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How not to over-capitalise on your kitchen renovation

By Emma Smith

Article written by KATHLEEN LEE-JOE and published on Domain

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When it comes to adding value to your home, the kitchen is a worthy investment. But how do you ensure it meets the expectations of the market without going a dollar beyond it?

We went direct to the experts for their best money-saving, renovating-for-resale tips.

Calculate your budget and stick to it

“As a rule of thumb, allocate 2 per cent of the total value of your property for a kitchen renovation, including materials, fixtures and labour,” says Cherie Barber, owner of Renovating For Profit.

That said, always tailor your finishes to the market you’re appealing to. “A modest house under $500,000 can probably get away with laminate bench tops and a basic flat-pack kitchen, but it’s not going to cut it for a property of $2 million-plus.”

Don’t think renovations always have to cost the world. As Barber says, “For under $500, you can get an absolute transformation using specialty paints for everything from tiles, to bench tops, cabinets and even appliances.”

Sarah Comerford, interior designer and founder of HOME by belle, agrees. “Choose your budget before choosing your style,” she says. “There are so many styles and finishes that will work for every budget.”

Work with what you’ve got

Be as inventive as you can with the money you have. Labour is one of the biggest costs, so don’t mess with electricals and plumbing if the layout is fine.

“If the kitchen is just dated, you may get away with keeping the carcasses and just updating the drawer and cupboard fronts, putting in a smart new tiled splashback and upgrading the appliances,” says Barber.

Do your homework

When finding contractors, word-of-mouth recommendations are always a good bet. Beyond this, Radley de Silva, CEO of Master Builders Association of Victoria, recommends also getting at least three written quotes before making your decision.

“Make certain you are always using registered builders and tradespeople. Be sure to ask for references and examples of previous work,” he says.

Check that they can provide warranty insurance, too. You may even consider engaging an architect who can help save you money with their clear understanding of price points. “You don’t want to over-capitalise on your fixtures and then not be able to afford complimentary joinery,” says architect Chloe Naughton.

Communicate clearly

The key to not over-capitalising is clear communication every step of the way – especially before any construction begins. As de Silva says, “Decide on what you want to achieve from the start and ensure everything is in place to prevent unforeseen, costly amendments and confusion later on.”

This stands for architects, too. As Naughton says, discuss your goals and your architect will help you create the perfect “kitchen flow”.

Appeal to the majority

“When renovating for resale, you have to consider a wider target demographic,” says Naughton. “This might mean that the kitchen layout caters for a variety of users rather than a very specific type of cooking style.”

Naughton recommends sticking to the tried-and-tested work triangle layout, not deviating from the standard bench height of 900mm and minimising the space between benches in a gallery-style kitchen as to maintain “flow”.

As for decorating, opt for a modern style and choose features that won’t date quickly.

Choose functional elements first

“Everyone works differently in their kitchen so start by thinking about appliances and storage needs,” says Comerford. “If you are stuck on ideas, head out to kitchen showrooms to gain a really good idea on what is possible, then decide if it will work for you.”

This is the best place to discuss ideas with an expert, too. A good kitchen renovation makes it appear larger and of more substantial quality, so do things that will increase the bulk and scale of the space.

Though it’s easy to get carried away with the bells and whistles, remember why you’re renovating in the first place and keep the focus on your return on investment.

As Comerford says, “It’s hard to over-capitalise on a ‘forever home’. But if it’s for investment purposes – whether a rental property or a quick flip to sell – keep emotion out of it and a very close eye on the budget.”

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