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The Long Game

A short-term buy, reno and sell investment became a six-year project for a husband and wife team in Tauranga.


1 June 2021

Good things take time. In Jono and Jessica Nisbett’s case, it took six years to renovate and sell a 1990s 220m2 direct fix polystyrene property that they had originally bought as a flip. But the results were worth it.

The home was bought by the couple in 2014. They didn’t love it: with a green and cream interior palette and covered with leak-prone polystyrene, it wasn’t their “dream home” by any means. But it had potential.

First there were the 360° views of Tauranga Harbour, the Kaimai Range and Mt Maunganui. Another bonus was the location; situated in the desirable suburb of Matua, it had star potential. But the banks weren’t keen.

“Because it was made from directfix polystyrene it was considered risky by the bank, and they required a 50% deposit,” explains Nisbett. “There was also a bit of damp showing in the bathroom, which put people off.”

But as a builder, Nisbett knew he had the skills and knowledge to make it work. In the end, the Nisbetts were the only ones who attended the auction. They secured the property for (by today’s standards) an incredibly low price of $315,000. Then they set to work: they were living in another property and wanted to sell as quickly as possible after renovating.

A designer was brought in to draw up some plans that would maximise the potential of the property and bring it into the 21st century. Once this was completed, consents needed to be granted for a number of changes – including the replacement cladding.

The unattractive polystyrene was replaced by weatherboard, which instantly freshened up the look of the home. This was painted a blue-grey, an attractive colour that reflected the home’s seaside locale and was likely to appeal to a wide range of buyers.

Extensive interior work was also undertaken in the home. It had been owned by a man and his disabled wife: she was in a wheelchair so the home had a lift for mobility. The entire home (which had been built by the previous owner) reflected the tastes and needs of an older couple, so Nisbett had a job on his hands making it suitable for the young family that they envisaged would buy it.

To this end the house was re-gibbed inside, and repainted in a warm grey that reflected the exterior paint job. The second floor was reconfigured completely. The original master bedroom had been small and pokey, and located in the south-eastern corner of the house, with very little sun. There was also no en suite, which the Nisbetts saw as essential.

The kitchen was at the other end of the house, a space with lots of sun. Next to it, a smaller bedroom offered space for the en suite. The new kitchen was relocated to the middle of the house, with a new dining room and living room flowing off from it.

“We used Maleme Street Kitchens for the job, as we had quite specific requirements and they were the only company who were prepared to do it,” laughs Nisbett.

An upstairs deck was extended, with double glazed stacker slide doors providing indoor/outdoor living from the new dining space. A conservatory (which featured a pole that went to the lower floor) was demolished in the new living space upstairs. A road facing wall was removed, and stacker doors were installed to provide flow onto a new deck.

The downstairs bathroom was also freshened up: Nisbett getting a great deal on new sinks, vanity and toilets from Carters.

The main renovation job took a couple of months (the house was empty during this time). The couple’s intention had been to sell quickly, but during this time house prices began to rocket, so the Nisbetts decided to move into their recent reno instead.

And then the babies arrived.

“Jess became pregnant, so everything changed,” says Jono.

The plans of selling went out the window as children became the priority. Two children were added to the family when they lived in the Matua home, but the renovations didn’t stop.

“There were a lot of ongoing projects,” he says.

These included upgrading the driveway, landscaping, putting in place some new balustrades, retrofitting window joinery and a raft of smaller jobs that made the property more desirable.

A spa pool and fireplace were also added to the property, to further increase its desirability at reselling stage.

It would be late 2019 before the home would be popped on the market. They had never intended to live there that long, but in late 2019 they found a rural home that they loved and bought it in November. Finding themselves with a million dollar plus mortgage, they knew it was time to move on.

The house was put on the market in December 2019: but the offers were sluggish pre-Christmas. The new year saw new interest and they had multiple offers, with the house selling for $929,000 in February, just before lockdown.

It was a great result.

“We significantly upgraded our home to a rural location and came out with $5,000 left over,” says Nisbett.

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