He was still studying in university and working part time when he started flipping houses, but today, Alex Simmons* has transformed a total of 9 Sydney properties; with no signs of stopping just yet. Shaped by his upbringing and cultural background, his philosophy and approach to making a break into the property market is simple and straightforward: don’t buy new properties - rather, buy whatever is in a poor state and build on it.
In a recent interview, Simmons pointed out “For [me], the worse a property is the better, because I know that I can do much more with it”
For this reason, Simmons predominantly turns to Sydney’s Greater West for prospective estates, revealing that there are often hidden gems around Penrith and Kingswood.
Yet, be that as it may, Simmon’s most successful flip to date actually happens to be a two bedroom apartment in Parramatta, where he renovated it for the first time since its establishment.
“It was a deceased estate and it hadn’t been renovated since the building was built in 1970-something. It was beautiful - it had 110 square metres of area, a big balcony overlooking the Blue Mountains and a great park nearby. We really took our time to start from scratch and it was just an absolute joy to renovate.”
“We bought it in 2013 for about $278,000 and when we sold it quite soon after, we made good money. Though we would’ve definitely made more if we had kept that property for a few more years.”
Regarding its success, Simmons says it’s due to his lack of reservation in the renovation process that made the apartment so profitable.
“We spared no expense on the renovation and I think that’s what [the success of the apartment] really came down to.”
But this isn’t the only property he’s taken that approach with. Unlike many homeowners who typically make minor or partial cosmetic changes, Simmons reveals that the common thread between all his work is that he completely strips properties and renovates them from the ground up.
As someone who’s gone through this process many times before, however, he advises those new to the renovation game to start small.
“These days, it’s so easy to refresh even a kitchen with just new cabinet doors. You don’t need to rip anything up... Just start slowly and don’t get into anything too deep - especially when you have no understanding of what you’re getting yourself into.”
“Also, use your available resources! It’s unbelievable what [resources] you can find on the internet.”
And for people wanting to take on bigger projects and focus on specific value-adding areas, Simmons believes there are no set rules as to what’s right and what’s wrong in home renovations.
“It’s very subjective - what I think is pretty or what someone else might consider ugly.”
As a general rule of thumb, however, he believes it’s crucial that the renovation reflects the expectations of the suburb’s market and their lifestyle.
“For a property in an area like Double Bay, you’d want to use top-notch fittings and fixtures. But for other areas where the market doesn’t have the capacity to afford more expensive features, you can use [budget friendlier] materials.”
“It’s important not to over capitalise on certain features and fittings when it doesn’t reflect or align with the market because that really won’t add any value to the property.”
On the topic of staying in budget and keeping costs down, Simmons says research and very carefully planning the renovation beforehand will help novices to map out the entire process and avoid any nasty surprises.
“Do your research well and don’t overcommit yourself because the problem with knocking things down is that you won’t always know what’s behind. Before you know it, you’ll be causing a much greater problem than you had initially anticipated for.”
Wise and constructive words indeed coming from a professional. In 2016, a survey conducted by Houzz revealed that staying on budget actually posed as the largest challenge for homeowners undergoing renovations.
Second to this was the issue of finding the right service providers; and to this, Simmons also had something to say.
“If you know someone who’s in the industry, the best way to hire the right tradies is through word of mouth. Because with contractors, it’s risky - you never know who you’re going to get. They’ll commit to you, but they may not finish the job. That’s why I’ve been using the same tradies for years.”
Above all else, Simmons again stresses the importance of thoroughly doing research and utilising all available resources to ensure an airtight plan. He believes it’s better to dedicate more time into the planning stage early on rather than having a stampede of problems later down the track.
With such a large variety of resources available at your disposal, however, it can often be tricky deciding where to start your research. That’s where our guide comes in handy. From managing budgets all the way through to hiring the right people, the Reno Roadmap will give you the lowdown on everything you need to know to plan and execute your home renovations well.
*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual