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The dream of becoming a homeowner is an achievement deeply embedded in our psyches, but once attained, more challenging still can be converting your newfound residence into the place of your dreams. Here, Emma Warner Allen chats with David Ryan, builder and owner of David Ryan Homes, to discuss whether to undergo extensive renovations or to knockdown and rebuild to achieve your forever home.


Written by Emma Warner Allen.

It is well-known that when you move into a new property, little alterations will need to be made – be it something as simple as a fresh lick of paint or more extensive such as knocking down walls – to make this little corner of the world feel a bit more like home. After what can be an arduous acquisition process, once you have bought your new abode even the thought of knocking it down can be intimidating. However, when faced with the long and laborious process of significant home renovations or a knockdown rebuild, often demolition is the preferable option.

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That is the question many homeowners must contemplate when faced with a home that needs considerable work done to transform it into their dream home. The reasons underpinning a homeowner’s decision to undergo remodelling or demolition can vary drastically, ranging from changes in family requirements to improving the spatial layout or even modernising the residence, however, one thing uniting these motivations is significant work would be required to change the home into one which would in turn positively impact the homeowner’s lifestyle.

In most instances, the question of knockdown rebuilds or renovating comes into play with older residences where extensive work may be required to achieve the dream goal. 

Ryan explains, “The issues with renovation are ‘where do you start and where do you finish’ and [whether] ‘the cost of renovation [will] increase the value of your existing home prorate’.” “To renovate means to fix old. Think about that! So once the renovation becomes extensive, the investment cost will not return value-add to the existing home’s value”, the builder elaborates. “Do not forget that an old home has already been depreciated. So how do you appreciate a depreciated item…? At great cost! That is where knockdown rebuild takes over. Outside the cost of demolition, asbestos removal, and associated fees (approximately $27,500), all further cost would be for the construction of a new home on a vacant block.”

Having said this, when asked if generally speaking it would be more cost effective to knockdown and rebuild rather than renovate, Ryan responded “it depends on what you are after. Renovating means you must remove areas, then protect [those regions] whilst often dealing with a client living within the house before renovating [commences].” That is to say, there are more steps to the renovation procedure, meaning a slower process overall, and these two factors therefore increase the associated costs. “A basic rule of thumb costing estimate for renovation is to double the price per square metre in comparison to a knockdown rebuild”, Ryan advises.

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Once you’ve decided to embark on your knockdown rebuild journey, it is best to meet with a professional to determine how best to utilise your block of land to achieve your dream home. “The starting point is to meet and choose your builder. You must be confident in his abilities, systems, and transparency. From the very first meeting to the end of construction you will be in a relationship with this builder or a building company”, Ryan asserts – and employing a reputable builder will set your mind at ease long before the building process commences. “Technology is wonderful as we can download information and see the block in the office. From this communication we can advise and share design thoughts regarding the value add to a renovation of the existing home verses a knockdown rebuild”, Ryan advises.

The building company will determine what areas of the block can be built on by “downloading satellite images of the block’s contours, existing trees, easements, utilities to driveway. Also, a services search from dial before you dig. Then marking out the setbacks required by the council.” All these considerations are important and consulting a professional will ensure that you receive insight into potential difficulties and solutions you were unaware of. Ryan’s advice is to ensure “the demolition contract is clear about what is included and what is not” before signing the contract, as “often the Building Application (BA) and contract for construction has not been finalised until the existing home is demolished.”

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After the decision to knock down your home and rebuild, when starting with a blank canvas, it can be daunting to put together your ideas to know that ultimately you will achieve the result you desire. Often, “most people know what they are after. From open-plan living, to double storey or single storey, double garage, double glazed, to extra storage etc. They just require the help with the layout and placement so that all their possessions can fit within the size requirements”, Ryan explains. “Most of the time people have been thinking about building their home for a few years, so they know what works
for them and what does not.”

However, if you haven’t given much thought to your home’s new design yet, Ryan recommends that, “you first must choose the lifestyle areas and note the kitchen island bench is the steering wheel of the whole home. Making sure the alfresco areas are designed to receive maximum westerly sunlight for afternoon entertainment and [that] the master is placed away from the other rooms so as to give you that privacy.” Ultimately though, “this is your house and you live in that area approximately eight hours a day” so make sure that it is designed to your tastes and nobody else’s.

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Images courtesy of David Ryan Homes and Unsplash