my favorite ebay purchase that I’ve made in the last week. I’ve been looking for a specific style of light shade being a wide drum shaped fitting. Originally thinking this would be for the lounge I went searching and found one for sale ‘locally’. Originally purchased for $130 (or so the owners said), they had moved house and took it with them. It was listed for a starting bid of $10 and fortunately for me there was no-one else around that had a particular longing for a wide drum shaped light shade (amazing, I know…). $10 and a bloody long drive out to near the airport and back again and I had my desired shade. As I said, originally I thought it would suit the lounge but due to the nature of the shade it filters the light quite a bit so I thought I’d try it in the bedroom. Once it was up I decided that was where it would stay, mainly because I thought it finished off the space perfectly, secondly because it was a pain to install so it wasn’t coming back down!

Tomorrow I need to make sure the carpets match the curtains 😉

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Renovation Rescue – Day 2

Day one of the project has been and gone with what seems like not a lot to show for it. Most of it was spent getting supplies and once I get in to Bunnings or Masters it’s difficult to get me out the front door so an hour or two quickly disappeared. Returning to the property laden with supplies such as paint, rollers, cleaning products and the “must do’ for every new property purchase (a new toilet seat) it was time to get cracking. The day flew past getting the place in order to make a solid start and the rubbish bin was soon full. For a vacant property it’s amazing the stuff you can get out of it that you don’t want. Down came old window furnishings, 30 year old lamp shades, cupboard linings, the old toilet seat and a surprising amount of wall hooks, nails and other fasteners that does make you wonder how much stuff (and what) people hang on their walls. The final focus was on the bedroom which is going to be the first quick win with a wash down of the ceiling and walls in readiness for painting which brings us to day two, today!

Ceiling white can work absolute miracles…as far as paint can work miracles. Although I’d washed down the ceiling and walls, the first coat of paint on the ceiling made an amazing difference. Even after just painting about a metre of the cornice I had to stand back and admire the difference. it was all the encouragement I needed to get the first coat on and what a difference! The photos below speak for themselves. Two coats were achieved on the ceiling and then an idea struck. The bedroom wardrobes have sure seen better days and have certainly seen numerous people’s clothes in them over the years. A quick coat of ceiling white (one coat did the trick) and you’ve got a fresh and clean spot to store as may Gucci handbags as you like!

The other great improvement for the day ably completed by my hard working foreman on the job (my father) was to start painting out the window frames. Formerly completed in a colour that can only be achieved by eating some 3 day old takeaway curry that you’ve left out in the sun, a fresh coat of gloss paint that matches the lighter wall colour brought it into this century kicking and screaming. Before you knew it the day was done and it was time to wash out the brushes and plan for day 3 which will involve an ebay purchase that I’m very proud of!

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