When is the right time to rebuild a house?

Written by view.com.au in Buying

So some distant relative has just left you what looks to be a haunted house on a prime piece of land with great access to schools, public transport and shops. Do you apply a lick of paint to the home or do you take the plunge and rebuild the property from the ground up?

The most common choice for homeowners is to use the existing property, and this comes down to a number of reasons. For instance:

  1. The home may have architectural history and charm that you want to preserve
  2. The property could be heritage listed
  3. You may want to keep the home’s consistency with surrounding homes
  4. The structural skeleton of the home may be conducive to renovation
  5. It will usually be cheaper to renovate a property, as long as you stick to the existing structure as much as possible

However, there are some instances where you will decide that demolishing the property entirely and starting fresh is the better option.

Note: rebuilding from scratch is often the more expensive option. Expect the typical demolishment of your property to cost between $15,000-$20,000. You then need to add the usual costs of building, including laying foundations etc. 

Because the cost of rebuilding your home from scratch is usually higher than renovating, the scenarios in which this is the preferred option are limited but no less legitimate.

Deciding between rebuilding and remodelling can depend on a number of scenarios:

The existing aspect. The existing home’s structure may limit your ability to renovate with a good aspect in mind. For instance, the only position a living room may be possible is one that faces south, which may not be what you want if that is an area of the home in which you spend the majority of your time. The aspect may also influence your landscaping opportunities, which is important if you want to build things like a pool in your backyard that benefits from the most sun.

The existing property does not satisfy your needs. These needs can vary but typically you may want a home design that promotes a greater flow for its inhabitants (i.e. is less segmented and more open-plan to promote more communal living); you may want a home that is more efficient in producing and maintaining energy and that uses sustainable design techniques to make the most of natural light in both your energy usage and how you use the home; the existing home may not support the types of extensions you are after (i.e. building a second storey).

Limitations in the skeleton. The architectural structure of your home and/or its materials may be of a low quality and not be energy efficient. If you are renovating, there are ways to bolster the energy efficiency of your existing home and may be cheaper than demolishing and rebuilding the home. It is important to compare the costs and weigh these up with any other considerations that are leading you towards rebuilding.

You want to subdivide. Subdividing your land is a very popular and efficient way to inject immediate value in your investments, and usually benefits from rebuilding on the land so that the properties on offer are of a similar value.

You want certain amenities. It may be easier to install certain amenities and additions to your home, such as underfloor heating or to rearrange your bathroom’s location and structure if you rebuild rather than renovate.

Some building companies offer architecturally designed homes, saving you on the cost of a draftsperson or architect in your rebuild

Some building companies offer architecturally designed homes, saving you on the cost of a draftsperson or architect in your rebuild

Remember that you have significant costs associated with rebuilding your home beyond the $15,000-$20,000 of demolishing the structure. A draftsperson or architect (read about the difference between the two here) may charge less if they are simply creating amendments to an existing structure rather than producing an entirely new building plan. However, some building companies offer existing architectural plans for home construction, and you may find it cheaper to use one of these companies rather than engage an architect. The choice depends on your budget and how much you want the home to be specific to your tastes and needs.

Note: be sure to hire a building surveyor to assess what considerations and costs are associated wither either rebuilding or renovating your home. You can also use services like landchecker.com.au to see what zoning considerations are linked to your property (i.e. heritage listing zones, fire-prone areas) that may affect your build.