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Building Up (House Extension) in Canberra?

By Kristielee - 27 September 2011 26

My fiance and I have looked around the Canberra market and cant work out how we can buy a bigger house and afford the repayments so we are thinking of building up on our existing home. Its just a small 3 by 1 but we are hoping to look at the possibility of building a main bedroom, bathroom and possibly a sitting room which we could turn into a study on a second floor, effectively leaving our three rooms downstairs open for expanding our family.

I have heard that it can cost more to build up than to move, (and maybe I am dreaming) but I was hoping we could make the extension happen more affordably and with a reliable builder…

I have done a preliminary search online but it is all very confusing therefore I am asking you fellow rioters for any recommendations or warnings (against companies etc) which you would like to share based on your own experiences – everything and anything from your experience with particular companies, their building quality, cost, price, processes to research and get the project underway (e.g. do you speak to the bank first or get quotes first etc), managing expectations etc.

Thanks in advance for your comments.

What’s Your opinion?


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26 Responses to
Building Up (House Extension) in Canberra?
gumby34 12:36 pm 27 Sep 11

We have just been through the process. Almost bought then decided to stay and renovate.

All I can say is do your research, get recommendations of builders and go over your sums. We paid to have a couple of designers in for ideas and it was money well spent. They understand the market and trends and can give you an idea of how to use the space effectively so you don’t over capitalise.

If renovating make sure you include the cost of possibly renting off site. (especially with little ones around) It can be stressful to stay onsite while you have brick dust and noise etc everywhere.

As to builders, go to the HIA and master builders and ask for the builders listed with them. You will then at least be getting a builder with the correct licenses and insurances.

Best of luck

Holden Caulfield 11:25 am 27 Sep 11

First rule of thumb with extending/renovating: add 50% to whatever it is you think it’s going to cost. And when you have a written quote from a builder add another 10-30%.

If you’ve a bit of creativity and an open mind you should be able to come up with an aesthetically pleasing solution that should overcome the concerns raised in post #11. If not, seek the advice of an architect and add another 20% (or more) to the first rule of thumb.

If you have the space to do a ground floor extension that would be cheaper I expect.

In regards to speaking to your bank it probably doesn’t matter which order you do it in the first instance. But perhaps getting an idea from them as to how much they will loan you and how comfortable you will be with the repayments sooner rather than later will be a good idea.

Then you can work out some plans and get an idea for building costs with better idea of what you can spend.

dtc 11:16 am 27 Sep 11

Having looked at this a few years ago, it was going to cost me $220k to build 3 bedrooms plus a bathroom on the second floor plus changing the layout of the ground floor to deal with the staircase plus making the rooms more useful (ie no longer bedrooms). This was a lightweight extension (not double brick). Although you are likely doing a slightly smaller build, it won’t be that much smaller.

That did not take into account the pleasure of living without a roof during renovations (realistically, moving out of the house for 6 months). And the extra heating and (especially) cooling required from a 2 story building.

Honestly I find it hard to believe that the value of your house plus, say, $250k cannot find you a suitably larger house in your area. Sure it wont be perfect but neither will your renovated house, as it will be based the flawed structure of your current house. This is what I did – sold my old house and bought a ‘new’ (ie old but new to me) one, with an extra bedroom, ensuite, 2nd living room, garage and larger garden and closer to the City. The new house price was $200k over what I got for the old house, allowing for selling agent fees and stamp duty.

I imagine that all figures above will have blown out a bit in the past few years.

Anyway, I presume you have thought this through yourself.

Your first step is to contact a designer – draftsman, architect, whichever you chose – to get some rough plans drawn up and an assessment of any structural changes required to put on a second story. This will probably cost $1 – 2,000 and remember its only a starting ‘concept’ sketch, not detailed plans. You can do this through some of the building companies and they advertise this service.

Then you can get a rough estimate, probably from the designer (will be within 20% accuracy – so v rough). Then you start thinking about refining the plan, getting formal quotes, organising funding etc.

You need to determine what you are going to do first. The price it. Then, probably, re-think. Then decide. Then proceed.

watto23 11:06 am 27 Sep 11

Maybe a smallish ground floor extension adding an extra room with ensuite would be financially the way to go.

As people are saying extending up will cost more than buying an existing 2 floor place. People extend because they like where they are living, not because its cheaper. What it can do though is increase the properties long term value if done properly and the location is good.

thatsnotme 11:04 am 27 Sep 11

$600,000 – $700,000 to move to a larger house? Where are you looking to move to?? There are 4 bedroom houses with ensuite out there for under $500,000, and between $500 and $600k should get you into a place that needs no additional work at all.

I’d also be doing some serious investigations into how much actual value this extension would add to your existing house. I’d be very surprised if a $200-$300k extension on a small home added that much value to it. At the end of the work, it’s still a tacked on looking extension (remember – if your home is brick, you’ll not end up with a brick extension – the existing home was never designed to bear that weight) on top of a small home.

I’d have to agree that if you really want to stay where you are, a knock down – rebuild will probably be a better option for you.

Kristielee 10:49 am 27 Sep 11

Thanks schmeah for your not so helpful comments.

Paying $2-300K on extending my property is still going to be cheaper than buying a $6/700K property that needs extra work done on it. Not to mention the wasted money spent on selling fees and stamp duties.

I have asked the question to obtain advice from people who have tried this before and are willing to share their learning not to get spat on.

Our house is very small and basic – a 3 by 1 with no extras (no ensuite, no second dining or lounge, not even a proper laundry) and with already one child under our belt we are growing out of it quickly. We like our neighbours and the location so we are simply considering our options and seeking information from all angles.

arescarti42 10:48 am 27 Sep 11

Some people I know recently had a ground level extension done that included a large master bedroom, en-suite, walk in robe and outdoor deck. This was done with a reputable, quality builder and cost about $200k. I can guarantee it’d cost much more than that to have an extension built on top of an existing house, rather than just next to it.

For comparison, a quick look at the Simonds Homes website shows that brand new 4 bedroom Mcmansions can be had for less than $200k, double story ones from $215k+.

I’d say you’d be much better off moving to a large house.

Watson 10:37 am 27 Sep 11

Wouldn’t it be wiser to first pay of as much of the mortgage as you can for your standard 3br house before you borrow more money to make it into a castle?

poetix 10:20 am 27 Sep 11

Just remember that servicing the debt you will be building will eat into the time you can spend with your family. Or even, potentially, mean that you (or your partner) can not take time off work to have more children to fill the large house, as you need every cent to service the mortgage. If that sounds negative, I’m sorry, but I know people who could only pay off their home after retirement and receiving their super, due to constantly extending their house and needing a larger mortgage to do this. Now of course, they have a large house which they no longer need, and much less money for retirement.

Do you really need a larger house? Or is it a feeling that you should have a bigger house, as so many other people do?

I know you are looking for practical advice and good luck if you decide to proceed. Remember that builders are not architects, if you want something that complements your site and existing home.

steveu 10:12 am 27 Sep 11

I would seriously look at moving rather than extending. You may even be better knocking down the house and building a new one rather than extending. Seriously. Its very expensive and if you are building up then there are scaffolding costs to consider as well which will add to the cost as the markup on the work will be even higher.
Bowman are fantastic builders IMHO.

Skidd Marx 9:59 am 27 Sep 11

Building up is a great way to crap off your neighbours as well as turning your house into an eyesore. It’s also poor value for money being roughly twice as expensive as a ground-level extension. Abort take-off Captain Kristielee.

sneakers 9:52 am 27 Sep 11

Stay classy, schmeah.

Bluenomi 9:49 am 27 Sep 11

Extending costs more than moving to a bigger house and building up cost more than a ground floor extension. If you can’t afford to move, you can’t afford to extend

schmeah 9:30 am 27 Sep 11

Oh and I think you’ll find the more ‘reliable’ the builder, the more expensive it will cost you. But, you don’t seem like the sharpest tool in the shed.

schmeah 9:29 am 27 Sep 11

Wow, another unique Canberra cottage to be turned into a hideous monstrosity of bogan-esque proportions! Say good-bye to your garden now, because who needs them anymore?

Why not just buy one of these ugly houses instead of perpetuating the gentrification of Canberra’s suburbs!

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