There’s a huge learning curve when it comes to renovating or building a new house, especially if it’s your first time (or, let’s face it, even your second or third!). There are so many steps and processes to navigate, not to mention allllll the decisions to make.

Michael and I definitely made some mistakes with our most recent project, mistakes that ended up costing us lots of time and money.

Here are three of the biggest lessons we’ve learned the hard way:

  1. Create your brief before you approach your architect or design team.  Take some time to really think about your goals and vision, and get clear on what this project really is for you. We rushed this process and went straight to an architect, hoping they would be able to come up with something perfect for us… which didn’t happen. We ended up being frustrated with the designs, even more frustrated with the revisions, only to end up back at square one seeking a new architect. It wasn’t until we had to start again with a second architect that we realised we needed to really think about our goals and create a clear brief.
  2. Get costing feedback early on, even if you have to pay for it. In hindsight, we wish we would have hired a costing professional to give us feedback, even during the initial design stages. Whilst we felt like we were being clear about our budget with our architects, we ended up with designs and plans for a house that would cost way above our budget to build. By the time we realised it, we’d already gone through council approval. You can pay a builder a consultation fee to give you estimates, or you can even hire a quantity surveyor to give costing feedback.
  3. Don’t rush the design phase. We knew we wanted to build as sustainably as possible, but I don’t think we realised that many decisions had to be factored in at the design stage, rather than the building stage. It’s not just a matter of getting to the building stage and choosing sustainable materials — many sustainable options have non-standard sizes and come with restrictions and specifications that need to be factored into the plans. Again, this comes back to getting clear on your brief from the beginning — if sustainability is a priority, you’ll want to know this from the start.
I’ve teamed up with my good friend, Natalie Walton, to create Renovation Ready, a new podcast and upcoming workshop, to share the lessons we’ve learned and the tips you need to know to get your renovation right.
 You can find the podcast here. You can also download our free guide, The Reno Rulebook, with 10 rules to get your renovation right.