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From Woeful To Award-Winning

From Woeful To Award-Winning

Jeremy Lawson has transformed his humdrum home into an Airbnb rock star, which has also garnered a renovation award, writes Joanna Mathers.

By: Joanna Mathers

26 February 2024

The renovation transformed a dated home into an Airbnb star that draws both tourists and workers alike.

Older homes can hold secrets that are only discovered once you start stripping away the façade. In the case of Jeremy Lawson’s Havelock North investment property, these secrets ended up costing close to $20,000.

But never fear; this story has a happy ending. Not only would Lawson transform his humdrum home into an Airbnb rock star, he also won a renovation award for his efforts.

Along the way he’s learned a lot about renovating, and what (and what not) to look for in a potential do-up.

Value Unlocked

Lawson and his partner purchased the property in 2019 for $590,000. It was a 1960s solid weatherboard with three bedrooms – liveable, but not much else. The pair lived there for a year without doing much to it, before moving to Napier.

The renovation exposed beautiful wooden floors. The dining area is now open plan and contemporary

The property was rented out, but the tenant was unreliable and would skip payments. Lawson knew the property had more potential than its current state, so after the tenant left, he decided to renovate and unlock its value. There was a lot to do, so he moved into the home and spent five months overseeing a complete renovation.

The house needed to be brought up to 21st century standards. The kitchen was dated, and the layout of the living space didn’t work in a contemporary context. A wall separating the kitchen from the living room was removed, creating an open-plan space that utilised modern design concepts and created a seamless flow.

The lounge was re-GIBed, new carpet laid, and new insulation was installed throughout. There was also a great discovery; beautiful tawa floors underneath the lino.

And that’s not all they found. The existing stove sat atop a giant concrete block, which took plenty of muscle power to remove. “We had to use a jackhammer and concrete saw to remove this,” Lawson says. “It was a lot of work.”

There was another surprise in the kitchen. The idea was to install a new bench in the space where a “massive pantry” was located, but it was discovered the pantry contained the fuse box, which would need to be moved.

“I had to get a sparky in and we ended up having to rewire the whole house. It cost around $20,000.”

The pantry floor also needed to be replaced, and Lawson had to source tawa floorboards that would work in the new kitchen. He laid the tongue-and groove-floorboards himself.

Tasteful furnishing completes the comfortable, welcoming style of the home.

Asbestos Worry

Another challenge arose when Lawson and his team of tradies worked on the home’s extension. Asbestos was discovered in the cladding on one side, which needed to be carefully removed.

The team also removed a window in the lounge and replaced it with French doors, to create an outdoor flow. The house was then repainted inside and out and decorated in a contemporary style.

The renovation took from March to May, and the renovation cost $80,000. While the rental potential increased from $550 to $680 a week, the decision was made to use the house as an Airbnb. It ended up being tenanted by workers providing cyclone relief and they were able to get $1000 a week for the property.

This has been Lawson’s first full-scale renovation project and it’s provided him with many useful lessons: number one – rewiring is expensive.

“I will be careful about properties I buy in the future,” he says. “I don’t want to do that again.”

There was a building boom at the time he was doing the renovation, so he had to be “on the ball” to ensure tradies came at the right time and materials were ordered in the right sequence.

He has also learned a lot about costs and has developed a deep appreciation for the skills of builders. “I will definitely do another renovation as a flip or a hold, and now I know exactly what sort of property to look for.”

At 827 square metres the land has potential for subdivision. It is currently valued at around $870,000, a value increase of $200,000 in three years (when renovation costs are factored in). The subdivision will see it rise further.

So successful was the renovation that it garnered Lawson the NZPIF Renovation of the Year award at the 2023 Property Investors’ Association conference.

It’s a great example of how even the most unassuming of properties can become a star given the right care and attention.

One of the newly painted bedrooms.

How To Style A Home For Airbnb

There are three steps to successfully styling an Airbnb: researching the market and your competition, deciding on your target guest profile, and styling your Airbnb to your target guests’ taste.

This will typically involve maximising the cosmetic impact of your budget, and there are a few tricks that renovators use to do this.

Wow factor: Work should celebrate your property’s unique features. By working with a creative builder, cost-effective reconfigurations can be made to make the most of views, gardens and spaces.

Paint: Paint is relatively inexpensive, and covers around 75 per cent of a typical home’s interior surfaces. Have a plasterer prep particularly rough surfaces first for the best result. Select colours that enhance your home’s natural features and conceal its shortcomings.

Flooring: Fresh, consistent flooring is as functional as it is cosmetic. There are many inexpensive, hard-wearing options available to enhance on a budget.

Lighting: Although subtle, LED downlights have a distinctly modern feel. They are typically rated for 50,000 hours meaning lower maintenance.

Bathrooms: While typically expensive to totally renovate, replacing older toilets and vanities along with paint and flooring can really lift a tired bathroom.

Kitchens: Nothing beats the crispness of a brand new kitchen, but new handles, professionally painted cupboard doors and a new benchtop really breathes life into an older kitchen.

Outdoors: Focusing on ease of access will ensure first impressions last. Paths and stairways should be clear, wide, even and in good condition. Think of guests with bags, they’ll thank you for it.

builderscrack.co.nz has tradies nationwide to help with every aspect of your Airbnb improvements.