THE term "renovator's delight" is no longer real estate agent speak for "unliveable old hovel" but applies to the growing trend for homeowners opting to do up or extend their houses, rather than sell up and buy something new.
A survey of 1300 Australians by Australian Home Beautiful magazine found two-thirds of them, squeezed by the GFC, were either renovating now or planned to in the next two years.
The survey's findings are backed up by statistics from the Housing Industry Association, which describes 'renos' as the "shining light of residential building" - as shown by the sector's growth in the September quarter.
"The value of major renovations work done grew by 0.9% to be up by 6.3% on the commensurate quarter one year earlier," the association reported this week.
HIA economist Andrew Harvey said the trend was likely to continue, both because Australians loved to renovate and because they increasingly preferred to direct excessive property transaction costs towards improving their homes rather than trading up.
Fears about the uncertain economic conditions are driving the trend, with almost half of survey respondents saying renovating was the best option at present.
But renovating can be costly too, warns Derek Unterburger, who is five years into revamping the family home in Lismore's Girards Hill.
"However much you think it's going to cost, double it," Mr Unterburger said.
Then again, he is a self-confessed perfectionist and he and his wife, Stephanie, have gone to great lengths to stick to the original style of the Depression-era house.
Plus, the house was "pretty rough" to start with and unexpected problems arose during the work - including unearthing 12 tonne rocks blocking the new driveway.
They had no front door for six months and the kitchen was little more than a dining table and George Foreman grill for another two.
But the Unterburgers persevered and the end is near, though not until more effort has been expended in painting and other work.
Soon they will have a home they have transformed into something beautiful and, they said, exactly as they want it.
Derek Unterburger has these tips for would-be renovators:
- Know what you want before starting, stay engaged with the work and be firm with the builders.
- Ask yourself if it's going to add real market value to your home.
- Double the amount you estimate it's going to cost.