3 Things to Consider Before Starting an Old House Renovation

There is no such thing as a cheap old house renovation. Buying a home is an emotional purchase and you can make a lot of mistakes. You may overlook the fact that your “dream home” is a bit of an old dump. You may have bought it for cheap. But that’s ok, you’re young! You can renovate everything. Unfortunately, that means you could be renovating….FOREVER Read on to discover a few things to consider before you start spending big!

TV Renovation Shows Look Fun – Real Life Renovations Are Not.

When I bought my first place, I was young and energetic. Slowly, real-life got in the way and that energy disappeared. Those renovations you were eager to work on are just another thing you have to do on top of everything else you already have to do. Then you have kids. Then you are forked.

I used to enjoy watching renovation shows, now they just stress me out. The reality of fixing and improving, usually under tight timelines is too much. I have been traumatized. I’ve been on a renovation journey for almost 10 long years. Recently, while painting and fixing on the Lord’s day of rest (Sunday), I wondered why I was killing myself doing these renovations? Did my renovation work really matter in the grand scheme of things? Was I just wasting my precious time and money?

Here are three things to consider before wasting any money on a home renovation.

One: If You Buy a Dump for Cheap – You Will Be in Old House Renovation Hell Forever 

When I was a younger man, I remember visualizing everything I could renovate when I first moved in. I would start with the essentials and paint the walls and roofs. Then I would renovate the whole honkin’ place. A new kitchen, new bathrooms, floors, carpets – the whole enchilada.  
My thoughts changed when my upstairs bathrooms started leaking. Suddenly, the plans for our “dream bathroom” were kicked into high gear. Tiles, Tradies and toilet bowls started to appear at my house while my bank balance started to drop. The reality of the renovation set in as plans for the next renovation was already being planned.  
I became overwhelmed by the enormity of renovating everything. Did I really want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars putting lipstick on this pig house? Was the pig house worth the time or money? Did I really want to spend every weekend renovating for the rest of my life? My cheap house was making me financially poor and time-poor. I’d look enviously at friends that bought a new place. It was smaller, but they would never have to do anything but enjoy it. Do you want to enjoy your life and house or be a slave to it?  

That is the first thing to really consider before buying an old place to renovate. The next thing is…

Two: Do I Pay off the House OR Do I Pour Money into My Old Home Renovation

“Dream Bathrooms” are not cheap. I figured that out the hard way when the bill for renovating two bathrooms was over 40k AUD. Who knew that moving around pipes, installing a gourmet bath and floating cabinets would cost so much?  I couldn’t believe how expensive it was.  
After the first step in my old house renovation, I started to wonder how much our “dream kitchen” would cost. I already knew it would involve moving things, new appliances and putting in new floorboards throughout the house. If 2 bathrooms cost me 40k, would a kitchen and floors cost me over 100k? I started to re-evaluate the amount of money I wanted to spend on any further renovations.  
The real question I kept rolling around in my head was, “do I want to work forever”? If I kept creating big, new expenses I would. The new bathrooms are nice. I admit that, but 40k nice? Would I be better off using any potential renovation money to invest or pay off my mortgage? I kept going back to my main concern, I don’t want to work forever to pay for all this stuff. Is my old house really worth fixing?  

Three: The Battle of New VS Functional 

Sometimes the renovation is all about having something new and nice when your home is old and unfashionable. New VS Old is a hard battle to fight, because “New” will always win.  Try telling your wife your old kitchen or appliances are better than the new ones.  Good luck with that one.   

You need to think logically and reframe the argument.  The battle should be New VS Functional. If the kitchen works fine, the appliances work ok, why are we changing it? Do you need to change something that functionally works? What problem are you trying to solve? If you can cook, wash and store food, is the kitchen renovation a want or a need? Is the money associated with that want/need better spent elsewhere?  
Will the 10k we want to spend on a new laundry improve the functionality of the room OR is it just to look nice? If there is no real problem to solve, why do anything? Or maybe do less? Framing the renovation as a problem-solving exercise could change the conversation. Is the cost of solving that problem worth the money you will need to pay? 

Finally, Repeat After Me…”I’m Not a Millionaire” 

My three points of consideration all sit under my main and often used argument – I’m not a millionaire.  These considerations boil down to, what is more important to you? A nicer-looking house or a paid-off house?  What is more important to you? I personally like a balance of focusing on paying off my house with minor, gradual improvements where really required.  This means applying lipstick on the pig, but slowly and cheaply.   

I hate being the stick in the mud, but I always find myself saying “We’re not millionaires” when a new spending request comes up – because we’re not.  I’m trying to preserve my money and be sensible with it. An old house renovation may not stack up once you do the numbers.


If you don’t have money to burn, the “I’m not a millionaire” catchphrase is a nice way to remind yourself or your partner, that everything costs money.  Improving things functionally within your home may be worth the investment.  Or you could be pouring money into something that is a liability.  Don’t do anything for the sake of doing it.  Just remember, you’re not a millionaire (yet), but if you spend, save and invest wisely, you could be.  Don’t let an old house renovation destroy your finances.

Let me know what you think below.

M. Moneyman


Financial Failure to Financially Free

As a lifelong financial failure with a young family and deep in debt, I was made redundant 3 times in 2 years and in serious trouble. I had a “Financial Awakening”, I learned about personal finance and gained a financial education to accumulate 7 figures in assets.

My personal goal is to invest in myself, compound my knowledge and build wealth using three simple strategies. Save more money. Make more money. Learn about money. I’m living proof, that through the power of financial education, anyone can achieve financial independence. My sincere hope is that you will be able to learn from my journey and my blog.

Leave a Comment