Renovation Rules: What Permissions Do I need to Renovate?

So, you’ve seen a property that you feel has great potential to be renovated into the perfect home or investment property. Let's say it is a stand-alone, three bed, one bath single storey on a 580 square meter block. The home has had one owner for 30 years and requires modernisation. 'Perfect!', you think to yourself.  You can see there is the opportunity to perhaps extend either outwards or perhaps - even upwards!  Other blocks in the neighbourhood have extensive additions and outbuildings. The opportunities are endless.  You can add your own touch and bring it back to life. The real estate agent certainly thinks so too and mentions that the current owner had intended to build a granny flat lower down on the block but never got round to it. 

So what are your next steps? 

Having a vision is great. But to prevent heartbreak,  it’s vitally important to get an accurate picture of exactly what you can and can’t do with the current property. If you are thinking of superficial renovations, and are not changing the boundaries, structure or footprint of the property, (and it’s not heritage listed) then you can confidently proceed. Still, chat to your builder and let him know you plan to renovate before they complete the pre-purchase building inspections. A thorough pre-purchase inspection should reveal if there are any underlying complications that may complicate your renovation plans.  Click here to read more about what is included in pre-purchase pest and building Inspections. 

Do you need Planning Permission?

If you are considering alternating or extending the structure and or floor plan/footprint of the property, you will need to apply for planning permission. Your first port of call is to first contact your local council. Each council is different and will have different rules for what types of buildings can and can’t be developed. These rules can be very specific and can for example extend all the way from the height of your fences, to what materials can and can’t be used for the builds. With 537 councils across Australia, get online and get researching your specific council requirements.

How long does it take to get planning approved?

Planning permission is by no means guaranteed and can take up to a year or more to be approved. Unfortunately, many first home buyers believe that they will likely be building within a month or two of moving in, and this is rarely the case. Furthermore, if permission is refused you will need to allow time to go away and amend your application so that you can re-apply, and begin the process again. 

Speak to your builder and local council

In the renovation and property game, it is important to realise early on that it is not just a case of creative vision and hard work to renovate a property. You need to get practical. Speak to local builders about what builds and developments are often approved and also check with the local council. When you arrange to have your pre-purchase inspections completed, let them know that you are planning on renovating. You could even ask them for a quote for renovations if you share your developments plans with them.

Existing planning permissions: The ideal scenario?

Of course, the ideal scenario is the property already has development plans approved. However, the drawback is properties with pre-existing approvals will likely price that approval into the sale of the home, i.e you end up paying more as planning has been done for you. Your property conveyancer or solicitor can review what permissions are in place and how long they have to be implemented.

Finding and renovating a home can be a hugely rewarding, as well as frustrating, experience. The key is to ensure that you do your research so you are fully aware of the limitations and costs of your plans. 

Written by Ben Saravia,  

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