37 – Reno Diva: Kate Potter

  1. Home
  2. /
  3. Case Studies
  4. /
  5. 37 – Reno Diva: Kate Potter
a profitable renovation

Bernadette is with Reno Diva, Kate Potter and they are going to talk about her 3 projects and the award winning property in Thirroul that won her top prize in “Building Designers Association of Australia Awards”.

Listen to Episode 37: Reno Diva Kate Potter

Podcast: Download (Duration: 24:50 — 24.57 MB)

Episode Highlights

  • What’s given Kate the clarity to change her focus about renovating
  • The right decision to move forward and sell her first property
  • A change in mindset to live a life they deserve
  • Is cheap property a good property as a project?
  • The negatively geared defense housing home in Brisbane
  • The renovated one little bedder in Mosman
  • The award-winning Thirroul project
  • Kate’s decision to come and do more education on renovating a property3


01:32 – Get cracking with renovating for profit

04:42 – Part of the journey

06:48 – Everything fell into place

07:58 – Did due diligence on real estate agents

10:14 – Building a rapport with people

13:14 – 3 visits to Brisbane project

15:52 – The same day Mosman and Thirroul project sold

18:32 – A Byron beach-inspired cottage lighthouse

21:14 – The idea of the cookie-cutter approach

22:59 – A profitable renovation


“You’re loving doing what you’re doing but really it’s not getting the results that you should be getting. And that’s where the strategy is really important.””


Bernadette: Hi. I’ve got Kate Potter here. Kate had a very busy year. You’ve done two or three projects this year? Three. Amazing.

Kate: So this year I started the year with a home, an investment home that we had in Brisbane that came up at the end of its lease. So we took the opportunity to do a reno and sell that one. That was January this year which we sold in February and then we had a unit in Mosman which we did a cosmetic renovation styled and sold and then we also sold a property that we renovated last year in Thirroul. And then on the back of all of that. Just bought our 4th what’s hopefully our forever home.

Bernadette: I only met Kate- was it 12 months ago when you came into our Bootcamp? And she was a bit of a hot mess. I think you would say, had stuff going on everywhere and was really having trouble making sense of it. And I think the big difference it has been with you is you’ve got really clear about what you want and that’s enabled you to be able to move forward and really at quite a cracking pace given that you’re working full time as well. So I thought we’d sort of really flesh out your projects in terms of what you did, how you managed them given that you’re working full time and we’ll talk about the exciting news of you winning that amazing award on your project. Firstly, let’s get into that. What’s given you the clarity? I guess is what I want to ask, firstly.

​Kate: A really strange thing happened. My husband and I’ve been thinking about where we want to ultimately live for quite a number of years actually. And also at the same time, I’ve been wanting to really get cracking with renovating for profit as well. And we’ve been living in a beautiful one-bedroom apartment in Mosman. For the past 15 years, quiet sort of comfortable because it was a beautiful location, beautiful water views, and all that sort of stuff. But we thought we really would like to have some space, looked around what we could afford and didn’t really think we could afford a house in the northern beaches where we were looking at the time. So then we thought we would give it a go down on the south coast.

We went down there. I had previously done a townhouse reno and flip. And on the back of that, I was itching to do the next project. We decided to find a house that we could live in, renovate and potentially stay there. It just didn’t feel right for us and neither of us wanted to say that we’d made a mistake but after we had been there about a year. Moved out to do the renovation and moved back to Sydney we thought actually we love the house. We just don’t think we want to live that far away from Sydney, we just felt too disconnected from Sydney.

At the same time I felt like, “Oh, I really wanted to be doing renovating as my business”. But it just didn’t seem to feel right to do that before we were settled and to be fair to my husband. He really wanted to get settled in a home that he just ended up saying, we had a discussion that just came out of the blue after talking with some friends and he said, “You know what? What would happen if we sold some of the places that we have? The investments, what could we afford to do then?” And that changed the whole focus.

From feeling, we had to hold onto everything and live in this one-bedroom tiny apartment to “Well, what if we just decide where we want to live and make that happen first and then we’ll make everything else happen around it?” But Bernadette, I actually think that it was something that you said to me in a coaching session which was, “Isn’t it time you start to live the way you want to live?” And that’s played in my mind for quite a few times and I thought, “Well, yeah maybe we’re allowed to do that and I think we gave ourselves permission to spend money on a house that we want to live in and not feel guilty about that.” And that was a big step.

Bernadette: And that’s the thing. I really get annoyed when these gurus go on and say your family home is not an asset. But there’s no second chance at this if you’re going to create your life. But the flip side of that is then your family home because it’s a large portion of your wealth also becomes a really powerful tool because you’ve got all that equity in it, you can improve it to add value and to enrich your life. And so it kills two birds with one stone.

​Kate: I think for me part of the journey has been to realise that it doesn’t matter what age you are, you’re entitled to go and get a loan if you want. If you have the means to pay it off and the future vision of how you’re going to do that. Whereas there’s a lot of people out there who I guess think we’re doing something contrary to what we should be doing in this stage of life. Which is downsizing and just being really sensible and having investments but not putting any more money into our own lifestyle.

And I just feel like I’ve got so many years ahead of me to start, heading in a new direction. And why should I assume that that means less money? Why should I assume that that means less lifestyle? Why should I assume that we’re going to be too feeble to look after a house when that’s actually what will keep us young?

Bernadette: Exactly.

​Kate: So I think once we got our head around that’s okay. And we do deserve to actually live in the house of our dreams. And doing the house in Thirroul making it so beautiful is what gave us the incentive. It expanded our thinking as to what we could achieve and what we would like to live in. Then after that point looking around at two-bedroom apartments in our local area just didn’t cut it anymore.

So once we made the decision we’d already sold our place in Brisbane. That was the only one we’d actually planned to sell. Then it became easy to sell our apartment in Mosman and the housing which we’d been hanging onto. And just not able to make decisions about that for probably about 5 years. That moving out of Mosman and then once we renovated Thirroul. We thought, “Oh, you know we’ll hang on to it. We’ll put tenants in there.” It kind of broke our heart to put someone else in a house we just freshly renovated for ourselves and they were in there for almost a year and once we decided “No, we can have something like that” it doesn’t have to be that or nothing. We thought, we sold both of them on the same day, it just all fell into place. Everything fell into place immediately.

Bernadette: And that’s a pretty good indication that it was the right decision.

​Kate: Yeah. And then we found the house that we found immediately. Everything happened within a number of weeks.

​Bernadette: You were sort of in this dilemma for I reckon at least 6 months. And then all of a sudden it went wham, bam and we’re off! And the only thing that happened was a change in your mindset?

​Kate: Yes.

​Bernadette: That was it. It’s amazing. And so let’s just go back to the Brisbane one let’s all crossover that because I actually was really impressed with how you managed that because like a lot of the people that I work with are in a similar position they have a property in Queensland, usually that’s not doing so well and have had it for a long time and arming and asking about whether to sell it. And of course whether to do anything to improve it to make sure they get that. Like a lot of people, they’re negatively geared which I don’t think yours wasn’t.

​​Kate: Yeah. It was for many years.  And we had that for 15 years. It’s a defence housing home.

​Bernadette: So what actually did you do? What were the stats on that? When you got it valued when you first started when to sell.

​​​Kate: We went up and did some due diligence on real estate agents. I had a conversation with about five. My husband and I went up and interviewed three and drove around the area and got a good sense of values and we were told around $430K would be on the mark. The house was in an area called Forest Lake. There are many, many, many project homes all looking the same. It’s an area which was developed. And about a third was defence housing. So it was a new development that was designed around integrating defence homes in with a new estate.

The house that we bought was pretty near the beginning of that development. So you can imagine how many houses there are. That was very very much the brick veneer box. And this was a four-bedroom home, not a great floor plan. It was a little bit sort of chopped up, it wasn’t completely open plan, a bit on the gloomy side, all very cream and beige and rust coloured exterior garage doors and all that kind of stuff. And very planned, I guess you could say I decided that if we were going to sell this house and not have it sitting on the market that we would need to give it the biggest bang for your buck. What I did was leveraged what I could get for free from the defence housing contract.

a profitable renovation

Brisbane Project

a profitable renovation


a profitable renovation


They had an obligation to paint and their instructions from me were that they would paint it like for like in the same colours. I negotiated with them to choose my own colours and have that light white feeling and I went and took the trouble to go and visit again meet with the maintenance manager and go around and specify the things that I thought were maintenance issues.

I really squeezed everything out of them for a start. Then I asked if I could have direct contact with that maintenance girl who was managing the painting and whatnot. Because I built a rapport with her. So when it came time to talk about cleaning the carpet, she said “You know what? She called me and said I realise that it’s not going to come up that well. I’ve decided to advise that it needs to be replaced. So then I got to specify the colour of the carpet.

And I think a lot of it is just building a rapport with people and creating that personal connection and telling her what my plans were for renovating it as she bought into the whole excitement of the thing. And she said that she loved to come and see the house and the houses when they were completed and all that sort of stuff. So I think she pushed the boundaries a little bit more, she got some turf laid where there were some bald patches in the back garden and all that sort of stuff.

a profitable renovation


a profitable renovation


From this, I got the free painting, free carpet. I went through and just had specified what needs to be done in the garden. I had some sheer curtains installed. I managed to negotiate with the stylist to organise a handyman to do that under her control. So this is the sort of thing that I did to do it remotely. I had about three visits up there. Got the contacts, talked to plumbers, electricians and then managed them remotely. The electrician and plumber I made sure that I use people that were recommended by my agent.

The most important thing I should have glossed over as well as choosing the right agent because he treated it like his own house and his own project as well. Same as a stylist, the same as the defence person. So those three people were my on the ground eyes and ears and they were my source of trades that I knew I could trust because they trusted them and they had repeat business with them. I didn’t negotiate, I didn’t sort of shop around because it was more important to be able to trust people to do the work well not to get the right price in this instance.

All I did was got new toilets because they were absolutely disgusting. New appliances in the kitchen. Everything was cleaned up to a high standard. And the painting and the carpet and the styling and the sheer curtains. The white sheer curtains that made a really big difference because there was really, sort of ugly side fences that you were looking out on to as well. And once that was all done and styled. I actually specified the styling as well, the kind of styling that I wanted so that it was a bit different from everything else in the area.

I also had a hand in reviewing and choosing the photos. In fact with the photographs, it didn’t show it in a very good light. They came up looking really with the walls that can really creamy and a funny filter that they put on it. So I’ve rejected them and they took things at an angle that didn’t really show the house of free will. And after all of that we ended up getting a price of $475K, sold in a week at a time when the market was, this was before the election, it was February and things were very very slow and there were about fifty houses in the market. don’t ever assume that if you’re caught and you need someone at short notice that you can’t find someone even good trades have scheduling issues where they have to find ways of employing their teams at short notice.



Bernadette: Well done. So how much time did you actually spend up there?

​Kate: Three visits. One to the interview the agents, one to do an inspection when the tenants moved out. And one further inspection when it was all done. So that was it. Three visits where I stayed overnight. I could have got away with returning on the same day but I preferred to stay overnight and make a little bit of a holiday. And also I could do a bit of running around looking at Bunnings and toilets and all that kind of stuff out there. The other thing I did was to organise through the Bunnings power pass. To buy and pay for the toilets and things and arrange for the plumber to go and just collect them straight from the local. I arranged for them to be at the local ones, that was another good thing. And the electrician, I asked him to source, including his quote to source, it was oven and cooktop and dishwasher. He was responsible for the whole lot of it. So I don’t have to worry about that either.

a profitable renovation


a profitable renovation


Bernadette: Well done. And it really gives you a sense of accomplishment when you actually do the job well and have a good outcome. So then you renovated, you did a makeover of your own little one bedder?

Kate: So this apartment in Mosman. The agent, a few agents said I didn’t really need much but I knew that it did need something because we wanted to push the boundaries to pretty much the top of the one-bedroom market. Because the view warranted it and it was a 60’s building and a small apartment and it had been renovated just before we moved in fifteen years prior, but it was just tired. So again we got stuck in. We painted this one ourselves over the Easter period. In a white, white on white all throughout, and Mexican quarter for all of the woodwork trims and the plantation shutters put in for styling and a really deep clean and that’s clean and grout tidy up in the bathroom. And that was pretty much it. And that again that sold on the first viewing.

a profitable renovation

Mosman Project

a profitable renovation
a profitable renovation
a profitable renovation

Bernadette: Beautiful.

​Kate: That was just when, just before the tide turned in the market. So that was in May this year. Well, it was actually the weekend after the elections. It sold off-market to someone across the road who got in early before the preview because they didn’t want it to go to anyone else.

​Bernadette: Well done. It’s interesting the universe conspired.

And on that same day we negotiated a deal with our tenants to buy the house down in Thirroul down the coast. All on the same day that the Mosman apartment and the Thirroul house sold on the same day.

award winning thirroul renovation

Thirroul Project


award winning thirroul renovation


Bernadette: Awesome. So tell me a bit about the Thirroul house. That was a little bit of a labor of love. You actually bought and completed that before we met?

​Kate: Yes. So I just completed it before I met you. That was a house that was going to be our forever home. It was a 100-year-old cottage. We managed to secure that because we committed to the owners who, it was a deceased estate. And we said we were absolutely renovating it. We weren’t going to knock it down and put a two-story long monstrosity on it which was what they were afraid of. And we really wanted to make this at the cute little beach house at the front and extended the back which is what we did. It took us a while to figure out what we wanted to do and part of that indecision was about was it can be our home or not our home and all of that kind of stuff.


award winning thirroul renovation


Kate: We wanted to create a really light airy space. It was a cute cottage but quite dingy and dark as 100-year-old cottages tend to be. It was two bedrooms with a closed-in veranda. And the owners had raised six children in that house. And now the owner who had just recently deceased and who we bought it from. She lived there for seventy years of her life. So from a very young married person to 90-something. That was amazing. And it had a really overrun back garden and what have you so we got, we enlisted a building designer because we knew that an architect would cost too much and we weren’t sure what we wanted to do. So we did something that was to really maximise the floor plan. He did the floor plan and then I went through and tweaked it and made the space more effective. Once he did the initial vision with the roofline and the initial floor plan. Following on from the ideas and of how we thought the layout would be it was much clearer what had to be done from there so I could take it from there.

​Bernadette: So back to the building designer.

Kate: He was great. He was happy to work with me and let me change anything I wanted. And I specified the materials the finishes, the fixtures, everything and put in about five skylights that he didn’t like the idea of because of the basics and that sort of thing. But I was determined to have all of this natural light.

And when it was finished it was just a beautiful vision of what Byron beach-inspired cottage lighthouse. And then we found out. So we put tenants in and just when we decided to sell, I think it was a weekend we decided to sell we got a phone call out of the blue from the building designer to say that he’d decided without us knowing actually to submit the house for the building design awards for the year.  He said not only did it win its category but it won the overall design. What I was really pleased about was they said the considered use of space around a constraint because we did have an easement through the back. So we had to design around that. And also the look and feel of the place. Just the overall on balance and all that sort of stuff and I thought that really does include some of my input.



Bernadette: It was a little bit more than some of your input I’d say. That’s awesome. That’s an amazing awesome feather in your cap. So now it’s gone to a lovely family.

Kate: A lovely family who moved from Bondi Beach. They had three little kids now living in an apartment with a tiny courtyard and they were renting and they rented our place with the hopes of looking for something. They’ve been looking on and off through the year, they were living down there couldn’t find anything that measured up and when we said we were going to sell it, they said: “Please don’t sell it to anyone else”.

Bernadette: ​Amazing. So now it’s clear that you are accomplished in the execution of your design and your execution of renovations. I’m really interested to know, for you to share actually what had you come and do more education?

a profitable renovation


a profitable renovation


I think the reason I wanted to do that. And I have done a couple of courses as well in the past is because I was really struggling with the strategy part of it. I think that’s what this course did for me is that it really helped define strategies and outlined the different strategies you could use. And I think it was the renovate your retirement online webinar that really got me intrigued.


Bernadette: Yeah. It’s interesting because I have to say being completely honest I reckon I renovated for about at least 15 years without having the strategy. And it’s a bit like treading water. Like you’re loving doing what you’re doing but really it’s not getting the results that you should be getting. And that’s where the strategy is really important.


Kate: Yeah and the other thing is I love renovating. But I didn’t love the idea of the cookie-cutter approach. I didn’t love it because that would take the love out of it and the adventure out of it for me. And so what my head said does it makes sense to have a cookie-cutter and always do the same thing and work in the same sort of area and etc etc. That doesn’t ignite my passion. So to think that I could use some strategies to do different types of projects, some by myself, some with other people, some units, some houses, some in different states whatever. That’s what made me realise I can really make a living out of this. And it doesn’t matter what’s happening in Sydney, doesn’t matter. And I can still have design and all that kind of stuff.

​Bernadette: Yeah. Well, you’ve mastered it, there is no doubt about it. So what’s next?

​Kate: So next is first and foremost is get settled into the home that we bought literally about ten days ago. Well, actually we kinda got ourselves settled in. Three-week holiday and then come back and have a serious discussion with you being my mentor as to what’s next, I’ve got a deposit put aside and reno funds to do the next project. And that was all part of the loan negotiation. In this market a tough one negotiation to get extra money put aside but I’ve got it now.

​​Bernadette: Well done. Because of course, your long term goal is to replace your income. And you’re well-poised to do that. So the next project really will be the beginning of that journey.

​Kate: Yeah. So the discipline will be to make the next one a profitable renovation not keep tinkering with money.

​Bernadette: ​Awesome. Yeah. And that’s really my job to keep you on track. Well, thanks for sharing your journey. I would like to share some before and after pics of your projects and because I know everyone will love to see them. And Kate Potter, well done!

​Kate: Thank you.

Share This

Related Posts