Renovate Or Build New in Brisbane?

Renovate Or Build New in Brisbane?

Renovations, Tips and Advice, Lifestyle, New Homes

The conundrum: renovate or build new?

home renovation in Brisbane - renovate or build newOne of the most common questions I get asked is, what should I do – renovate or build new? This question can come from current homeowners or future homeowners; either looking to improve their liveability or looking to buy a property to create a home that perfectly fits their needs.

For Current Homeowners – Renovate or Build New

So it’s time for a change. You want to improve the overall liveability of your home, but you’re torn between whether to renovate or demolish your existing home and build a new one.

If you choose the latter, it could “potentially” be more cost-effective but not necessarily deliver you a better outcome. It is a falsity that it is cheaper to build new than to renovate. It is only cheaper to build new if the quality of the build is simple/basic. It is also the approach to renovating that can make some work very expensive and other work not so. Not all homes can be demolished. The well-liked Queenslander homes for example generally fall in character zoning which will heavily restrict your ability to demolish. You will need to complete research on the home to determine whether you can demolish or not, and then make an application to council. But be aware that fighting to allow the tearing down of a character home can be very costly in consultants and even legal fees.

If you choose to keep your current home and make some renovations it’s important to be aware of your current and future lifestyle needs. Whether you are planning on staying in the home for 5, 10 or 20 years can make significant changes to your renovation design as you will need to factor in the lifestyle needs that occur during this time. For example, if you plan on living in your home for 20 more years you will need to look at the growth or shrinkage of the inhabitants (additions to your family or children moving out of home). You will also need to consider things like standard of construction (low, mid, high) that influence the cost of the renovation.

For Future Homeowners – Renovate or Build New

There are some differences between renovating and building new when you don’t own the house or land yet.

Buying an established house and renovating might be your only option if you’re looking at inner city properties. This is due to a shortage of land only blocks the closer to the city you are, and the homes available tend to be older and thus controlled by zoning restrictions. The positive with buying one of these homes is that you are less likely to overcapitalise on your property and can make a nice profit when you choose to sell. However, you will need to seriously consider whether you can live in a home that is undergoing renovations, or can afford to wait until the renovations are completed before you move in.

Building your future home tends to be the most desirable outcome for future homeowners as you can plan out your dream home that includes all your desired inclusions. However, not everyone can afford all of their wants, so it’s important that you get professional advice about what you need versus what you can do without (if needed). A professional, like an Architect, will be able to guide you through future and current lifestyle needs, budget restrictions, site opportunities and design options. This will ensure that you buy land that suits the construction of a new home that’s within your budget, and that the new home matches your lifestyle needs, both current and future.

What Should I Consider When Choosing To Renovate or Build New?

Before making any decision on whether to renovate or build new, there are a number of factors that you should consider:

  • What are your real needs? What can you do without if your budget doesn’t allow for everything?
  • Which suburbs would you like to live in?  Current, established, or new areas?  Read suburb reviews on sites like
  • Do you really need to build a completely new home, or would a renovation better serve your needs?
  • If wanting to knock down and build new, do you have the right to demolish your home?
  • Can we afford to complete extensive renovations? Or would we need to stage the renovations?
  • Can we live in a construction site? Or would we need to live somewhere else while the building is taking place?
  • What is the standard of your construction? Does your budget allow for a higher standard? Or will you need to build a very basic and very standard home?
  • Basic new homes tend not to stand the test of time and will often need renovating in 10 to 15 years’ time, or even sooner.
  • What are our lifestyle needs in the long-term? Some older homes have been functional for 70 to 100 years and can last that long again, so you might need to consider whether your detailed renovation will be adaptable to future lifestyle needs over a long period.
So Renovate or Build New?

At the end of the day it’s a personal choice. We’ve even had a project that started out as a renovation but is now a new build due to cost savings. So if you can’t decide, it’s important that you get some professional advice. At dion seminara architecture we understand how to achieve your lifestyle goals for less. So whether you’re thinking about renovating your current home, demolishing your home and building new, buying a home to renovate, or buying land to build a new home on, we can save you money and deliver the ideal outcome for your budget. So contact us today and let us help you achieve your liveability goals.


This article has been updated and was originally published 10th February 2014


Dion Seminara Architect


Hi, I am Dion Seminara, practicing architect and licensed general builder for 20 years as well as an environmental sustainable design (ESD) expert. I graduated from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with honours, QLD in 1989. Registered as an architect in 1991 and registered as a builder in 1992, I am also a fellow member of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA). Having received 12 ArCHdes Residential Architecture Awards, LJ Hooker Flood Free Home Design Award and the 2016 AIA Regional Commendation for Public Architecture, my expertise with both residential renovation (to all types of houses, especially Queenslanders, 50s/60s/80s), new contemporary homes and luxury residences has earned me a reputation as one of Brisbane's architectural specialists in lifestyle design architecture, interior design and landscape design.