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Sotheby’s advice on home renovation and the best return on investment – My Property

With more people today focused on creating their wealth through property as a buffer against currency depreciation, renovation can offer a fast-track solution by adding significant value to a home as well as improving the resident’s quality of life.

However, not all upgrades are equal and certain projects are simply not worth the cost or the inconvenience unless they are purely for personal comfort or lifestyle.

It’s also important to consider the following points if you are thinking of doing more than giving your home a lick of paint:

·         Does the proposed renovation fall in line with local council planning laws?
·         How long do you plan to stay in your home?
·         Are you prepared to put up with living in a building site while your home is renovated?
·         Do you have the time and energy to supervise builders and contractors and the overall renovation plans?

According to Steve Thomas, Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty Franchise Manager for False Bay and Noordhoek, it’s also essential to consider current trends and popular home features in your area if you are renovating to add value to your home.

“The features most commonly at the top of prospective buyer’s wish lists are open plan living areas, lots of natural light and, increasingly, eco-friendly systems which save water and reduce the cost of energy.

“In Cape Town people like to live north-facing, which is often related to the two main weather influences; warmth and sunshine and protection against the south-easter wind.”

To modernise and upgrade an older home, Thomas recommends that the most value would be added by enlarging or adding windows in living areas to increase natural light, open-planning a multi-roomed property, upgrading bathrooms and kitchens and plastering and painting a face brick exterior.

“It is also often worth adding a garage if you have the space and building a cottage or flatlet as dual living is becoming increasingly popular and an income can be derived from the growing demand for seasonal and short-stay rentals.”

However, Thomas cautions home owners to guard against the most common pitfall, over capitalising, which includes splurging on extravagant and unnecessary fixtures and fittings.

“Always take into consideration the current value of your home as well as property in your area as neighbourhoods will generally have a ceiling value, meaning a certain threshold buyers and renters are willing to pay.”

Thomas says that other common mistakes are building garages too far away from the house, entertainment areas too far from the kitchen and poor flow with too many rooms and corridors.

Lew Geffen, Chairman of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, says that the stress and inconvenience of home renovation is often exacerbated ten-fold when home owners are not diligent in their choice of contractor and the project drags on or goes horribly wrong.

”To safeguard against this, always choose a well-established firm with long-serving craftsmen, even if it costs a little more as a small, cheap, fly-by-night contractor will almost certainly end up not only costing more money at the end of the day, but also your sanity.

“Ask around and take recommendations from trusted acquaintances and always check the company’s previous customers’ finished work. Building contractors live and die by their reputations.”

Once you have decided to go ahead and have chosen a reputable contractor, do not ignore the one step which could completely derail your project – city council approval.

If you are merely changing the fittings or flooring surfaces, replacing bathroom fixtures or adding a few new cupboards then this final step is not necessary but all structural changes – including breaking through a wall to create open plan flow – can only commence once the City Council has approved the plans.

Michael Mtshula, a veteran building inspector for the City of Cape Town, cautions home owners not to take the chance of building without council approval as it could end up being very costly and as well frustrating.

“A stop order is issued on unauthorised building and work cannot commence until plan approval is attained. An inspector will check regularly that building is not continuing and if it is found to be in progress in spite of the stop order then a summons to appear in court will be issued.

This could result in a fine or even an order to take down building work already done.”

Thomas cautions that sellers will also run into problems down the line if their homes do not match the building plans that the council has on record.

“This can hold up or even sink a sale, because sellers have to disclose this before their house goes on the market. They then have to have new plans drawn up and go through the council approvals process, which can be costly if something non-compliant with regulations has already been built.

“It’s always best to go the right route and get council approval for renovations before you start.”

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