At The School of Renovating we teach women who want to renovate for profit how to create an income and a life they love. We had an idea for our Wonder Women class to do a class project so that those who were interested could learn firsthand what is involved in a renovation.
The Renovation Class Project
As an experiment, we thought we would put out a call to see if anyone was interested in joining forces and doing a project with cash. Initially, twenty people were keen, and we ended up with fourteen co-investors.
I have to admit that I thought it would be a bit of a nightmare working with that many people. But everyone was respectful and the project went well. Rather than hamper the project, we have developed an incredible team. ~ Bernadette Janson
The team members were real workhorses. They saw the project through many challenges. If I am honest, it has been the most challenging project I have ever done.
The biggest benefit of working with such a large group of people was the financing of our class project. We were able to work on a cash basis without having to borrow money to purchase and renovate the property.
Our goal was a cosmetic plus renovation. We made sure to do a pest and a building inspection before we bought the property in Newcastle through a buyer’s agent.
The Renovation Before and After…
From Ugly Duckling to Queen of the Street
Slide to see the street appeal before and after
Comments From Some Of The Wonder Women Class Project Team Members
James Burgin, Christine Boundy and Sheree Lamb joined me on my She Renovates podcast to talk about the project and share some of their experiences working with me and as part of the team. Everyone learnt something about renovating, themselves and their fellow team members.
Christine said that she valued the opportunity to work with me.
For me, that was a highlight just seeing how you did things and how you had to scribble sometimes.
Sheree agreed. She said:
It’s always great to work with Bernadette and a fantastic team. And it’s great to work with different people too.
Sheree said that she loves being involved in new things; seeing how they go and what you would change if you decide to do them again.
James spent a lot of time in the car with me and Stephen driving to and from the renovation property. We talked about everything from the ways of the world to the renovation. He said:
I was a novice renovator and now I feel like, maybe not the accomplished one, but I’m certainly much more confident with what I’m doing.
Perhaps the best thing to come from the renovation is that we all made some good new friends.
Getting The Job Done
The great thing about our team of fourteen is that everybody pitched in and got their hands dirty. Every member of the team took responsibility for their tasks without having to have me holding their hands along the way.
The team members seemed to naturally gravitate towards roles they filled fairly easily. For example, Christine spent a lot of time on the phone hassling for supplies and trades. She didn’t give up until she got a yes from someone. I was able to rely on everyone for different things at different times.
One thing I realized is that a project requires research.
~ James Burgin
James learnt that you may have the big picture in mind. You may have the floor plans at hand. You may even have a pretty good idea of what you want to do. But, once you engage with the details they require some intense research.
When we received a quote of $6000 for a picket fence, I turned to Facebook Marketplace. I found one that was in mint condition that was perfect for our needs. It saved us a whole lot of money.
Challenges We Faced On Our Class Project Due To The Pandemic
Completing renovation projects in a timely and cost-effective manner has been difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic. I noticed that it was even more difficult in Newcastle. These were some of the biggest challenges we faced:
- We would struggle to get even one trade out to give us a quote.
- The quotes were very high, often much higher than we expected to pay.
- Asking trades from Sydney to work in Newcastle – a problem we eventually solved by paying for their accommodation.
- Towards the end, the trades actually stayed in the house which was a bonus for our insurance policy.
- Getting supplies took longer
- Supplies were limited
Not all of our challenges were a result of the pandemic. Our biggest battle was the roof. It was a very nasty surprise that did not come up in the building report. The problem was asbestos. Having to have it safely removed more than doubled what we expected to pay for demolition.
In addition to that, we had to take the main electricity supply to the house off so that we could replace the fascia. We also had to replace the gutters and the downpipes.
The Feasibility Study
Our original feasibility was based on a $1.25 million price. But, extra costs, like those involved with the roof restoration, meant we needed to increase our selling price to $1.285 million.
Things often go wrong during a renovation project. It can be difficult not to sink into a hole. The best thing to do is look at where the market is. Will it tolerate the extra spend?
In the case of our class renovation project, we had no choice but to spend the extra money. I had a number of conversations with estate agents in the area who felt that our price expectations to cover our extra costs were realistic. And that proved to be correct. Christine said:
…you actually need to have lots of conversations with your real estate agents.
Adding The Wow Factor To The Class Project
I always tell people that there needs to be a wow factor in every renovation. James pointed out that we added a few to this project:
- We added a beautiful entrance.
- We replaced the forest of trees at the front of the property with the Facebook Marketplace picket fence.
- We created a fire pit in the backyard.
Sheree and her husband got stuck into the landscaping early on in the project which was a great benefit. It was established when it came time to sell and it was done well because we weren’t all worn out trying to get it done at the end of the project.
The Kitchen Renovation
I want to specifically mention the kitchen here. I was following a thread on Facebook the other day in which women were talking about how much their kitchen had cost. Most of them were between fifty thousand and ninety thousand dollars.
I was surprised by these high costs. Completing the kitchen within budget on our projects is always a challenge. I don’t budget more than $20,000 for the kitchen. But we do need to deliver quality.
For this project, we were under a bit of time pressure because it was just before Christmas. We couldn’t get a custom kitchen on time; it would have taken too long to deliver. We also could not get all the required components (cabinet doors!) we needed from IKEA, so building a flatpack kitchen wasn’t an option for us either.
Eventually, we found the kitchen we needed in the display centre for a developer. It was a stroke of luck. It didn’t fit our original plan for the kitchen which was all white. This kitchen was wood grain with wide overheads. When you are renovating for profit you often have to design through necessity. And that meant adjusting our plan.
To make sure the kitchen was consistent with the rest of the house we used ‘natural white’ paint. We also chose a natural coloured curtain. It turned out really well in the end. We were happy with the end result. It looked calming and graceful.
Finishing Off The Class Renovation Project
By the end of any project, you can start to feel frayed. I plan to do a She Renovates episode on ‘finishing off’ because that’s when the tears usually happen. Sheree said:
I think when you’re feeling frayed you just have to dig deep and remember the simple things in life.
The best thing to do is stick to your routine. Take time to debrief with people over a coffee. Call on people for support. We had a wonderful team of people to lean on for this renovation class project. You can listen to the She Renovates podcasts, and turn to the Facebook group and the other members of the Wonder Women program. You never have to feel alone. There is always someone to reach out to for advice and support.
With all of the challenges we overcame, we felt that we sold the home with integrity. Towards the end, we all spent a night or two in the house. Christine said:
It was a beautiful home to be in of a night time, it is a lovely home to wake up in in the morning. I have to say, I think we can all go to sleep at night thinking that whoever the new owners are, they are going to sleep well and really enjoy it.
The School of Renovating Class Project was an enriching experience for all of us. Everyone learnt something and everyone has made a good return on their investment. It was an especially rewarding exercise for people who had never done a renovation before. What we do next remains to be seen. I am certain it will be fun, exciting and challenging!