The Biggest Obstacle for Women Renovators

The podcast for women who want to create income and a life they love through renovating

Join serial renovator Bernadette Janson as she explores the ins and outs of renovating for profit!

Bernadette has over 30 years of experience in the renovating for profit business. She’s a registered nurse, a renovator, a mum, and a teacher.

118 – What To Do When Your Renovation Goes Off The Rails And You Blow The Budget

On today’s episode,

Managing cost overruns is very important when you are renovating, especially if you’re renovating for profit or for a client. In this episode, I’ll share some aspects of why reno budgets tend to go uncontrollable, which happens a lot, and what to do when you are in the middle of it. These strategies are all proven and tested because I’ve experienced and did them myself. So as a long-time renovator, I know how helpful they are to our aspiring renovators out there.

Listen to Episode 118: What To Do When Your Renovation Goes Off The Rails And You Blow The Budget

Episode Highlights

  • [00:00:10] How to replace your income with renovating
  • [00:02:03] Analysis paralysis
  • [00:03:52] When your budget blows out
  • [00:05:24] Unexpectedly high trade invoice
  • [00:06:39] A leg to stand on 
  • [00:07:20] External forces are pushing prices up
  • [00:08:11] Wrestling with the budget  
  • [00:08:41] Companies get more expensive
  • [00:09:45] Go and find an alternative
  • [00:11:04] It’s hard to leave money on the table
  • [00:11:37] Something unexpected
  • [00:12:53] Something goes horribly wrong
  • [00:14:11] Turn lemon into a lemonade 
  • [00:15:10] Accumulation of several cost overruns
  • [00:16:01] Don’t compromise the outcome as a result
  • [00:17:08] Not all budget blowouts are bad
  • [00:18:11] It had  to be white 
  • [00:19:22] The right thing to do 
  • [00:19:52]  Whatever you do, make sure you style it
  • [00:20:58] Double whammy
  • [00:21:36] Shameless plug
  • [00:22:38] Caroma temple
  • [00:23:21] Projects update 
  • [00:24:50] I know what sells


“You may be over the budget and you may not be able to pull it back. What I would say in that situation is, make sure that you don’t compromise the outcome as a result.”


Hello, hello. Renovators! This episode is sponsored by a brand new training entitled How To Replace Your Income With Renovating. So it’s for you if you’re on a mission to go from a hobby renovator to a professional renovator. To either replace a dull day job, to retire, or downsize profitably. To pay off your mortgage, to help the people you love, and to have more money and more fun in your life. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these and I’m pretty excited about it. 

What I’m going to cover in this training is the process you go through. I will cover the three core steps to going from pretty much where you are now to a point way you have the capacity to generate income at will, and how you can replace income with renovating. Lots of people have this as a dream but actually haven’t figured out how to get there. So that’s what I’m going to be walking through in this training. 

I’m also going to be sharing with you my top tips for getting fast results. I have really nailed this and what I’m seeing now is that the students coming out of straight out of the Bootcamp, going into a project, and absolutely killing it because the alternative is going into analysis paralysis and doing nothing, which doesn’t get you what you want. So I’ll be talking about that. 

Also, I’m going to be talking about my proven fix for the biggest challenge that newbie renovators have. We all know what that is. It’s a missing ingredient. I’m going to be talking about how we approach the joint venture process. I’ve been working on this for probably almost 10 years. I’ve done a lot of joint ventures, can’t remember really how many, they’ve gone from being sometimes a bit painful to a beautifully elegant process. So, I’ll share that with you and the part that we play in that.

This is our entry-level training to our Bootcamp. Of course, there’s no obligation to join the Bootcamp. But in order for you to really understand what’s involved, if this is something that’s on your agenda, this is a really good way for you to get those distinctions.

The other thing I should let you know is, it is a meeting and not a webinar. The difference is that with a meeting, you can actually see the people that you are communicating with. You can talk and be heard. I cannot stand the facelessness of webinars. We’ve outlawed them in The School Of Renovating because I really love to get up close and personal. So that’s the way we roll.

If you would like to join, you can come over to and if you can’t remember that, you’ll find it in the show notes. So let’s get into the episode.

Bernadette: Today, my topic is what to do when your project doesn’t go to plan and your budget blows out. Now it should really say “when” your budget blows out, not “if “your budget blows out because pretty much every renovation project there are some cost blowouts that you have to deal with.

I actually posted in the She Renovates Facebook group and asked for some ideas on things that you would like to hear about and this is one of them. I got a list as long as my arm, which I am thrilled about because it means I do not have to think about what I’m going to podcast about in my solo episode. So thank you for being so generous with your feedback.

Now, this is a topic that is very close to my heart. It’s important to get some strategies around managing cost overruns because they are part of renovating.

In this episode, I want to give you some really practical ways of dealing with things not going quite to plan in your project. I’ve got a few different scenarios to talk about, and then we’ll talk about the project as a whole blowing out, but just a few things that I think will make a difference to your experience of renovating.

Unexpectedly high trade invoice

Firstly, the scenario is you’ve called somebody to do a piece of work and you haven’t got them to quote. They seem like a pretty honest sort of tradesmen and it ends up being more work than you thought. You underestimated how much work there was in it. Then you get the bill and it just about takes your head off. So you get an unexpected high trade invoice. I’m not going to say, I told you so, but I sort of am.

If you hand over a piece of work to a tradesman and you do not get that person to quote, you allow them to do the work without quoting, even when they tell you that they’ll look after you, which is usually the story, then you’re as good as giving them a checkbook with some signed checks to pay themselves.

Once you’ve got that billing, you’ve got nowhere to go. Okay? Handing the trades a job without any parameters, without a quote, without a contract is a recipe for disaster. But we all do it at some point in time. So what to do about it?

The main thing you can try and negotiate that trade down, however, you don’t really have a leg to stand on. What I would say is, as soon as you get an invoice that had a negative impact on your budget, stop working with that trade and don’t do any more until you have got fixed quotes.

Now I have talked in another episode about what to do if you do need to work with someone, without a quote, and sometimes there is a need to do that. I’ll include the link to that episode in the show notes.

External forces pushing up prices

The second scenario is that external forces are pushing prices up. You’ve done your feasibility and your budget based on what you usually pay, and all of a sudden there’s a pandemic. So we all know what that’s about and how that’s played out is it’s really increased building activity, making trades incredibly expensive, not all trades, but most.

I have certainly experienced this. I just found particularly tilers have been really charging excessive prices. There’s not a lot you can do about that but the main thing I would say is don’t give up the fight. That’s a metaphorical phrase.

When you are renovating for profit, you feel like you are always wrestling with the budget because that’s your job. So just because it’s COVID or for whatever reason, the trade prices are excessively high. Don’t give up. Go through the normal process, get as many quotes as you can in order to get something that is going to work with your budget.

As I mentioned, I found it particularly on Chalmers Street, all the trades were a lot more expensive, but in particular, the tiler and the plumber were pretty hot too. Even so, I still was able to manage the budget sufficiently that I brought it in. I think my budget amount was $57,000 and I brought the budget in on $62000. I was actually pretty happy with that. Don’t lose faith.

Companies get more expensive

The other thing that I find is if you’re using the same trades and suppliers all the time, as they become more popular and more successful, their prices often go up exponentially in comparison to CPI. If that happens, then you can often find that you’ve blown your budget, where normally you would not. Once again, even when I’m using the same trades all the time, I would still get checked quotes to make sure that I am getting a fair price. Letting your trades know that you’re keeping your costing lane like you have to be reasonable about it because they need to live as well. But you also do need to be able to manage your costs.

A really good example of managing the situation was I was doing a project a few years ago in an apartment using a cabinet maker that I’d been using for a while. This is really common with cabinet makers, actually. When they’re getting started in their businesses, they really cost-effective and accommodating, but as they become more popular, which they usually do, if they’re good, then they become less accommodating and more expensive. I had about $10,000 budgeted for my joinery.

I was working with the cabinet maker on the pricing and the plan, and it was getting up around $20,000. So, it was about double what I had budgeted for, and I’d already paid. A deposit in order to get him to do some sharp drawings so I knew what I was getting. So I’d paid a thousand dollars, but when I got to $20,000, I thought I’ve really got to do something about this because I’m not blowing my budget out $10,000. I have to go and find an alternative. And it’s hard to leave money on the table because I’ve spent a thousand dollars and now I’m going to have to write that off and go and find someone else. But I did, I went and found someone else. I found a really good flat-pack supplier who did like custom flat packs. They were quick, they are efficient and they did my project for about $8,000 installed. So even though I’d wasted a thousand dollars, I was really happy with the outcome and I was able to keep my project on budget.

Something unexpected

The next thing that can blow your project out is something unexpected. You might’ve thought, the floor was a bit wobbly, but when your builder came in to have a look at it, he said, “no it’s too far out a level.” Something’s gotta happen. Pull up the boards and underneath the subfloors, really dodgy and something’s got to happen with that.

What I would do first thing is stop at that point and get several opinions on it. So I’ve told you in other episodes that builders do often feel the need to gut even when it’s not necessary. So I would definitely get two or three opinions before I start taking any radical action. Along with those opinions, I would get quotes. So if you’ve worked out that you absolutely need to do the work, and you’ve got the quotes to do it, then you can go ahead and get the work done and you have contained the cost of the piece of work. 

Presumably, you’ll have some you’ll have contingency in your budget to cover unforeseen circumstances, but sometimes that’s not enough. So just really managing it the best way you can.

Something goes horribly wrong

The next thing that can blow your budget is that something goes horribly wrong. Now the best example I can give you of that is when we had a demolition laborer jackhammered through the main hot water supply to 48 apartments in the building that we were renovating in. That was pretty bad.  I guess the way I’ll look at that is first don’t panic, whatever you do in life, if you can manage to keep a level head, you will keep them have a much better outcome than if you lose it.

Take stock of the situation and think it through logically. Obviously, the problem needs to be fixed. That’s one thing, but then you’ve got to look at your project and think, how can I recover from this? The first thing I did is looked at it and thought how can I turn it into lemonade? I’ve got a lemon, how can I turn it into lemonade? I wasn’t planning to pull the bath out of the bathroom, but of course, that required that I did. So I thought the first thing is we’re going to get a better bathroom design as a result of it. So instead of going for a shower over the bath, which I was doing, because I didn’t want to take the bath out. Then I went for a walk-in shower and a double shower, which had a lot more appeal.

Then I looked at it and thought, “okay, so what can I do to increase the appeal of the project as a whole?” It was a tiny apartment. If I furnish it, it’s not going to cost me a hell of a lot to furnish it. Then it may attract an investor who’s looking for an easy way. And so if it’s furnished and you sell it with the furniture because the furniture really cost me next to nothing because all you have in a studio is a bed in Italian, a few bits and pieces. Let’s say, it’s fully furnished, it really ups the ante on the sale, but then I realized  Airbnb hadn’t been going very long and I thought, “okay, so now I might put it on Airbnb in that settlement period and just see how that works out.” So that added another $4,000 to the income of the project just in that four weeks. Look at how you can turn lemon into lemonade.

Accumulation of several cost overruns

The other thing that can happen is that the accumulation of several cost overruns eventually turns into a problem. The other thing I want to say to you before I get into this is just about every project has actually not just about, every single project has cost overruns. Okay. So I’m pretty sure that every renovation that was ever done had a blow out of its budget at some stage. Don’t feel like you’re the only person in the world and it’s something about you. It’s not about you. It’s the nature of the beast. What is about you is how that pans out. If you have a lot of bits and pieces that are all going over budget, then once again, don’t panic take stock.

You may be over the budget and you may not be able to pull it back. What I would say in that situation is, make sure that you don’t compromise the outcome as a result. So of course I’m talking about renovating to sell. If you’re renovating to rent, then you’ve got a lot more leeway because if the bathroom’s not perfectly renovated, it’s not going to be a deal-breaker.

But if you are renovating to sell and you end up not having the money to renovate the bathroom, that can seriously compromise your outcome. Then you have two problems, you have a blown-out budget, and then you have a lowered sale price. So try and make sure you just stick to the one problem. Know the deal-breakers, know the key areas in the project that must be done to a standard. There are other areas that you can get away with not doing to a standard, but things like kitchens and bathrooms sell houses. So you want to make sure that you’ve got them under control. So that you’re not creating a second problem as a result of the budget blowout.

Budget Blow Out

And the next thing I want to say is not all budget blowouts are bad, as you are progressing through the project, often you will come across ideas that you hadn’t thought of before. I do this all the time that’s why I’m saying this is not unusual because when you are planning the renovation, often you’re doing it in a really confined time frame and you don’t get a huge amount of time to really let ideas percolate. And as you get into the project and the property starts to be dismantled, you start to see possibility. Often you do come up with ideas that will make the project better. So then you’re looking at, “will I want to spend the money on that or not?” I always think like a value engineering exercise, you’ve really got to look at how much impact that will have on the outcome. And will it bring you a better price? It’s as simple as that.

To give you an example, When I did the budget for the Chalmers street project like I was having a lot of conversations about what color I should go with the kitchen and so on. And I budgeted adequately for the kitchen, but then I realized I came to the decision when I was standing out the front of the building, seeing all the people coming and going. I needed to do a white kitchen. I was going to go for something with more drama, but it was clear that I needed to go with some, for something that appealed to the type of people that own property in that building.

It had to be white so I had to do something to make it jump off the real estate page, basically because a white kitchen while it’s nice, is pretty generic. And when you’re scrolling through those pages as a buyer, it’s white kitchen after white kitchen, everything’s white or gray or beige. And so that’s when I came up with the idea of putting the paneling on the Island bench and curving the Island bench so that when people were scrolling through, they wouldn’t just see a standard white kitchen. They’ll see something that had a bit of point of difference.

So widen the riser, clad it with gyprock paneled it with this textured paneling. Paneled under the All-in bench and around the curve, quite a tricky exercise, it costs about $3,000, and I absolutely made the right decision. Of course, I made it with the help of our partners. That was the right thing to do. It was going to make the project stand out. Just make sure that if you spend the money, it’s going to return you the income. I hope that makes sense.

The last thing point I want to make, and I’ve seen this happen quite a bit is if you’ve got your reno finished, it’s gone over time. So it cost you more and holding costs. It’s blown out for whatever reason. And you’re about to go to market. The last thing you should be doing is saving on the styling. I personally think it’s quite cheap for what it does. But if you’re renovating and selling a property, you want to be returning. You’re returning at least between 25 and 50% of the property value in your sell price to cover all the costs and the buying costs, the holding costs, the renovation costs, the selling costs, your profits.

We know that styling we’ll add 10% to the sale price. So 10% of those costs will be covered by your styling. If you decide you can’t afford to style then, really what you’re doing is wiping 10% off the sale price. So not only have you got a blown budget, but you’ve also got a lower sale price.

Once again, the double whammy. And so whatever you do, make sure you style it. You might have to call in your friends, family, Beg, Borrow, and Steal I’ve certainly done it plenty of times to style that property, but make sure that it’s styled and make sure that it’s styled well because that will help you to get the best price for the project at a time when there’s no more you can do about the renovation budget. That’s done and dusted and you’ve got what you’ve got. So do your best to get the best outcome for the project.

So now it’s time for the shameless plug. You cannot underestimate the value of having a community of savvy renovators to lean on when things aren’t going so well. Please if you haven’t already done some education, you don’t belong to a renovation or property community, think about coming to do our renovation Bootcamp.

We are opening for enrollments next week. Not only do you get a whole host a system that will help you to navigate your renovation and minimize your risk of blowouts, but you also get lifetime access to that training and also to the boot camp community. So we have a Facebook group for Bootcamp graduates and you’re in there for life. So we have people in there that have been there for seven years we’ve been operating for seven years, so still coming back, getting help when they need it. Think about it.

And of course, the last thing I have to do is just tell you about my week. So I have had an amazing week. Oh, really last week when we sponsored an International Women’s Day event with Caroma, and had an awesome time. If you haven’t been to the Caroma temple, it is a stunning venue.  I won’t go into it too much, but the evening was amazing.

There are a lot of our community there and lots of beautiful food and wine, and also some great speakers, including Janine Shepherd, who is the most extraordinary woman. Rather than me telling you about her, I suggest you Google her. And I have invited her to come onto the podcast and that will be happening shortly.

I think I’ve done my last day on, Arncliffe. I did that on Monday that has come up a treat really happy with that on budget and also had its share of problems, but that’s part of the game. Because we’re so close to eight Easter, the agent does not want to go to market prior to Easter. So it’s not being styled until just after Easter. So that’s pretty well done and dusted.

Tomorrow I’m going to Adelaide. And so for all you, South Australians, I’m really looking forward to being there. We have many family and friends in Adelaide. And of course, I’m speaking in Adelaide on Friday, so quite excited about that, but I’m going to be up quite late tonight, finishing off my slides, getting the bags packed, and getting organized for the big getaway.

In our community, we’ve had a few sales and a few purchases. So I may have mentioned Allie, our gorgeous renovator in Canberra sold her first project last week. I’m not sure if it’s unconditional yet, it should be, I think. And Suzette and Kate so you may remember Suzette came on the podcast. She was my first ever student. They bought their first project to do together in Newcastle a few days ago.

So what’s this space I’m really excited about them getting going because they’ve both operated independently. So I think they’ll become a really powerful team and I’m enjoying seeing them blossom.

And the last thing is I picked up another project. I know I said I wouldn’t, but I did. And so I visited my family in Victoria and came home with a project, which is a new build for one of my brothers. And I’m actually really enjoying that. I’m amazed at the quality you get at such an incredible price. I’ve done the easy and I think he’s got around about $200,000 profit in this project. So I’m pretty happy about that.

And the great thing about a build, as opposed to a renovation, is it does not require much input from me. The biggest thing is doing the due diligence on the builder, which I’ve already done selecting the design, so I said I’m going with the- well, I may not have said it, but I’m going with a volume builder. So I’ve selected the floor plan, but I’ve also made some tweaks to the inclusions because I know what sells. I want to make sure that we actually meet our market. So now that’s done and then it didn’t take very long at all. I’ve got to go down and just finalize that. Then from then on, it’s really over to the builder to do their thing. So that’s been a lot of fun.

On that note, I am going to love you and leave you. If you haven’t left us a review or left me a review, I should say, please go over to iTunes and do it. I will be forever grateful because what that does is lets people know that we’re here. So it helps to spread the love and as I mentioned in my last episode, one of my goals this year is to grow this podcast and that will certainly help with that goal. So thanks! See you next week!

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    If you loved the episode, I would be so grateful if you shared it on social media or left a review! 

    Amazing Free Content!LeaLea707 via Apple Podcasts · Australia · 05/22/22
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    “I have been listening to this Podcast for a few years now. I love how Bernadette freely shares her experiences and knowledge of renovating and how to create wealth through property. There are many people out there doing a similar things but Bernadette is the real deal. Her down to earth approach reasonates with me and I’ve learned lots from her. I’d highly recommend She Renovates!”
    Just brilliant!fbegeng via Apple Podcasts · Australia · 03/16/22
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    “I've been binge-listening to this podcast for the past week and it's absolutely brilliant. Bernadette has amassed so much knowledge and wisdom about renovating and she shares it generously and in a really easy to understand way that's inspired me to give it a go. Her advice is practical and I love that she approaches renovating in a really ethical and open-hearted way. Every episode honestly is gold. I also love that each episode is quite short and addresses a specific topic without any waffle. Thank you so much for this podcast!”
    Practical and honest adviceLuke Marland via Apple Podcasts · Australia · 05/12/21
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    “Hands down best renovation podcast there is. There’s no scams or tricks here and Bernadette provides honest and practical advice that you can actually apply to your life. There’s also great insights into the property industry (not just renovating) and Bernadette’s simple approach gives you tools to mitigate risk and fuels confidence to start your own projects.”
    Amazing insights and adviceJennaBrad via Apple Podcasts · Australia · 03/22/21
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    “Bernadette is an inspiration. Warm, open and a fountain of wisdom and advice. I’ve learned so much about everything from renovating to selling to creating an independent future from this podcast. Look forward to every episode!”
    Practical Magic For All RenovatorsJames’ Inspiration via Apple Podcasts · Australia · 12/15/20
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    “If you need to break through any of your limitations to find the joy and success in renovation, Bernadette is your inspiration and advisor with decades of experience. Her down to earth, practical style of sharing what works and how to keep control of any renovating project is worth tuning in for - week after week. I have done a few renovations in the (distant) past and now feel motivated to go again, this time for a change of pace and new horizons. This podcast shows the way. Thanks Bernadette, James Burgin”
    My Guilty Pleasure..Tanned Greek via Apple Podcasts · Australia · 10/26/20
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    “Just dropping by to show my support for your podcast Bernadette. I look forward to each episode and I am never disappointed with the content. It’s such a generous offering and compared to many of the other property podcasts I subscribe to, yours is the clear winner. Perfectly suited to people embarking on a new renovator journey but equally suited to more experienced folk like myself - there’s something for everyone. Keep up the great work. Your honesty is so refreshing! I look forward to future learning and hearing more student success stories. Best, David Michos (And yes... a bloke) 😉”
    You would have to be crazy to miss this !!Lifestylepp via Apple Podcasts · Australia · 10/15/20
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    “If you have any interest at all in renovating, you would be crazy not to listen to every episode! As someone who has done many courses and a project manager by trade, i learn something every time. Bernadette is so genuine and generous and totally relatable. Do yourself a favour and subscribe now !”

    Want more?

    If you want to meet up with a group of savvy renovators. I would say come over and join She Renovates Facebook Group. It’s a completely FREE Facebook group and it is growing at the rate of knots. We hit over a thousand members just recently, and now it seems to have picked up momentum. They are all savvy renovating women and men working their little hearts out to live a better life through renovating.

    The only membership you need to grow your renovation business…

    Wonder Women is a combination of live sessions and pre-recorded content to help you get what you need, when you need it. I know that you’re the expert and you’ve got all of your subject knowledge nailed – now it’s time to build the business behind your renovation projects and stop being the worlds best kept secret. 

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