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Grand Plans

A dilapidated Remuera home is now holding its own in a street of multimillion-dollar properties, due to a top end renovation, as Joanna Mathers discovers.

By: Joanna Mathers

31 January 2020

Upland Road is recognised as one of New Zealand’s most desirable streets. With average values in the $2 million-plus mark, it’s lined with gracious mansions set amidst mature greenery. The sort of place you’d live if you won Lotto.

There was a misfit in this street of stars, however. A derelict 1960s wooden home, abandoned and sinking into decrepitude. The owner was an old man with no family, who lived by himself, until poor health forced him into a care home.

“It was a really sad story, actually,” says Gemma Ansty, a property investment expert who works in partnership with another investor in the cut-throat Auckland market.

She spotted the home in early 2018, and realised that although it was in a sorry state, it had potential in spades. Neither Ansty nor her investment partner had ever done investment property renovations before (although she had renovated her own home), but they were keen to give it a try “in our spare time,” Ansty says.

Grand Plans

With beautiful rimu floors, four bedrooms, a large fireplace, and a large workshop downstairs that could be turned into an extra bedroom, there were plenty of opportunities to add value.

It was, however, infested with rats and had trees growing inside when they took possession.

The home came up for sale in early 2018. They settled at just over $2 million in mid-June that year, at an auction in which they were the only bidders.

The renovation of the 197m2 home was initially estimated to take three months. But due to council consent processes, this was stretched out considerably longer and it was completed in March 2019.

A new floor plan was drawn up by architects. The plans included removing a supporting post in the kitchen to create an open plan kitchen/living area, adding two new en suites (one for the master bedroom and one for a new bedroom downstairs) and building stairs to go from the second floor down to the lawn area.

The removal of the support beam in the kitchen and the two new bathrooms all required consent. “It proved to be a good learning curve,” says Ansty. “We will be moving away from projects that require resource consent in the future, as they take up so much time.”

Fortunately, the home was structurally sound, but needed mountains of work to ensure it fit seamlessly into its salubrious surroundings. All the interior wall and ceiling cladding was removed and re-Gibbed, the floors cleaned up and polished, the existing kitchen and bathrooms gutted and started again.

“We actually sold the kitchen on Trade Me, because it wasn’t in too bad a state. But we wanted to ensure everything in the home was really high end.”

Once the consent was granted for the removal of the load bearing post in the kitchen area, a new support beam was installed in the ceiling. The new kitchen is fully integrated, with appliances from Smeg, Italian tapware, and a Franke sink.

There was a conservatory adjacent to the kitchen, which had a distinctively 1970s style. This has now been turned into a breakfast bar area, with wooden slatted louvres over new windows.

The existing bathroom, which was resplendent in 1980s-style blue mosaic walls and matching basin, was gutted. In its place were installed floor-to-ceiling Italian tiles and a large, round-ended bath from Robertson Bathware.

En suites were added to both the upstairs master bedroom and the new bedroom created downstairs in what had been a storage space. These have toilets, vanities and walk-in showers, with underfloor heating.

“The laundry and foyer downstairs is also fully tiled with Italian tiles and underfloor heating. There is also ducted heating and air conditioning throughout the entire home,” says Ansty.

There was an existing schist fireplace in the home, which was turned into a gas fire place.

Exterior Upgrade

The deck surrounding the house was in a sorry state when the house was bought. To maximise the outdoor living space, they completely re-built the deck using Vitex and installing glass balustrades.

The garden of the Upland Road dwelling was in as sorry a state as the home itself. Overrun by weeds and trees, it needed to be completely cleared. A new lawn was then laid, fences put up and new planting established.

“We used Weatherstone Landscapes for this and they did a really great job,” says Ansty.

The house was bought at the height of the market, and although the intention was to sell after the renovation, the length of time it took after the consent processes were complete meant that the market had quietened down by the time they were finished.

As the renovation was extremely high end, the final costs were over $400,000. They had added a lot of value however, a new valuation conducted post-renovation put the house around the $3 million mark.

So, rather than selling for less than the property was worth, Ansty and her property partner decided to keep it as a rental. The five-bedroom, threebathroom home, complete with media room, attracts top dollar as a rental (well over $1000 a week) and is part of an impressive property portfolio.

“At the end of the day, it’s a great property to hold on to,” says Ansty. “We have a great tenant and we will reassess what the market is doing in a few years.”

Gemma Ansty’s Tips For High-End Renovations

• Have a clear plan from the very beginning on what you want to achieve with the overall layout and style of the house - indecision will cost you time and money.

• Know your target market if you are intending to sell - speak with local real estate agents if you don’t know what your target market is because they know better than anyone.

• Organise your team well in advance so that your builder, architect, sparky, and plumber are ready to meet you onsite from day one - each day wasted will cost you money.

• Always get multiple quotes, “I usually get at least three, especially if it’s for a large expense”.

• Shop around for the best deals on appliances and fittings - even the high-end brands have great sales.

• But don’t try to save money on carpet - cheap carpet will ruin the entire feel of the house.

• Don’t try and paint the house yourself, it takes a lot longer and a lot more skill than you might expect!


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