First home buyer options – Renovate, move-in ready or build – Which is right for you?

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5 min readOne of the primary reasons Australians choose to move is better housing. Who doesn’t enjoy living in a beautiful home that meets your individual taste and needs?

Your first home should meet both your practical and psychological needs and in order to accomplish that, you might need to renovate, buy further afield or perhaps build from scratch.

So, a dilemma arises for the Australian first-time buyer: what option is the best one? Renovating, buying something that’s move-in ready or building?

We’ve outlined the pros and cons associated with each option below to help determine what would work best for you.



To start with, if you choose to get a home that requires improvements, this means that it will be more affordable than a similar home that already looks excellent in the same location. That is to say, if you’re eager to get a house but your budget is limited, this option might be better suited for you.

Moving forward as you invest money in your home by renovating you’ll increase its value. This might not be a priority for every buyer. Still, you should consider this if you want to sell the house in the foreseeable future.

Concurrently, renovating your own home gives you total and complete freedom. In other words, you can make all the specific modifications you want to suit your reno budget and needs. You may do them one step at a time as you gradually build your savings back up, as well – if that would work better for your circumstances.


The downside to renovating your home is all the legwork involved in the process. Although it might not seem like it, renovating can be a tiresome, messy, expensive and a time-consuming experience. So, you have to be prepared for a bit of chaos in your home.

What is more, renovating might slow down the settling in and moving process. Depending on the amount of work you’re having done to the house, a complete overhaul may prevent you from moving in right away.

At the same time, renovations can sometimes include hidden costs that you may not anticipate at first glance. That being said, you should always assess that the approximate figures are likely to go up and be sure to leave some room for contingencies in your budget too.

 Renovator's delight- For sale: 56 Shamrock Street, Brunswick West, VIC Renovator’s delight- For sale: 56 Shamrock Street, Brunswick West, VIC

Move-in ready-


A move-in ready home is the definition of convenience. All you have to do is tell your real estate agent what kind of house you want and where and that’s about it. This way you’ll only have to deal with the exciting stuff tied to moving in.

At the same time, most move-in ready homes are equipped with state-of-the-art technology. Newer builds are often more energy and cost efficient, as they’re better insulated than older properties, and have the latest appliances and heating systems installed. If you want no fuss no muss, move-in ready could be the way to go.


Let’s cut to the chase, the thing with buying a move-in ready home is that it can be on the pricier side. Therefore, this could be restrictive to some first-time buyers.

Of course, when you buy a move-in ready home, as much as you’d like it, it isn’t entirely customised to your specifications, style and taste. That simply means you may have to compromise on some stylistic or practical elements of the property.

 Move-in ready- For sale: 7 Paine Street, Newport, VIC Move-in ready- For sale: 7 Paine Street, Newport, VIC



Another option worth considering is building a house from scratch. A notable benefit is first home buyers receive a discount on land stamp duty or in some states are even exempt entirely from paying stamp duty (up to a certain purchase value). In some states, first home buyers may even receive a government grant to put towards building a new home (E.g. The First Home Owner Grant is $20k for new homes built in regional Victoria valued up to $750k).

Most importantly, designing a home allows you to add in every finish, design element and layout feature you want. Many buyers choose this option because they cannot find anything on the market that meets their individual needs and preferences exactly.

Did you know that the average Australian household emits five to 10.5 tonnes of energy on a yearly basis? Still, when you build a house from scratch, you can use the newest, most innovative building techniques and materials – meaning you’ll have a more cost-efficient home long term.

 Image: XL Building Image: XL Built


Some people are unaware that building a home requires a lot of time. Plus, weather can often delay the construction at one point or another, which might further prolong the process.

According to the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, building a new home might last up to 7.5 months. The more complex the house design, the longer it will take.

The thing is that many lenders restrict borrowers, requiring them to have the house built within a specific timeframe. If something unexpected comes up and the process is delayed, the borrower must get an extension. Having your application for extension approved can take much more time.

That is not all, getting a construction loan requires much more paperwork, which equals more time and stress. You should also take into consideration the progress fees that apply to construction loans – this depends on the lender, though.

What is more, the cost of building a home isn’t fixed. Of course, a contractor might estimate the total investment cost, but those are just figures. Not to mention that land in Australia tends to be on the expensive side.

 Image: XL Building Image: XL Built

As you can see, each decision comes with a set of pros and cons – as with all things in life. It’s up to you to analyse your given circumstances and choose what works best for you. Is it a move-in ready home, renovating or building from scratch? You alone can make that decision.

For more tips for buying your first home here’s everything you need to know about conveyancing, a first home buyer’s guide to negotiating and strategies for buying at auction.

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Luke Oleenik
Luke Oleenik serves as the Managing Director of XL Built, a trusted building company specialising in second storey additions and custom home construction across Melbourne. Prevent your dream home from turning into a nightmare with his ultimate building guide.

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