Home renovating can mean redecorating, refurbishing, extending upward or even giving a house a complete makeover. Reality TV programs such as Grand Designs and The Block feed egos and stroke confidence buttons often beyond the tipping point of competency, but risks lay in the details.

Home renovations and extensions are a $30 billion per year industry. The Commonwealth Bank recently reported that almost 60 per cent of their clients were forced to compromise on home renovation projects, including delaying work, simplifying plans or using lesser grade materials.

The foundation of these outcomes can be found in poor planning, unstructured budget control and an overly optimistic outlook where competencies and technical skills are required. Unfortunately, DIY means precisely that, and doing it yourself may not be the best option. Rather than throwing out the renovating dream altogether, some are opting to become owner builders instead. The difference between renovating and owner building may mean wealth and lifestyle gain verses wealth and health pain.

Over 40,000 Australians choose to owner build and renovate each year. This segment is driven by young families striving to improve their family lifestyles who are confident in their capabilities and eager to improve their situation. However there are risks.

Owner builders reduce their risk and increase the chances of a successful project because:

  1. In contrast to DIYers, whose primary focus revolves around the ‘doing’ of tasks,  owner builders spend more of their time and effort ‘managing’ schedule of works.
  2. They focus on finding the best trades and craftspeople for the job and are not limited by the extent of their own technical ability.
  3. They have evolved as managers of trades and work schedules moreso than actually doing manual work.
  4. Owner builders mitigate budget and time blow outs as project scheduling is the main focus. DIYers, in contrast, are forced to juggle personal time to complete physical tasks.

Done well, the owner builder model delivers:

  1. Professional standard outcomes because as manager, an owner builder engages appropriately qualified and registered tradespeople and craftsmen to undertake the works.
  2. Reduced financial risk as budget control is central to the schedule of works management. On-budget experience will recast the final residual value of the residence or property.
  3. Home warranties where applicable at the time of constructing, eliminating the need and expense to secure Home Warranty if a decision is made to sell the residence within the statutory Home Warranty period.
  4. A less stressful experience with reduced levels of financial risk. Building and all its elements are not easily coordinated, particularly when weather, trades availability and reliability, and building site co-ordination are significant influencers in the process.
  5. Reduced safety risk as the actual building process is performed by professionally qualified tradespeople. While owner builders remain the ultimate building site ‘controller’ and thereby the ultimate person responsible, transferring the bulk of risk to qualified and insured tradespeople makes sense.
  6. Superior finishes and better outcomes as the owner builder focusses on controlling quality assurance. Owner builders have an abundance of quality check hand books and systems available. Alternatively, they can engage a professional to inspect works on a regular basis.

Ultimately the decision to DIY, owner build or engage a registered builder remains with homeowners. Each option has risks and merits. The balance need not be a matter of guess work, but rather qualifying risks of getting it ‘wrong’ or something going ‘wrong’ verses getting the ‘right’ information, applying common sense and leaving bravado at the door. With owner builders, the priority is in project management and supervision.

Renovating, whether DIY or owner building is a challenge, and minimising personal and financial risk is mandatory priority. Those looking to renovate should consider owner building a viable option.