She has earned the moniker of ‘the accidental renovator’, but Cherie Barber’s success far outweighs her initial stumble into the billion-dollar industry.
From what could have been a disastrous property decision, Ms Barber, through hard work and tenacity, has built a career of wealth and knowledge on the renovation platform.
In the past 28 years she has renovated more than 112 homes and is now a familiar face not only in construction circles but from her work on television shows such as The Living Room, Today Extra and America’s 5 Day Flip.
She has left her determined footprints on a traditionally male-dominated industry, proving that women have just as much place in home renovating as men.
“It’s really the only thing I know,’’ Ms Barber tells My Weekly Preview.
“It started when I was 21 and I fell into renovation by accident. My first property was a stuff up. I bought my first property on a six-lane highway… and I bought it as my forever home. I realised it was the worst location ever. I cleaned the property up cosmetically and ended up making an accidental profit.
“I enjoy getting incredible satisfaction from the before and afters. I get to an end of a project and go, I did that. That’s what drives me.”
It seems that the renovation industry is attracting more than the professional flipper, with figures showing that Australia’s renovation sector celebrated its busiest quarter in 14 years during the three months to September 2018.
According to Master Builders Australia (MBA) figures, the volume of renovations work rose by 4.5 per cent during the quarter alone and was 11 per cent higher than a year ago.
MBA chief economist Shane Garrett says while times have often been tough for the nation’s home renovations market, the recent figures show that it is now bigger and better.
“While new home building scaled new records over recent years, the performance of renovations activity has been quite puzzling and had failed to replicate this strong performance,” he says.
“The stronger position of the renovations market during the September 2018 quarter is linked to the fact that interest rates are very low and remarkably stable at this time.
“The tightening of credit conditions have prevented many families from being able to move house over the past year. It seems that some of those have decided to renovate their existing home instead.
“Australia’s home renovations industry may be an unintended beneficiary of the tougher lending policies.”
Here on the Sunshine Coast the market experienced a five per cent increase in the three months to October 2018 when compared with the same period in 2017.
Figures from the Housing Industry Association show that 44,291 homes in our region underwent some type of alteration or renovation. Meanwhile, Queensland’s figure came in at 427,116 for the three months to October 2018.
HIA executive director Michael Roberts says it is interesting to note the contrast between the conditions in new home builds and home renovations.
“New home building has comfortably surpassed all previous highs, whereas renovations activity has seen only modest gains,’’ he says.
“The age profile of Australia’s detached house stock is another factor influencing the volume of home renovation activity. The past cycles of renovation activity show a reasonable correlation between the number of detached houses in the 30 to 35 age bracket and the amount of renovation activity.
“Houses of this vintage tend to require more substantial renovations work due to wear and tear and changing preferences relating style and functionality over the decades.
“A rough estimate suggests that there are just over 110,000 detached houses in Queensland of the 30 to 35-year vintage. The good news for the renovations market is that a detached house building boom took place in the second half of the 1980s decade.
“These houses will enter the prime renovations age group over the coming decade and should provide a solid basis for growth in home renovations activity.”
Mr Garrett echoes these thoughts: “Looking further out, we are almost certain to see further gains for home renovations. More detached houses were built in late-1980s Australia than at any time before or since. More and more of these will be begging for major renovations work in the coming years.”
Renovators, what are you waiting for?
Australia’s renovation queen renovates around 15 properties a year – some of her own and some for TV. As a self-taught renovator, she now has the process down to a fine art. Ms Barber established her company Renovating For Profit in 2009 and more than 11,000 Australians have now undergone her training. She is currently finishing off a structural renovation on her Sydney home.
“Renovation has become more popular and rightly so,’’ Ms Barber says. “More Australians are knowledgeable about property. Twenty years ago… you’d buy a house and pay it off. The average Australian now needs to have three or four houses before they retire.
“Australians realise they can go from average Joes into a cosmetic renovation and not stuff it up too much.”
Ms Barber says that cosmetic renovations are one of the best marketing tools when it comes to selling a property.
“Buy unrenovated, but in a good capital growth suburb. It’s about getting in and doing a quick cosmetic renovation, tap into the equity and refinance to tap into the next property.”
Cherie’s top 5 tips
- Grand plan – This is how you want the property to look inside and out. Be clear on your design vision.
- Map everything out – Plan the renovation thoroughly. Map out the plan on a room-by-room basis, produce a run sheet and cost up everything beforehand. If you go over budget, start culling the things that are not essential.
- Detail – Labour costs equal around 60 per cent of a renovation, while materials come in at about 40 per cent. Control labour costs by providing detailed scopes of work for all trades.
- Shop smartly – Every dollar saved is an extra dollar earned. Buy good quality materials but negotiate and source second-hand when you can.
- Renovate to what the market wants – Ditch personal taste and invest in a design palette that has broad appeal.
KNOW YOUR BUDGET
For a cosmetic renovation budget around 10 per cent of the current property value. The kitchen and bathroom are the two rooms that add the most value. They also cost the most when it comes to renovating. You should allocate two per cent of the property’s value on each of these rooms.
THE LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT
Sunshine Coast-based landscape architect Cassandra has more than 20 years’ experience in her industry. She is the founder and owner of a concept design business that provides clients with options that range from a simple in-home consultation through to sketch plan ideas and photo-real concepts.
“I have always had a passion for design, both landscape architecture and interior design,’’ she says.
“My husband and I have renovated two homes in recent years and through those experiences and our professional careers we now have a wealth of knowledge in the renovation field, which I love sharing with my clients to inspire them and make their lives easier.
“The best renovation outcomes are when internal and external spaces are designed together, especially in our climate where the outdoors are such a large part of our living space. Aspect, air flow, connectivity, livability and aesthetics all work better when internal and external spaces are considered together.”
She says two popular styles for Coast homes include the Hamptons and contemporary-minimalist designs.
“The Hamptons style can be applied to Queenslanders, cottages and weatherboard homes by applying whites, neutrals and blues, traditional finishes and formal or sub-tropical gardens.
“The modern minimalist style is usually good for lightweight buildings with simple forms. Dark greys and whites with a splash of a feature colour work well with this style, with pared-back industrial finishes. Manicured lawns and feature trees or natural native gardens frame a modern minimalist home effectively.”
Cassandra’s reno tips
- A lot of people find it difficult to articulate the style they like, finishes they want or even layout of elements in words, and many people find it difficult to read plans
and drawings. Ensure you have a clear brief and budget range before you
- Having a clear, illustrated brief can save thousands of dollars and hours of arguments and stress in a renovation.
WIN WIN WIN
This month we have launched a new Q&A column with renovation concept design and landscape architect Cassandra Fenaughty in our sister publication, My Renovation.
Simply email your renovation question, along with your name, to email@example.com. We will publish the column in each edition of My Renovation, which is out on the last Friday of each month.
To kick off the column, we are giving one lucky reader the chance to win a $200 renovation design consultation gift card from Cassandra. She will consult with the winner at their Sunshine Coast home.
To enter, or view terms and conditions, visit myweeklypreview.com.au.