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Building Up (House Extension) in Canberra?

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.


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Building Up (House Extension) in Canberra?
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Hosinator 12:48 pm 28 Sep 11

wildturkeycanoe said :

Kristielee – How can you consider 1 child to be growing out of a 3 bedroom house? We, likewise, have 3 beds but with ensuite, combined living/dining, single garage and that’s it. Total of 108 square metres. But, we also have 3 kids and get by quite okay. Until they become teenagers there isn’t any need to get them a room of their own.

+1

We own a modest 100sqm home with three bedrooms and no ensuite. Even though we can afford a McMansion, I’m hoping to use the limited space to our advantage.

1. Encourage our kids to play outside more, go for a ride on their bikes rather than being cooped up inside.
2. Encourage our future teenage kids/young adults to move out of home sooner or to live on campus at university.

I’ll be damned if I’m supporting a future 30 year old gamer in my house.

buildingquoteHQ 11:25 am 28 Sep 11

” 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+. “

Simonds Homes do not operate in the Canberra region. They are based in Victoria which is widely regarded as the having the cheapest building costs in the country. Unfortunately ACT building costs are much more expensive. A better comparison for a large volume new home builder would be Masterton Homes who are now operating in the Canberra region.

poetix 8:40 am 28 Sep 11

Kristielee said :

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.

Just one more point: Do you realise that for this much money you could buy a modest property at the coast and escape there at weekends? Beats an en suite any day!

bearlikesbeer 8:34 am 28 Sep 11

A few of my friends have used Canberra builder/renovators ProStyle for their extensions. Very nice work, but certainly not cheap.

wildturkeycanoe 6:07 am 28 Sep 11

Kristielee – How can you consider 1 child to be growing out of a 3 bedroom house? We, likewise, have 3 beds but with ensuite, combined living/dining, single garage and that’s it. Total of 108 square metres. But, we also have 3 kids and get by quite okay. Until they become teenagers there isn’t any need to get them a room of their own.
If you can’t work out how to afford anything bigger, don’t. Live within your means. Have you considered that when you have the extra children you will also have to get a bigger car, which you won’t be able to afford with the larger mortgage? Times have changed and the dream of a large family with lots of living space is now only for the wealthiest of people. Add the ensuite, that’s a smart move, but a sitting room?? Unnecessary.

buildingquoteHQ 10:33 pm 27 Sep 11

I run a building design practice based in Canberra and we specialise in residential projects including extensions/renovations and new homes of all sizes and budgets. The queries you have are typical of most of our clients.

The only way to know how far your money will go is to spend some money getting some advice and designs/drawings from a designer or architect. The first thing we do with our new clients is determine if their budget and brief belong in the same ballpark; if not we give them some advice on how they might need to adjust either the brief or budget, or both. You shouldn’t need to pay a fortune for this partial service as you only need to get sketch plans completed so that a couple of builders can then complete a preliminary estimate for you. If the estimates meet your budget you can proceed with the full service, if not you’ll need to weigh up your options.

I think that in your case some professional assistance will help greatly as there may well be a worthwhile and desirable option for you to extend at ground level. The Rioters are correct about it being much more expensive to build up rather building at ground level. The most significant factor in the difference between building new and extending/renovating is the cost of labour required to demolish, dismantle, remove, repair, make good etc elements of the existing house. Any project that involves building up will have significant amounts of this work required in the roof removal/conversion alone. Also, beware the pimple on a pumpkin look which often results from a small second storey addition. Planning and approvals are also often trickier with build-up projects.

There are a few objectives I try to achieve in all extension designs to make them more cost effective; in no particular order they are:
– minimise the amount of demolition work ( its probably just as expensive to dismantle a wall as it is to build a new one). The lighter we touch the existing structure the more money there will be to invest in the new spaces.
– try to find a ground floor design solution.
– minimise demolition and redesign of the roof where possible
– minimise major works to kitchens and wet areas where possible. Although these are often the first rooms that need attention, try to remodel rather than completely redesign or relocate.

So onto costs… the reality is that you are going to pay a premium for any extension project over a new build. Most new homes can be built for $1500-$2500/sqm and most extensions will cost $2500-$3500/sqm, but just remember that’s the cost for the extra floor space you are adding and doesn’t include spaces you are renovating within the existing house. There will also likelt be extra costs for demolition/make good repairs etc. Most build-up projects will be at the higher end of that range (and possibly more depending on the existing structure and design etc).

So, a worked example for your project; bedroom (14sqm), bathroom (6sqm), sitting room (18sqm) = 38sqm. Lets make it 45sqm by the time you allow for access spaces and wall thickness’s etc. You’ll also need to allow extra space for the stair if you opt for two storey.

45sqm x $2500 = $112,500; 45sqm x $3500 = $157,500, and so on… You will no doubt also need to make allowance for renovations/make good to the existing house; budget for about another 50% of the costs of the extensions.

As for finding a builder, this is something that I have seen many clients really struggle with and it is the reason I have developed a new on-line service – buildingquote.com.au, which will help clients find the right builder for their project, give them the tools to ensure they receive comprehensive and easy to compare quotes and save time by being able to research and select builders to quote their project from home or work.

Although the site is not yet live we have nearly 30 reputable builders (all licensed and members of either HIA or MBA, or both) who have registered and are eagerly awaiting the site to go live. We expect the site to be complete in about 2-3 weeks, so hopefully you will be able to gain benefit from it when you are ready to find a builder.

Good luck!

milkman 9:00 pm 27 Sep 11

Kristielee said :

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.

Don’t be put off by those who think living like a matyr in a hovel is somehow a good thing. Having a comfortable home (which includes modern heating/cooling, decent insulation, sensible layout, etc) is really very good.

Affirmative Action Man 8:16 pm 27 Sep 11

I’m just finishing my extension after 6 years having done it myself by working part time with the help of tradesmen.

If I had my time again I would have sold up & bought a bigger house. Back then $400,00 seemed like a huge amount. In 10 years time $800,000 will be peanuts.

Other option is buy an older house maybe a bit run down that is solid & has lots of space & you can slowly do up. I’ve got 3 kids and believe me as they get older a second living area is not enough. Get a place with an old brick garage that you can turn into a rumpus room when they become teenagers.

milkman 3:02 pm 27 Sep 11

Think about doing a knock down and rebuild – it could be a cheaper way to get what you want. Just remember to factor in accommodation while the build is taking place.

ThisIsAName 2:56 pm 27 Sep 11

Have you considered experimenting with some CAD software (eg. google sketchup) to see what your options are? Some of the older/pokier houses can be improved by removing parts of internal walls/adding extra ground level rooms.

I’d recommend contacting ABC constructions – I’ve seen their work first hand and they’d be my first point of call if I needed anything done.

GardeningGirl 1:16 pm 27 Sep 11

How old is the house? Would you have to factor in asbestos removal?

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.

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