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The Homeowner’s Dilemma – Should I renovate or rebuild?

Home & FamilyThe Homeowner's Dilemma - Should I renovate or rebuild?

To build or not to build–that is the question!

Like Hamlet, many homeowners face a barrage of conflicting emotions when attempting to decide on the fate of their current situation. Whilst Hamlet’s plight may have been a little more pressing, if you are committing yourself to one of the largest financial commitments of your life, then due consideration must be given to every side of the equation.

After having recently faced this dilemma myself and researching the pros and cons of each option, allow me to share the benefit of my experience with you.


We originally purchased our home for two reasons – character and position. It was a standard three bedroom Californian bungalow which had seriously seen better days but it retained some charming period features and was walking distance to the local school.

The floor plan was unworkable, with the main bedroom positioned to the front of the house; this meant increased traffic noise levels. As my husband is a light sleeper, the lights and noise of the traffic meant broken nights sleep, became the norm.

We also had the children’s bedrooms to the rear, near the back door which made me nervous. We felt an ‘up and out’ renovation may have suited our needs best, with all the bedrooms on the first level and living rooms on the ground floor. The kitchen and single bathroom had been updated once, in the late 70’s and it showed!

Rebuilding – The Pros

My reservations about undertaking a knock down rebuild in Sydney, involved two factors – cost and character. My image of a new home, at least one we could afford, was of a characterless box. We wanted a warm and welcoming family home and the two images didn’t coincide.

After doing a little research, however, I found a project home builder who had some stunning character-filled homes in their range with design features including:

● Wainscoting and wall panelling
● Decorative cornices and mouldings
● Stunning provincial kitchens
● Feature atriums

What I saw was extremely compelling and I realised that the investment we would be making and the location of our block, would see a substantial increase in the value of our home.

After doing some number crunching and comparing the cost of a new build with the estimate provided by the renovation company, we couldn’t believe what we found. Not only would the cost of our extension be around the same as building a new home but we would still be left with the rotting window frames, old wiring, clunking plumbing and all the existing problems in the original sections of the home.

Rebuilding – The cons

Once I’d seen the variety and range available through home builders, my reservations moved to the logistical issues. The thought of moving house was unappealing and I thought that problem could be avoided if we chose to renovate. As I found out, this is rarely the case… see below.

Renovating – the Pros

If you live in a one-of-a-kind or heritage listed house then no matter what the cost, you may decide it is worth the cost and effort to revive it. The scope of a renovation should be factored in here.

Council rules and regulations surrounding what can and can’t be built in particular neighbourhoods may influence the decision to build new over old. Either way, permits will need to be lodged and will involve architectural drawings. Even if you aren’t adding to the footprint of the current house, permits will still need to be applied for.

Renovating – the Cons

Many of the pros of renovating were based on my preconceived ideas but the reality proved somewhat different. It is true that I could stay in my house during renovations, that is, as long as we greatly cut back on our initial plans. An ‘out and up’ renovation is a major upheaval and remaining in the house was not an option.

Aside from the cost blow outs, which are a risk with older houses due to the fact that there are many unknowns which may be uncovered during the renovation, there is also the risk of undermining the current structural integrity.

The results

As you have undoubtedly surmised, the final decision was a no-brainer. It seemed that everything pointed to the new house being the wisest decision at every level. Not only was it a fixed price with no surprises, we ended up with a beautiful, and yes, character-filled new home for around the same cost as a renovation.


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