In pics: Lea and Troy’s renovation.
For Lea and Troy Horton, renovation success is about perfection and perseverance. When experts told them they couldn't put an infinity pool into a cliff face they refused to listen and Lea once spent two days and nights painstakingly undoing grey grouting that should have been laid in white.
"It wasn't good enough – when you renovate you want to have it perfect – you should love it like you plan to keep it, even if you don't," said Lea of the derelict two bedroom home she and husband Troy bought for $900,000 and sold for $2.8m after a renovation that cost around $1m.
The stunning cliff-top home situated on Hickson road overlooking the ocean represents a complete transformation from the derelict home that Lea managed to purchase after four weeks spent door knocking in the area.
"It was a knock down job. Actually we planned to keep some original structure but in the end everything we touched crumbled," said Lea.
This was the couple's second renovation attempt and presented a much greater challenge than the first (a smaller home bought for $345,000 and sold for $1,178,000 after a renovation which cost them around $200,000
Lea acknowledges that the confidence won from the first renovation was an important factor behind their decision to take on the colossal task of transforming the Hickson street property.
"No one thought we could accomplish it – it was in the 'too hard' basket for a lot of local builders," said Lea of their plans for the landscaped backyard with an 11 metre infinity pool. “In the end we had to call in people from outside of Newcastle because no-one here would to take it on."
The Hortons who are involved in a family owned furniture business, take turns managing the build. Lea managed the first property while Troy managed the Hickson Street property although Lea was on site every day – a scenario which presented its challenges given she also busy raising two young children.
Lea recalls the weather being one of the toughest elements. "It's very unpredictable here in Newcastle and being on a cliff face, the wind and rain would come through and ruin a day's work – but we had to pick ourselves up and keep going. You have to focus on the positives," she said.
The high point was undoubtedly pushing the project that many said couldn't be done across the finish line in such stunning form. "We had people pulling up in amazement to see what we had done, it had such 'wow' factor and there just aren't many homes like that In Newcastle."
To prove that point, the property sold after just three weeks on the market at a record price for the area.
Lea attributes their success to a few factors. First, they stayed true to their vision refusing to be talked down on issues like the pool and the tile grouting. "Every little detail matters no matter how small," said Lea.
Second, the couple went to great lengths to surround themselves with an expert team of trades people whom they trusted implicitly. "I would always check them out, mostly I would visit their last clients for a kind of review, you just can't be too careful".
Finally, for a renovation of this scale, they sought out an architect who felt as much passion for the project as they did. "He gets as excited as we do and he knows how I think. When we work together we always come up with amazing things," said Lea.
For the Horton's, the challenge was daunting but ultimately exciting enough to propel them onwards. "At the time you think 'this is too hard, I'll never do it again' but then time goes by and you want to – you can't wait - you crave it."
The couple are currently renovating their third property set opposite the beach. "Troy and the kids love this one so it's a bit sad to think we'll sell. We're always putting the kids' hands in cement thinking that maybe we'll stay – and all the time they are growing up around the renovation.
"And who knows – maybe this time we will!" added Lea.