April 27 2020 0Comment

Delay or soldier on? Renovating/building during the COVID-19 Pandemic

2020 is not quite going to plan for everyone around the world. The freedoms we once enjoyed have been removed, and we are staying home, and staying safe.

The arrival of COVID-19 has meant that even the best made plans are now having to be adjusted. We are having to adapt to a new normal affecting everything from our social lives to the economy. This has left everyone wondering what the rest of the year will hold, and many homeowners will be weighing up if renovating or building their dream home is still part of their 2020 plan.

We thought it would be useful to put together this guide on helping you make the best decision for you and your family in terms of proceeding on with your plans or putting them on hold. We have broken this down into stages within the renovation/building journey to make it easy for you to see what the best solution may be.


Pre-Lockdown you were thinking of renovating or building a new home and having all the family at home during lockdown had made your desire for more space stronger. You may be wondering if this is a good idea, considering the current situation. The good news is that even if you engage someone to work on some concepting designs for you, you are not committed to the project yet. The average length for concept designs for a major renovation is around five months, so you have plenty of time to refine what you want – being in your home every day is a good time to find out what is functional for you as well as doing all important research.

Financially, you may want to begin researching into how much you can borrow from the bank and what your financial position is going to be when it comes time to apply for the finances needed.


If you have already begun working with an Architect, you may be panicking and wondering if your plans are going to be able to be achieved at a cost you can afford, in a time that works for you.

Hamish Gunns, registered architect and director of WATGUNLOW Architects says “The good news is that it is not too late to revise your goals. If you are already into the design process changing drawings as much simpler and cost effective than timber framing, despite any noises your architect may make to the contrary! There may be a couple of options available to you at this point to reduce your budget.”

His recommendations include:

  • Reducing the scope by omitting key costly items, such as a new window seat.
  • Substituting high value items for more cost-effective items such as a large freestanding bath.
  • Eliminating work that has an unknown cost element such as rock breaking.
  • Staging the works into smaller chunks spread over a longer period.
  • Look at getting more involved in the work yourself (if you have the time and skill) to complete painting, interior decorating, and landscaping works.

For alterations, Hamish recommends:

  • Reducing work that is consequential to your main work faces such as refinishing adjacent rooms to match.
  • Reusing or recycling elements of the existing house that can be easily reconfigured such as reusing the kitchen cabinets in the laundry.
  • Looking at adding the finishing touches yourself.

He adds “You may find other ways to save money including buying fittings at clearance sales or good quality second hand though proceed with caution. Don’t make cutbacks on the fundamentals of your build. Things that are very difficult to change, such as insulation should be done right the first time!

Also be wary of going too cheap with fittings, some items out there are likely to cause much more dissatisfaction and grief than the savings are worth, especially if you need to get someone back to repair or replace it. Ask around and do your research on what is worth buying.”


Everything is locked and loaded with the council and you have been issued your building consent. Your plans are now with your chosen builders to price, and you are very close to being able to start your project.

You may be getting extremely nervous about proceeding with your project. This may be because of financial reasons, or you are worried that there may be more lockdowns at alert level four, slowing down your build.

Firstly, you can change your scope at any time. Write a list of what is a necessity to have in the project, and what is something that is nice to have but not essential.

Next, work collaboratively with the building companies doing your pricing. They will be able to recommend products that may give a comparable finish but at a cheaper price.

In terms of timing, there may be some disruptions to the construction supply chain especially for product that needs to come from overseas. We are yet to see what these disruptions are going to be, but the earlier you lock in your selections, the better. But on the plus side, with plenty of building projects not going ahead your build time may be less than initially thought as subcontractors find themselves with not as much work as usual.

Now is also a great time to talk your bank and see if they can offer you a more competitive deal then pre-lockdown. The reduction of the Official Cash Rate to 0.25 means banks have been able to pass on savings to homeowners. If your bank is not playing ball, engage the services of a Mortgage Broker to see if they can find you better deal elsewhere.


You may be wondering what on earth you have gotten yourself into with your renovation project. Four weeks with no action on site can be disheartening and make you wonder how much longer this is going to make your project, and how much more this is going to cost you.

The best thing to do is to think positively. Unlike people who will build after you, you have clarity around how much your build is going to cost you. It is more than likely that building material prices are going to go up slowly. Also know that your project is of your builder’s utmost priority and that they have been working over the lockdown period to ensure that progress on site will be happening again quickly.

If your nerves are really getting to you, we suggest revisiting the scope of your renovation project. A decent builder will be more than happy to work with you as they will want to see your project finished.


Write a Reply or Comment