The fixer

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                                                                                                       “You don’t see underneath carpets,” David                   room, the toilet opposite and a small section
                                                                                                    says of the pre-purchase inspection process.                   of flooring in the hall outside these rooms,”
                                                                                                    “You don’t see flooring underneath tiles. It’s                 David explains. “The leaking shower was
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       David’s renovation tips
                                                                                                    just one of those things that you just need to                 repaired five months prior but the slow             1. Establish good relationships with your tradesmen and suppliers. This enables you to
                                                                                                    have something reported to you before you                      seepage along the flooring continued                   get quick, effective service in preference to other cold-call customers.
                                                                                                    know half of this stuff.                                       unnoticed until December (2007) when a              2. Always get three quotes. Some tradesmen are so busy they don’t want the work
                                                                                                       “So many properties are sold with                           tenant reported it to the real estate.”                and price accordingly, so a new tradesman in the area or someone just setting up as
                                                                                                    problems and that’s why… it’s essential that                      Going into the renovation, David knew it            a sole trader will often get you a leaner price.
                                                                                                    you get a building and pest report for each                    was going to be a big job to fix the sodden         3. With each renovation you do, try to learn at least one new skill. If you increase your
                                                                                                    building you buy.”                                             floors. But once he started ripping up tiles,          skills base, your need for tradesmen reduces, greatly boosting your confidence in
                                                                                                       David says once he was aware of the water                   he got a nasty surprise.                               your property whilst reducing your costs.
                                                                                                    damage, he knew he needed to act to make                          “It was worse than what I’d expected             4. Take every tool and all the spares you can find. You never know what other things
                                                                                                    sure the property was once again in a fit                      because the floor in front of the shower                may need fixing when you arrive even to do a simple repaint.
                                                                                                    state to rent out.                                             screen seemed quite stable but it wasn’t            5. Pay a professional cleaner to clean and detail the property after your reno. A great first
                                                                                                       “The aim of the renovation was to repair                    until you started digging underneath it that           impression is what we all seek – to achieve higher rents and higher valuations. A
                                                                                                    the property to be 100 per cent safe and                       you realised there was two inches of                   cleaner costs me very little and they pick up things you sometimes miss. This also aids
                                                                                                    secure for the tenants,” he explains.“Getting                  concrete reinforced with chicken mesh that             when a tenant vacates, as you have a record of it being tidy at their time of entry.
                                                                                                    good quality tenants is a must for any                         was the stability of the floor,” he says.
                                                                                                    property investor.                                                “The particleboard flooring underneath
                                                                                                       “(You must) maintain your property to                       had never been sealed and this was a              the end of the process when they were             sheeting. The next problem was trying to
                                                                                                    the best level to get the best result with                     progressive, seeping damage that was going        placing the shower screen back on.                match the existing tiles. No exact match
                                                                                                    tenants. If they move into a place that’s                      out underneath this area in front of the            “The end tile cracked,” David says. “We         could be found; the closest David could find
                                                                                                    shabby and it’s poorly looked after, they’re                   shower. I wasn’t expecting to have to dig up      had one and only one tile spare at this stage     was an end-of-run job lot of tiles with the
                                                                                                    going to be shabby and look after it poorly.                   all of that and get rid of it but that’s what     so all caution had to be used and Pete had        same pattern but in a larger size. They cost
                                                                                                    Good quality begets good quality.”                             we eventually had to do.”                         us sorted using that last white tile. The         him a grand total of $5. To match the new
                                                                                                       Given he lives on the north coast of New                       David says he and Peter had to do the repair   shower screen went on delicately and all          tiles in as best they could, David and Peter
                                                                                                    South Wales and the property is in                             work in sections so they’d have something to      was well once (it was) riveted back through       put them in a pattern on the diagonal rather
                                                                                                    Queensland, David approached a couple of                       support them while they continued working.        the wall bracket at the rear.”                    than square.
                                                                                                    tradesmen to quote on doing the repair                         They ripped up the mosaic tiles in the                                                                 On arrival to complete the renovation,
                                                                                                    work. But when the quotes came in between                      bathroom, all the floor and wall tiles in the     GYPROCK ‘WISDOM’                                  David also noticed a number of settlement
                                                                                                    $8500 and $12,500, David decided he’d do it                    toilet and the carpet in the hall.                Another problem had reared its head in the        cracks had appeared around the house. He
                                                                                                    himself instead.                                                  “Then using a hammer and a few quick           kitchen, where a few tiles had started falling    says the drought in Queensland is making



                      The fixer                                                                        In the end, he was lucky to have the help
                                                                                                    of a friend, Peter Hak, who was on
                                                                                                    Queensland’s Sunshine Coast on holiday at
                                                                                                    the time when David was doing the reno.
                                                                                                    The tourist destination wasn’t living up to
                                                                                                                                                                   taps had us looking at daylight under the
                                                                                                                                                                   house,” David recalls.
                                                                                                                                                                      A big part of the problem was that the
                                                                                                                                                                   bathroom floor had never been membrane
                                                                                                                                                                   sealed, David says. He and Peter replaced
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     off the splashback. David investigated and
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     quickly found that the previous owners “in
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     their infinite wisdom” had sealed the tiles
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     straight onto gyprock.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        “Gyprock swells when it’s wet, so (it’s)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       problems like this more and more common.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          “Most of these cracks had appeared in the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       last 12 months due solely to the lack of water
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       in the surrounding soil,” he says.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          “The trouble with most home handyman-
     When one of David Thomas’ tenants put                                                          its name and Peter’s family camping holiday
                                                                                                    was being ruined by rain. Rather than sitting
                                                                                                                                                                   the damaged sections of flooring, applied a
                                                                                                                                                                   membrane sealant and then tiled back over
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     totally wrong for any wet area use,” he
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     explains. “It was a cheap way to get a house
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       style guys is they just putty up a hole and it
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       re-opens again three months later because
         her foot through the floor of his                                                          around in a damp tent, Peter offered to give                   the top. It was a messy job and a complicated     ready for sale years ago, so many properties      there’s more settlement that’s happening.
                                                                                                    David a hand with the renovation.                              process (see renovation diary on page 62)         eventually develop this problem.”                 That’s why you’ve got to use a plasterer’s
     investment property, it was clearly time                                                          Peter’s a design draftsman and his father                   but the end result came up okay.                     David had to cut out the entire splashback     tape, which is a mesh tape that adheres to
                                                                                                    was a builder, so he was a huge help, David                       One of the biggest dramas came towards         area to replace the gyprock with villa-board      the surface and then you plaster through it
          for a renovation. MATTHEW LIDDY                                                           says.
                                                                                                       As the list of renovation costs on page 63
NOT ALL RENOVATIONS are inspired by                  This particular property was a three-          shows, David and Peter were able to carry
plans to add value or boost the rental returns    bedroom highset timber home at One Mile,          out the renovation for an awful lot less than
on a property. There’s also the kind where        a suburb of Ipswich in southeast Queensland.      the quotes he’d been provided, even
something’s amiss and repairs are needed,         David travelled up from Coffs Harbour to          including costs such as petrol, motorway
or where some general maintenance                 inspect the property as soon as possible and      tolls and food on site!
wouldn’t go astray.                               discovered that the floor in the bathroom and        David’s going to shout Peter and his family
  So it was when Coffs Harbour investor           the hallway outside had sustained serious         a few days away to say thank-you for
David Thomas got a call last year to let him      water damage.                                     dragging his friend away from the previous
know that the tenant in one of his properties        “The previous tenant had actually put her      holiday but even with that cost added in
had put her foot through the floor. Though        foot through a section of the floor in the hall   David says he’ll come out about $6000 ahead
repair work was what inspired the reno,           just outside the bathroom. It was all soft and    of where he’d have been if he’d gone with
that’s not to say it didn’t give the property’s   spongy through there when I went to do an         the cheapest quote.
rental return and valuation a nudge as well.      inspection,” he explains. And so the planning        But like any DIY renovation, this one had
  David, who was profiled in the May 2005         began for what became a three-day                 its challenges.
API, is a buyers agent who owns property          renovation project that involved patching up
                                                                                                                                                     TONI FULLER




not just in his home state of New South           a number of problems with the house that          SOGGY START
Wales but in Queensland, Western Australia        hadn’t been obvious when David bought the         “The need for this reno was due to water
and Tasmania as well.                             property in 2003 for just $95,000.                damage throughout the floor in the bath-

60 AUSTRALIAN PROPERTY INVESTOR JULY 2008                                                                          WWW.APIMAGAZINE.COM.AU                          WWW.APIMAGAZINE.COM.AU                                                                             JULY 2008 AUSTRALIAN PROPERTY INVESTOR 61
+ CASE STUDY



                                                                                              and over it and it solidifies and strengthens
                                                                                              it, so it’s less likely to crack again.”                                                                                                              RENOVATION COSTS
  From the pages of David’s renovation diary                                                      There was one more fix-up job that David                                                                                                          Motorway tolls                          $11.90
  DAY ONE                                                                                     decided to undertake. When he’d showed                                                                                                                Petrol                                $125.78
  After ripping off about a third of the bottom of the shower walls and removing the          up to start the renovation, his property
  shower screen carefully, we then ripped out the shower base and the floor beneath,          manager had handed him a set of 21 keys
                                                                                                                                                                                         Kitchen after                                              Villa-board sheeting                    $11.62
  the bathroom entrance floor, the hall section that was also damaged, and unfortun-          for the property.                                                                                                                                     2 bags of concrete                     $17.50
  ately some of the toilet floor opposite. All was not good.
     We needed to do the repair in sections so we could have something to rest on
                                                                                                  “That was ridiculous. That was one set of
                                                                                              keys and good luck finding the right one to
                                                                                                                                                 Kitchen in progress                                                                                Toilet cistern and seat                $82.99

  whilst doing the next section. The wall with all of the shower plumbing was now             fit each lock. It was just this big conglomera-                                                                                                       Pollyfilla                              $6.47
  supported by nothing until we got the new floor sheeting in.                                tion of 21 keys.”                                                                                                                                     Flexi-pipe hose connector               $5.40
     The loo in the house had a ‘fantastic’ fluoro seat and an old single-flush cistern so        In addition, two of the locks in the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2 tap spindles                         $16.60
  that was another casualty. I also filled 11 big settlement cracks throughout the house      property were faulty, another issue which
  and ripped off a few more tiles in the kitchen behind the sink.                             David hadn’t known about until he arrived.                                                                                                            Structafloor sheeting                  $35.00
     The bathroom floor had never been membrane sealed and had two sheets of                  Here, David’s preparation and the fact he                                                                                                             Grout                                  $22.32
  chicken wire embedded in it to add stability. I applied the membrane sealant on all         carries with him a box of renovation bits
  the floors. So getting the first three cut sheets in under the shower and the joining                                                                                                                                                             White tiles                            $35.90
                                                                                              and pieces came in particularly handy.
  wall into the toilet was a series of cutting out relevant slots in the flooring to allow        “One of the faulty door locks was stuffed                                                                                                         Floor tiles                            $80.00
  for pipes and wiring, then slowly tapping the sheeting through from the open toilet         and needed a full replacement that (the                                                                                                               Grid-pattern splashback tiles           $5.00
  floor under the wall whilst the other person used a cold chisel to lift the small wall      locksmith) Shane didn’t have in his van,”
  high enough to get the sheeting in below. We only had a few millimetres clearance           David explains.“I got my last spare door lock                                                                               Bathroom after            Tile cement                            $23.00
  but that was enough. I applied the membrane sealant on all these floors.                    out of the amazing junk box I keep just in        Bathroom in progress                                                                                Plasterer’s mesh tape                   $6.95
     We called it a day at 12.30am and then slept on the mattresses I had brought with        case for reno work, and he used that to do                                                                                                            Sanding sheets                          $7.00
  me. We had no showers available so it was a change into a clean t-shirt before              all the final fix-ups required.
  climbing into bed exhausted.                                                                    “This meant that there was one key for        hairy legs and picking the blue membrane       2003, he’s not planning on cashing in on             Paint rollers                           $9.00

                                                                                              the garage doors and one key for everything       paint out of it for two or three days          that growth by selling.                              Disposable masks                        $5.80
  DAY TWO                                                                                     else. This replaced the 21 keys handed to me      afterwards and getting it out from                “It’s one of my ‘potential’ houses,” he says.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Accommodation (for Peter’s family)    $145.00
  We were back into it at 9.30am the next day. Peter did the second lot of floor sheeting     by the real estate.”                              underneath your nails” wasn’t much fun,        “It’s not one that I’m going to be selling. It’s
  repair in the hallway then started cutting the tiles for the walls.                                                                           David adds.                                    actually on 1000 square metres and I’ve got          Food                                   $90.00
     We went out and got the sheets of villa-board for behind all the wet areas that          THE RESULTS                                          He says the hard work was all worth it      dual access… so I could dump another house           Locksmith                             $313.00
  were being replaced. Then I was in the kitchen removing the taps and digging out the        Although David makes clear that this              given the money he saved on having a           down the bottom (of the yard).” api
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Blue membrane sealant                  $89.00
  tiles and gyprock behind them, which the previous owners in their infinite wisdom           renovation was more about keeping the             tradesman complete the job, the rental boost
  had put there. I got Pete’s advice as to how to attach the new villa-board sheeting.        property safe and secure for his tenants than     and the value added to the property, not to        API CONNECT                                      Rubbish removal                        $40.00
     Then whilst I sealed the kitchen splashback, Peter was installing the villa-board in     about adding value or increasing the rent,        mention the security of knowing the house      Do you have a question for David? Email it           Cleaner                                $45.00
  the shower recess and rebuilding the hob on the opposite short wall for the shower          it did come with a couple of bonuses in that      is in good condition for his new tenants.      to forum@apimagazine.com.au and we’ll
  screen to rest on later. I installed the new toilet cistern and seat and put a new flexi-                                                                                                                                                         TOTAL                                $1,230.23
                                                                                              regard.                                              Although the house has climbed              do our best to publish the answer in a
  pipe on for the water connection.                                                              “The rent’s gone up from $225 to $240 so       massively in value since David bought it in    future issue of API.
     Our locksmith turned up only a couple of hours after being called (legend!) and re-      there’s a $15 a week increase because of
  keyed all the door locks and fixed two faulty ones.                                         better presentation, so it’s all worthwhile.”
     I started tiling the floor in the toilet whilst Peter started tiling the bottom of the      In terms of value, David believes the work
  shower walls. We finished the floor tiling at about 9pm in the toilet and headed to         he and Peter completed in three days for a
  the kitchen to do the grouting there whilst the tiles set in the toilet floor. At 12.30am   bit more than $1000 probably nudged the
  we grouted the floor in the toilet, pulling up stumps at 1.15am.                            property’s value up $10,000.
                                                                                                 “In an already moving market, if I’d done
  DAY THREE                                                                                   nothing the value would have gone up
  At 8.50am the next day, very sore by now, I did the dry cloth rubdown of the kitchen        anyway but to me it’s gone up another
  splashback and then the toilet floor. I grouted in the shower and bath, whilst Peter did    $10,000” to $240,000. That’s a testament to
  the last tiling of the walls and then the top of the hob. I laid the wall splashback        what two blokes can achieve in three days
  tiles in the toilet then – I had to cut around the P-trap waste pipe so patience with the   with a bit of hard work.
  tile cutter paid off.                                                                          “You’re up to one o’clock in the morning
     When placing the shower screen down, the end tile cracked. We had one and only           and you’re exhausted going to sleep, you’re
  one tile spare at this stage so all caution had to be used and Pete had us sorted using     exhausted getting up and you’ve got the
  that last white tile. The shower screen went on delicately and all was well.                soreness the next day and it just continues,”
     Matching the height of the previous chicken-wire flooring in front of the shower         David says of the renovation process.
  meant using two-and-a-half bags of cement and then fixing the tiles into the cement.           He says one of the big motivating factors
     I painted all the “touch-ups” for walls and cornices that had been damaged by            to finish the job and get home was the fact
  settlement. Thankfully I found some wall paint the right colour in the shed and had         they didn’t have a working shower in the
  brought some white ceiling paint with me.                                                   property for the duration of the job.
     Then the clean-up began. Totally exhausted, we left at 5.30pm on the Saturday               “It’s so good to have a shower after you
  after getting there at 4pm on Wednesday. We did a week’s worth of fiddly things and         haven’t had one for so long, especially when
  major repair work all in just over three days. Mind you, getting home and actually          you’re working in a dusty, tile-grinding,
  having a shower was the best part!                                                          smoke-churning environment!
                                                                                                 “I’m the first to admit that I’ve got very

62 AUSTRALIAN PROPERTY INVESTOR JULY 2008                                                                     WWW.APIMAGAZINE.COM.AU            WWW.APIMAGAZINE.COM.AU                                                                            JULY 2008 AUSTRALIAN PROPERTY INVESTOR 63

				
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