What to Look for Before Buying a House to Renovate

What to Look for Before Buying a House to Renovate

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The age-old saying of ‘buy the worst house in the best street’ is certainly a good rule to follow. But how do you know what has potential, and what is just a straight-up lemon?

Finding the perfect home to renovate doesn’t need to be risky or tricky. There are four key things you need to look at before diving into the deep end. From location and land size to up-and-coming suburbs and navigating asbestos, use this article as your pre-purchase checklist for finding the perfect house to renovate.

Can you lift and build in

This style of renovation/extension is performed on the Queenslander-style home that you will find in the older suburbs of Brisbane. When looking for a house to raise and build under, things to look for are:

  • Site condition – Flat or steep. Steep sites require retaining walls and need more work getting the project out of the ground. Flat sites are a simple structural slab and build, no retaining walls required (saving time and money).
  • The existing homes’ structural condition – Find a layout that suits your lifestyle.
  • Look at the features of the home – What do you like and want to maintain?
  • Doing your homework – Does your home have pre-war material, is the house in a Character Zone, and is it above the revised flood level?
  • You may need planning approval to do minor or major renovation works at the home of your choice, Urban Town Planners will be able to advise you of what you might expect prior to making a purchase.

Check for asbestos

Although older homes are great for renovating, a lot of them will also contain asbestos. Asbestos is a hurdle that can be costly, but all hurdles can be jumped. You can identify Asbestos wall linings usually by the finishing timbers used as cover moulds for the joins. Here’s a useful gallery provided by the Queensland Government.

The exercise of removing all asbestos is a major job, so if you are going to commit to a full-scale renovation, you could weigh up the feasibility. If you are going to renovate yourself while living in the property this would be something to avoid when looking for a house to purchase.

Land size

The minimum land size to consider depends on what your plans are for the property short and long term and the size of the existing home you are looking to buy. Are you planning on starting a family? You may want to extend. Is there enough space to go out or add a second story? All homes have restrictions on how you can add space. Like our Redgum project, we added a second story because there wasn’t enough space to extend at ground level. Overall, 500m2 would be the smallest sized land you could purchase and renovate on to have any real impact on the home’s layout and liveability.

"Avoid steep blocks as there could be underlying water concerns..."

Avoiding structural work

Avoid steep blocks as there could be underlying water concerns, and compaction from a cut and fill site. If you are looking to keep costs down look for a home that you would be reasonably happy with the existing floor plan. This way there will be no need to knock down walls and change layout design to make it suit the style of home you want to live in.


Hopefully, this has given you a few key things to look out for when finding that perfect home to renovate or add an extension on. None of these are must-haves, but they’ll definitely make your life easier and the project cheaper if you can navigate around them. Once you have made your choice, it’s just a matter of booking the removalists and starting your new adventure!

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