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How much does a home renovation in Malaysia cost?

This guide to basic home renovation costs by room in a house will help you get started on your remodelling journey. Discover the key renovation items you can't avoid, as well as other cost factors to consider for a home renovation and interior design cost estimates.

When someone buys a house, renovation is almost always an unavoidable outcome. Even if you buy a new development from a developer, you will need to hire someone to do the lighting because most homes do not come fully equipped with all fixtures and fittings.


If you buy a subsale property, the cost can rise exponentially depending on the condition of the home - your renovation budget may include plumbing, electrical, and appliance costs.


As a result, we thought it would be helpful to provide a basic guide on the important things to consider when renovating a home, as well as how much you should expect to spend on different areas of the house.


1. How much does a full house renovation cost?

In general, this is determined by the extent of the renovation, the size of the home, and the services requested from the contractor. Depending on your expectations, the range can be quite different. So, to give you an idea, we would make some general assumptions.


The projected budgets and estimated costs listed below are based on an average-sized 1,000 - 1,500 sq ft condominium.


How much money should you set aside for a home renovation?

  • Low (RM20,000 to RM30,000): This includes basic fixtures, painting, and minor wet works such as plaster ceiling and plumbing, as well as simple cabinets for a medium to small kitchen and possibly a small wardrobe.

  • Medium (RM31,000 to RM60,000): All of the above, plus some more significant wet works like knocking down walls, installing larger wardrobe and kitchen cabinets, and installing design-centric options like laminate/vinyl flooring.

  • High (RM60,000 and up): This budget would include everything mentioned above, as well as upgrades to foundational items like electrical wiring, plumbing, and toilets. If you're taking over an older condo and need more foundational work, this is something to consider.

2. The most expensive home renovation costs you can't avoid

There are some things you simply cannot avoid when renovating your home. Take note of these items because they are usually the most expensive for you.


Kitchen cabinet

Unless your unit comes with pre-installed kitchen cabinets, this is most likely the most common item on someone's renovation bill. While more expensive (though admittedly stronger) materials such as aluminium and plywood are available, the standard melamine and solid surface combination is much more affordable.


Approximately RM5,000


Wardrobe

A wardrobe is a must-have in any bedroom. You can use open-hanging racks or a standard one off the shelf, but most Malaysian homeowners prefer built-ins because they last longer and can be customised to fit the size and height of your bedroom wall.


Approximately RM5,000


Wet works

If you are changing the tiling, flooring, or hacking them, you may face a sizable wet works charge. Again, you may choose to do none of these things for newer units, but some wet work is unavoidable for older ones. This would include tearing down walls, tiling, cement work, and plastering ceilings.


Approximately RM5,000


Electrical work

If you've purchased a new unit, there isn't much to spend aside from the cost of lights and plaster ceiling (assuming you choose downlighting). However, if you've purchased an older unit and would need to overhaul the electrical wiring for the home and possibly change the system to a newer phase of wiring, this would also add up to a significant amount.


Roughly RM10,000 and up


Plumbing services

Some plumbing work is almost certainly unavoidable, whether it is for your kitchen sink, laundry area, or toilet renovation. If you've recently purchased an older home, you may need to replace your pipes, toilet tiles, and waterproofing, which can be costly.


Cost: RM10,000 and up


Contractor in general

Unless you intend to coordinate all of the various subcontractors, you will almost certainly need to hire the services of a general contractor to supervise the renovation and engage the various subcontractors for your project. Between work and family obligations, this is a viable option for many people. Their costs are more difficult to quantify because they are not always itemised and are already factored into the mark-ups for all subcontracted work.


Roughly 10-15% of the total budget


3. Cost breakdown of home renovations by room

The living room

Unless you have grand plans to watch Netflix in a space that looks like the Great Gallery in Vienna's Schönbrunn Palace, this is probably the place where you should spend the least money. Otherwise, the main costs here would be the lighting fixtures and the plaster ceiling, assuming you plan to use downlights, which most people do these days.


Cost:


Lighting (RM300)


Plaster ceiling (RM1,000)


RM1,300 in total


Bedroom

The same lighting and plaster ceiling costs apply, but the main thing you would spend money on in this space is the previously mentioned wardrobe. Of course, you can buy one off-the-shelf at a store like Ikea, but the costs may vary very little from a custom fit one that will fit your space from floor to ceiling. For added comfort, blackout curtains are also made and installed.


Cost:


Lighting (RM200)


Plaster ceiling (RM600)


Wardrobe (RM5,000)


Curtains (RM1,000)


RM6,800 in total


Bathroom

Many new developments include an internal heater, so you won't have to worry about that cost. Again, lighting fixtures would be required. You may also need to install a simple cabinet beneath the sink to store toiletries neatly and easily. In some cases, you may also need to install a shower glass for your shower, though these are usually already installed in new housing developments.


Even in newer units, you may need to have your toilets waterproofed because there are still leaks to units below you. If it's covered by your defect liability period, you might be able to get your property developer to cover it; otherwise, you'll have to budget for it. This would entail removing the old tiles, waterproofing, and retiling the bathroom floor.


Cost:


Lighting (RM100)


Plaster ceiling (RM300)


Cabinet (RM600) (RM600)


Waterproofing and wet works (RM3,000)


RM4,000 in total


Kitchen

The majority of your money will be spent on kitchen cabinets. Again, the cost of kitchen cabinets is determined by the size of the cabinet and the materials used. Our estimate is based on a medium-sized kitchen with the most cost-effective materials. If you're lucky, the unit you bought may come with pre-installed kitchen cabinets and appliances such as a cooking hood, a hob, and even a built-in oven, saving you money.


Cost:


Lighting (RM200)


Plaster ceiling (RM500)


Cabinets (RM5,000)


RM5,700 in total


Balcony/Yard

Aside from lighting, you might want to think about installing a balcony faucet if your unit doesn't already have one. This greatly simplifies washing and watering your outdoor plants. While it may appear simple, it may require significant work because the water source would need to be obtained from either the kitchen or the bathroom, and the pipes would need to be concealed in the plaster ceiling.


Cost:


Lighting (RM50)


RM50 (faucet)


Plumbing and wet works (RM1,500)


RM1,600 in total


4. What are some other cost considerations for a home renovation?

Permit for Landed Property Renovation

If you are going to do significant renovations on a landed property (extensions, changing doorway position, etc.) that will change the façade, you must apply for a renovation permit with your local municipal council.


To obtain this permit, you would need to hire an architect to create a plan of your house design, which would then be submitted with the necessary paperwork for approval. As a result, depending on the size and complexity of the project, the amount could be quite substantial. To give you an idea, if you are doing a two-storey extension on your landed property, you should budget around RM3,000 for the architect's consultation fees, which include site measurement and drawing of the plan for form submission.


In addition, you will be required to pay an additional RM2,500 for processing fees, a deposit, and waste bins for the disposal of your renovation waste. This would, once again, be determined by the scope of your renovation. If your build is completed according to the approved plan, your deposit will be refunded.


If your plans are extensive, such as a structural rebuild of the house, you will also need to hire an engineer to create a structural submission to validate the safety of your plan. Your local municipal council will decide on this.


Deposit for renovations

While this amount is refundable once your project is finished, you should budget for it because, depending on the length and timeline of your renovation, you may not have access to it for some time. Most condos would require it even if you were only doing basic cabinetry work. That means that if you plan to do your renovation in stages, you may have to keep your deposit for an extended period of time.


The amount varies depending on the condo and, in some cases, the size of your condo, but it is typically between RM2,000 and RM3,000.


5. Home renovation/remodeling interior design costs

Most interior design (ID) prices in Malaysia that are structured by larger firms are 'turnkey projects,' meaning that the firm you hire is responsible for the end-to-end design, renovation, and sourcing of major furnishings up until the keys are handed over to you. By the time they are finished, the house is usually ready to move into.


Smaller companies may be more willing to create a more personalised design for you based on different areas of the house.


If you hire an interior designer for a medium-sized condo of 1,000 to 1,500 sq ft, regardless of how simple the design, you can expect to pay between RM150,000 and RM200,000. If you choose a more luxurious design for a larger space, ID costs can easily exceed RM800,000 for turnkey projects. ID work on a landed home, no matter how simple, will set you back more than RM500,000.


Important note: While you may feel more at ease with a company that quotes you a fixed price for a build from the start and promises not to raise the price, be wary of this. Make certain that they are also committed to material quality. This is because there is a risk that some ID firms will quote you a fixed price from the start and then compensate for rising material costs by providing you with more inferior materials that may not last as long. If you have some wiggle room in your budget and are particular about the materials used, you could choose a firm that would bill you for each phase of the project based on the materials used.


6. Should real estate investors spend money renovating or remodelling their rental property?

If you have recently purchased a property and intend to rent it out, what kind of renovations should you consider, and is it even worthwhile to spend that money?


Making your property more rentable

These days, the rental market is extremely competitive. The majority of people are looking for a better deal. Many landlords have had to reduce their rental rates in order to find tenants, though there is a limit to how low you can go.


One way to distinguish yourself is to invest some money in your unit to make it stand out from the other people in your development who are also looking to rent out their space. Tasteful features such as a nice kitchen, beautiful flooring, good lighting, and a paint job can increase the rentability of your unit.


Increased rental yield

Properties that have been well-renovated or have had ID work done usually command a higher rental yield than a bare unit that appears rundown. This can be as much as 10 - 20% more in some cases.


Renovate in accordance with the target tenant.

However, this does not imply that if you spend a lot of money renovating your property, the demand for it will be high and the rental yield will be higher.


For example, if you have a small studio or loft in a business district, it may be more worthwhile to invest a little more money in renovations, specifically furniture and appliances to make your unit move-in ready, given that your unit will be targeted by single professionals who may not have a lot of furniture and appliances of their own.


On the other hand, if your property is a larger unit in a suburban area with a more family-centric feel, you may want to limit the appliances to the bare necessities like air conditioners and a refrigerator because your unit may attract families who have their own furniture or appliances. Instead, putting more money into the actual unit, such as a nice bathroom, an open kitchen, and nice laminate flooring, may make your unit stand out more.


We hope that this guide has given you an idea of how much a renovation project might cost you. Again, these are only estimates because many factors influence the cost of renovation work, including the size of your space, the quality of materials and fixtures, and the complexity of the work. A simple sink tap, for example, could cost anywhere between RM60 and RM2,000. The solution is to find the best possible balance between what you want and what it will cost you.


If all else fails, do your renovation in stages, beginning with the most visible ones like wet works and tiling and deferring things like cabinet and wardrobe work until you can afford it. The point is that it is entirely up to you to plan the renovation you desire.

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