‘I spent an entire winter without a bathroom’

Amanda Hannon and her husband came to call their renovation project the ‘house of horrors’. Were all the sacrifices she made for this investment worth it in the end?

“One sentence can sum up the state of our renovation project in Vermont: the neighbours wanted it condemned.

But where other buyers had been scared off by the sheer scale of work the place required, we saw it as an opportunity.

This place was going to be our line in the sand. We’d done the whole live-in-while-renovating thing before, and we wanted this to be our last. After the 18 months it would take us to complete the house, we wanted to be in a position where we could set up a portfolio that would allow us to quit our day jobs.

And it worked. But living in what we came to call the ‘house of horrors’ is an experience that I never want to go through again. For 18 months we would commute an hour to and from the city for our day jobs, working on the house during the nights and on the weekend.

We lived without a kitchen, without a bathroom – in the midst of the Melbourne winter, we were showering under a hose pipe in the backyard.

It was a massive project, a complete structural renovation. We demolished the back end of the house, extending it to incorporate new rooms. We put in a new kitchen, new bathroom, added an ensuite and a walk-in wardrobe to the master bedroom. We removed these weird bulkheads from the bedrooms, replaced the outside fencing, landscape and added new turf.

After we were done, we managed to generate a couple of hundred thousand dollars in profit from the sale. That money came from hard work – I don’t think you could say we purchased undervalue, I think we paid a fair amount considering how much work was required.

We went on to purchase several additional properties following the sale, and I was able to quit my job and start a company that educates other people how to renovate for profit.

It was a challenging experience, living in the house while renovating it, and I'm eternally grateful that I’ll never have to do it again. Having said that, if I was in the same position, and living in a construction site for 18 months was the difference between failure and success, I’d do it again.

If you’re in a position where doing that can really get you ahead, then you need to do it. But make sure you have the right education, have a mentor on hand, and have a plan. If not, you’ll burn yourself out, you’ll be dejected and it may turn you off renovating completely.

I had all my goals written out in front of me. I had my vision board and my plan, and I looked at them every day and kept positive that way, and knew we were going to achieve it if we kept working to plan.

It was tough, but our line the sand moment became our defining success." 

Read more: 

'How I cashed in on the mining boom' 

'I turned an ugly old house into an equity win' 

'Why my house and land package was a huge mistake' 

‘I spent an entire winter without a bathroom’
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