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February 18, 2014

Turning $3000 and two days into a $29,500 renovation profit


In many ways, renovating on a tiny budget can be as challenging as tackling a major renovation. It pushes the creative envelope and dollars to the limits.

For this one-bedroom unit in Sydney’s beachside suburb of Dee Why, we had a total budget of $3000 and just two days to wave our wand before the first open for inspection.

The owners were moving up the property ladder, but realised poor presentation and a very dated kitchen, with virtually no storage, would put off buyers and limit the sale price.

The bathroom had been renovated before finances dried up. We needed to spruce up the place and do something about that kitchen without spending a penny more than $3000, including materials and labour.


On that kind of budget, a new kitchen was clearly out of the question, so we had to work with what was already there.

Fortunately there are some great products on the market now that can resurface tiles, bench-tops and cabinets, as long as they’re in reasonable condition.

For a low-budget property, where buyers and/or renters aren’t expecting top-of-the-line finishes, like stone bench-tops or glass splash-backs, these products are perfectly adequate. Don’t forget, first impressions are everything. So if you can take a dowdy, dated-looking kitchen and make it look fresh and sparkling, you’ve removed a major turn-off, and in turn added value.

The lounge before

The lounge before

The lounge after

The lounge after

Here, we used White Knight Tile Paint and Laminate Paint for the tiled splash-back and kitchen cabinets, and the Rust-Oleum Countertop Transformations kit to resurface the bench-tops. Total cost, $365. Some overhead cupboards from IKEA added another $300.

A spotted gum, hardwearing laminate floating floor for $250 went straight over the top of the seventies vinyl tiles. And we invested another $30 in a modern light fitting from IKEA.

Okay, the kitchen may not win any design awards, but for around $1000, the transformation is pretty dramatic. A new owner may well decide to put in a new kitchen, but in the meantime, this one is no longer an eyesore in the small, open plan space.

The kitchen before

The kitchen before – see top of page for after


There are few better investments you can make on a shoestring budget than a fresh coat of paint throughout, so most of the rest of our budget went on painting the walls, ceilings and woodwork trims, giving the apartment an instant lift.

The only extravagance was some paintable textured wallpaper for a few feature walls, like in the kitchen and bedrooms. It added a little interest, without being “in your face”.

In a small space it’s best to stick to unifying colours in a neutral palette – don’t forget you want to appeal to the majority, so don’t go wild with colours.

A couple of plain curtains from IKEA replaced the heavy, coloured ones that were there. And that was it for our makeover, bar some creative styling for the open for inspection.

The bedroom before

The bedroom before

The bedroom after

The bedroom after



Prior to the renovation the unit was valued at $380,000 by a licensed valuer. One week after it was on the market the owners accepted an offer of $412,500.

Deduct the $3000 for our makeover and that’s a profit of $29,500. What’s more, this is a reno most DIYers could tackle, so the cost would be even less if you weren’t paying for labour.

The sale price also reflects the imperatives of professional styling. Buyers don’t have to see beyond the clutter to visualise where furniture might work best, how rooms can be set up or what kind of look suits the place. Styling takes away the guesswork, leaving buyers to focus on the positives. I always maintain whatever money you invest in styling you’ll easily recoup in the sale price, and very often you’ll double or triple your spend.

The main take-out from this low-budget reno is that there are always easy gains you can make to improve the presentation of a property, paint generally being the number one, followed by lighting and window dressings.

Lighten, brighten, tidy and spotlessly clean first, then if money allows, you can afford to get a bit more creative.

About Cherie Barber

Cherie Barber is Australia’s top renovator and the director of Renovating For Profit, a company that teaches everyday people how to buy and sell/rent old properties for a profit.

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