BLACK mouldy ceilings, stained carpet and piles of debris, Pat Orme's first impression of this Goonellabah unit was that it was "an absolute mess". But for less than $150,000 he wasn't expecting too much more.
Grime and chaos aside, the rookie renovator could see the property's potential and with a puny price tag to seal the deal, it became his first renovation project.
With four months of hard work, a mere $10,000 and a little blood, sweat and tears, Pat added about $70,000 of value to the unit and increased his rental yield by $45 a week through DIY renovations.
"I knew I could turn it around - the state of it didn't put me off," he said.
"The worst thing was the mould so as soon as I got the keys I thought, right, how do I deal with the mould on the roof.
"I got sugar soap and a heap of cleaning agents and cleaned it all up before I repainted it with anti-mould paint.
"Just the ceiling alone made such an incredible difference; I just thought 'wow, I'm only getting started'."
With no trade or renovation experience, Pat went into this project with an open mind and willingness to learn.
"My logic going in was that if a builder or tiler has learnt his skill, then I can too," he said.
He ripped up carpets, laid new flooring, replaced the kitchen and built new wardrobe fittings using advice from local experts, friends and trusty YouTube.
"My biggest asset was the internet - I was always Googling and YouTubing how to do things, how to install handles and flooring, the lot," Pat said.
"Every time I went into a hardware store I would get a rush of inspiration. I'd ask the staff about something and they'd point me in the right direction to at least make me feel like I knew what I was doing."
Keeping costs low and completing the project quickly were Pat's priorities, after he gave himself a budget of $12,000 to complete the renovation.
So when the final bill came in at just $10,000, he was more than impressed with his achievement.
"I went into Newcastle Permanent to get a personal loan for the renovation because I couldn't borrow against my house, and they were more than happy to give me $12,000 and I ended up doing it all for about $10,000 so the remainder went towards a well-deserved holiday," he said.
"The lending manager at Newcastle Permanent was really easy to work with. I could go in to see him in the branch or call him on the phone to ask questions. I felt assured I was borrowing enough and working within my means."
Pat rents his unit and has his eyes on the property market in hopes of investing and renovating again.
His advice for other inexperienced renovators was to be flexible, listen when experts offer advice and believe in yourself.
"If you don't have the experience, someone else does, so you can learn from them," he said.
"As long as you've got a bit of gumption about you and are willing to get in and have a crack, you can make it happen."
Newcastle Permanent's Branch Lending Manager in Ballina, David Parker, said a good financial institution should help homeowners like Pat work within their budget when investing and renovating.
"Pat came in to see us with his plans, which were fairly loose to begin with, and we helped him identify how he could finance his renovations," David said. "Although he didn't have equity to borrow against, we managed to find another loan product that suited his needs and using that he increased the value of his property.
"A lending manager should help you determine your borrowing capacity and budget, like we did with Pat. Someone on a relatively small budget should create a wish list for renovations, prioritise and then cost them out to see what is attainable."
For more advice on how you could kick-start your renovation project, phone David in Ballina on 0427 123 631, or Andrew in Lismore on 0457 778 291.
For more information on planning your home renovation, visit the Newcastle Permanent website.