Dreaming of building the perfect extension? You have an idea of the budget, design and have mentally prepared yourself for the disruption. But how will you make sure everything goes exactly to plan? We asked builders and property experts for their tips.

1. Should you build an extension or move to a bigger house?

‘People tend to go for extensions because they like where they live, they like the neighbours, the kids have grown up in the area and selling and moving has its own costs with stamp duties, buying and selling and relocation costs,’ Robert Drechsel, director of Sherbrooke Design and Construction in Melbourne, says. ‘You can spend $150,000 before you even get something. That’s a good foot in the door to getting what you want in an extension,’ Drechsel adds.

2. What is your budget?

‘The first consideration is to ask yourself ‘what do I want to spend?” says Daniel Mazzei, director of Mazzei Homes, the luxury custom home division of the Better Living Group. ‘This may seem common sense but it can be a difficult question to answer at the stages when the costs are unknown. You could think about it in terms of what would be comfortable in extra repayments each month. Knowing this figure will allow you to understand the scope of the renovation. Will it be a bathroom or a second storey and to what finish level?’

Professional renovator Cathy Morrissey, of The Reno Chick, suggests getting a real estate agent to assess the current value of your home and what it will be worth with an extension. ‘A few years ago I wanted to put an elaborate extension on my home that would double the home’s size. I called my local real estate agent and asked him to value my home. I told him about my plans and he quickly burst my bubble. He said the most I would increase my property was by about $20,000.’

3. What will you use it for?

Think about how long you see yourself living there once it is built and how often you will use it, advises architect Rohan Little, of Oxide Design, a Sydney-based residential and commercial design practice that specialises in sustainable design and builds. ‘It’s not uncommon for people to create expensive spaces that are then never used. Home offices become junk storage rooms, home gyms are ignored and home theatres used monthly are much more common than you may think.’

‘Extension design should be an extension of your lifestyle,’ Mazzei says. ‘Do you eat dinner at the table or on the couch? Do you entertain often? If so, where do your guests sit? Do you like to get away from the noise with a good book? This is your opportunity to dream big and think about how you would like to live not just now, but in the future also. Start a scrapbook or online board, like Pinterest, to keep record of your ideas.’

4. Is the budget realistic with your brief?

‘Four out of five times, the client’s budget needs to be increased or the brief needs to be decreased. Knowing for certain what you can and can’t live without needs to be thought through long before the walls are knocked down,’ Little advises.

5. Who is going to design and build it?

Do you need to engage an architect? Can you go directly to a builder? Can you co-ordinate the renovation yourself? The answer to these questions lie in your scope and budget, Mazzei says. ‘If you are looking to spend $10,000 on a bathroom makeover then it would make sense to go directly to a builder or co-ordinate it yourself, if you have experience, so more of the limited funds can be used towards construction. If you are looking to add a storey to an existing Edwardian building, then it would be worth speaking with a qualified designer so that you can maximise space and obtain an optimal result. Prices can vary considerably so it’s important do to your research and understand the service you are getting from each professional. Be diligent selecting the right builder for the project too. Ask to see previous work and speak to past clients.’

6. When do you want to move in?

Renovating can be disruptive to the family so it is good to work to a completion date that suits your situation, Mazzei says. ‘I’d always suggest allowing more time in the planning phrase as this can drastically reduce disruptions and time delays during the build. The best part about renovating is completing it and actually enjoying the space you’ve created, so the sooner you can move back in the better.’

Posted by Sandy Smith – Domain (Fairfax) on 11th February, 2016