How to nail a knockdown rebuild on the Northern Beaches

When should you ditch the renovation plans and knockdown rebuild instead?

There’s no doubt that people on the Northern Beaches have an enduring love affair with home renovation. But as building costs rise post COVID-19, and with tradespeople in short supply, there’s also a growing trend towards knockdown rebuild.

When executed successfully, knocking an old place down to build a fresh new home can be both time efficient and cost-effective. It also means you get a completely new home that’s suited to your exact needs.

But it’s not always smooth sailing. You can still encounter site issues and get caught by unexpected costs and time delays. And how do you know that you’re going with a quality builder?

To find out more, Nook’s chief mortgage broker Cat Denney spoke with Nick Freeman from ADDVantage Property, a buyer’s agency who specialises in helping people buy properties on the Northern Beaches that are suitable for renovations and new builds.

Nick, you’ve seen a lot of renovations in your time – in your opinion, when should a homeowner ditch their renovation plans and opt to knockdown rebuild instead?

It’s an interesting question and a situation that I see often with buyers. Over my years in the property industry, I’ve seen many people who planned to renovate, but ultimately concluded they were better off demolishing the property and starting from scratch.

The reasons vary. Sometimes it’s because there are just too many issues with the existing building and it’s not worth trying to remedy them all as part of a reno. Or it can be because the building is positioned in a way that doesn’t fit with the buyer’s overall vision.

Other common reasons a knockdown rebuild may be better are because the existing floor plan doesn’t fit the owner’s plans, or it’s more cost-effective to just start again.

If you decide to go down the knockdown rebuild on the Northern Beaches, what sort of property makes a ‘good buy’?

There are lots of things to consider. When it comes to the block, choose a flat or gently sloping lot so construction is easier. And make sure it meets your vision in terms of aspect, shade and outlook etc.

When it comes to knocking down the existing dwelling, remember that the cost of removing a larger structure can be high compared to a smaller house. Also factor in the location of large trees that may have to be removed as part of the rebuild. This can be expensive and time-consuming.

Then there’s associated, and sometimes overlooked issues, like the property’s water and sewerage set-up. Here, it’s better if the block has an easy existing way to get sewerage and storm water off the property. Otherwise, the rebuild may have to include an easement through a neighbouring property, or a pit build. This can significantly add to costs.

You’ve been involved in a lot of knockdown rebuilds. What are some of the biggest mistakes you see people making with the knockdown-rebuild strategy?

There are a few that comes to mind. A big one is not doing proper due diligence, which can be a killer.

I’ve seen people build in a bushfire zone without realising the extra requirements and costs that come with this. Or they fail to assess constraints like trees and easements.

Another common error is underestimating all the costs involved in the rebuild, or not factoring in extra costs such as driveways and landscaping which can be substantial.

Then there’s trusting the suggestions of people who aren’t experts when it comes to the process. This can also trip you up. For example, the agent selling the property might talk about putting a pool in or building down one side of the lot. But this might just be their opinion and not based on any knowledge of what’s possible from a building or council point of view.

What’s your view on going with a custom-built house versus a project home?

I see three broad options here. There’re project homes like Clarendon or Metricon where you can buy a pre-designed house and make some tweaks. The next option is a hybrid approach like that offered by GJ Gardner or Icon who let you have more say in the design. Or, of course, there are the fully custom, architecturally designed homes which give you complete control.

Making the call on what option is right for you depends on what quality you want, how much say you want in the design process, and what your budget is.

Finally Nick, can you give us a quick overview of what you do and how you help buyers on the beaches?

Sure thing. I’m a buyer’s agent who, through my business ADDVantage Property, helps people buy successfully on the Northern Beaches.

Our suite of bespoke services covers building reviews, site suitability, renovation and building project management, and is suited to renovators and home builders who want to ensure they buy the right sort of property, and know what they’re signing up for.

Thinking of doing a renovation or rebuild? Check out Nook’s article on Four Ways To Fund a Renovation or get in touch with Nook to discuss your options.

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