Three reasons you should renovate for profit

Three reasons you should renovate for profit
Three reasons you should renovate for profit

Renovating residential investment property is a great way of building wealth quickly. It’s a relatively low-risk strategy if executed correctly and will allow you to manufacture capital value and increase rental returns without relying solely on market conditions.

Back in 1999 a friend of mine wanted to sell a house his parents left him when they passed away. Since he knew that I knew a bit about real estate he asked for my help. The house had been neglected for 18 months and was in very poor condition. A few local real estate agents gave him valuations ranging between $320,000 and $340,000.

I did a little research and was confident my friend could get more if he tidied up the house but he couldn’t be bothered and just wanted to sell it as it was. So we made a deal. I would fix up the house and when he sold it we would split whatever profit we made, based on the average of the initial valuations less the renovation costs. So I got stuck into it, working 12 hours a day for a week.

I cleared out all the junk, filling two jumbo skip bins. I had the floors sanded and polished and touched up the interior paintwork. I tidied up the gardens, trimmed some trees that were overhanging the roof, had some stumps removed and put bark on the garden beds. I washed the outside of the house and touched up the paintwork, replaced the cracked roof tiles, cleaned the gutters and painted them as well as the eaves.

The cost of the makeover was just over $10,000 plus my labour. Only two weeks after their initial valuation, we asked two of the original selling agents (plus another one) for a fresh valuation. They all valued the house between $390,000 and $410,000. It sold for $395,000. So for an outlay of around $10,000 plus one week of my labour we had increased the value of the house by $65,000.

In essence, I had converted a little imagination and one week of my time into $27,500, which I used – yes, you guessed it – to buy some property to renovate. Now that you can see what’s possible, here are my top three reasons why renovating residential property is one of the best investment strategies:

1. It’s easy to understand

With the popularity of shows like The Block and The Renovators, most people are familiar with the concept of property renovation and how it can increase the value of a property. Because people already understand how it works, they don’t have to struggle with the basics and can get on with practising their skills and developing their techniques.

2. You’re in control

How much control do you have over the performance of shares you buy? Unless you own a big enough chunk of shares in a company to get yourself a seat on the board, very little. The board of directors can make bad, negligent or straight-out criminal decisions, wiping significant value off your shares, and apart from selling your shares and investing elsewhere as a sign of protest, there’s not much you can do about it.

However, with property renovation you’re in the driver’s seat. Maximum return comes from a property when it’s improved to its “highest and best use” for its tenants and buyers. Because you make all the decisions, you can be proactive to ensure the property reaches its highest and best use.

You don’t have to quit your day job, but renovating can become a full-time career if you want it to. You can potentially make more money in less time than you’re earning now.

3. You can “manufacture” capital growth

If you buy a parcel of shares is there anything you can do to add value to them? No. You can add value to a business but unless you’re a naturally gifted entrepreneur, growing a business is hard work. It usually takes a significant commitment of time, money and emotional energy and according to some reports and business books I have read you have an 80% chance of going out of business within the first five years.

In comparison, adding value to an investment property is relatively simple if you know what you are doing. You add value by taking a structurally sound but run-down property and smartening it up, making it more desirable, and thus more valuable, to renters and buyers.

You can give it a coat of paint and tidy up the garden. Or replace all the doorknobs, build a barbecue, replace the carpet or polish the floorboards. There are literally hundreds of improvements, big and small, that you can do to increase the value. The trick is to add more value than the actual cost of the improvements.

By doing creative, cost-effective cosmetic renovations you can “manufacture” capital growth. Rather than just sitting back and waiting for the market to deliver capital growth over time, you accelerate the process by manufacturing capital growth with a renovation. This allows you to build wealth faster than relying solely on market increases.

As an added bonus, renovating can also increase your cashflow via the higher rent you can achieve for the renovated property. So you have two ways to profit: capital growth and increased cashflow. If you’re clever about it, the increased rental income you generate can cover the costs of financing the renovation. This means you can achieve the capital gain without putting in any of your own money.

In summary, renovating is a solid approach for building wealth which is less reliant on outside factors which are beyond your control. The only limit is your imagination. I firmly believe that building wealth through renovating residential property is a skill that can be learnt by just about anyone.

If you don’t include renovating as part of your property investment strategy then you’re probably not maximising your potential returns. You can use it to fast-track the growth of your portfolio, create an additional income stream, or a combination of the two.

My definition of renovation

When I refer to renovation I’m talking about cosmetic rejuvenation. I’m not talking about buying derelict property and making it liveable again, restoring period homes or fixing major structural defects. What we’re doing is taking a structurally sound but messy property, smartening it up and adding the “wow factor” on a limited budget.

The type of renovation projects you attempt should be in line with your level of knowledge, skills and tradespeople contacts. By using some common sense I believe most people can handle a basic rejuvenation without too many dramas.

My seven-step plan for renovating for profit

The secret to success in anything you do is having a good plan, conducting your research and working smartly. To get you started I want to introduce my proven seven-step plan that I use to renovate properties for profit, for myself and my clients:

Step 1: Understand the renovation profit formula – once you understand the theory you’ll see where the profits lie.

Step 2: Work out how much you can afford – you need enough in the kitty to cover the three major costs of renovating.

Step 3: Target the right property type – match your risk profile to the right type of property.

Step 4: Market research and preparation – it all comes down to the all-important research.

Step 5: Select the right property to buy – how to spot a property with the maximum profit potential.

Step 6: Pay the right price – how to work out the maximum you can afford to pay and still make a healthy profit.

Step 7: Get the work done on time and budget – avoid profit-shrinking cost overruns and delays.

Patrick Bright is a real estate author and founder of Sydney-based buyer’s agency EPS Property Search. Bright has purchased over $500 million worth of real estate for clients. His best-selling titles include The Insider’s Guide to Buying Real Estate, The Insider’s Guide to Saving Thousands at AuctionThe Insider’s Guide to Profitable Property Investing and The Insider's Guide to Renovating for Profit. This is an excerpt from The Insider's Guide to Renovating for Profit. 

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Patrick Bright

Patrick Bright

Patrick Bright is a real estate author and founder of Sydney-based buyer’s agency EPS Property Search.

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