A Great Time To Remodel

A Great Time To Remodel


t's a great time to remodel, as described by Tom Russell, project architect at Hendricks Architecture.

Remodeling and improving existing homes has taken on a new importance as the practice of cosmetic makeovers and flipping homes has all but disappeared for the time being. I believe that the rapid turnover of houses that was common a few years ago will be replaced by a more long term vision of home, and with that comes the desire to have a home that will meet your functional needs for many years, one that will be affordable to own, and that you can take pride in.

We have received many more inquiries on remodels and additions lately. People are choosing to remodel for a number of reasons:

  • Construction costs are low relative to what they have been in the recent past.
  • Government tax incentives are making energy efficient upgrades more affordable.
  • Homeowners interested in selling in the next few years are seeing the need to make their homes stand out in a market that is saturated with homes for sale.
  • Many people's net worth has been affected by the current economic conditions, and their plans to build a new home have been put on hold.
  • Homeowners who were hoping to build can't sell the home they live in now, or their equity position in their home won't provide them enough revenue to build the home they want.
  • Quality contractors who used to do only new construction and were booked well in advance are available and willing to do remodel work.
  • Bargains in the housing market have allowed buyers to purchase discounted homes in desirable neighborhoods and modify them to meet their needs.
  • People like where they live, but find that there are things about their home they don't like.
A recent home addition under construction, designed by Hendricks Architecture.
A home addition under construction, designed by Hendricks Architecture. The old home was torn down and a new one was added to an existing garage, which was face-lifted.

In my mind, there are several reasons to consider remodeling an existing home:

  • If you like where you live but you don't like the style of your home, it isn't performing well, or your space needs are changing.
  • Remodeling will improve your enjoyment and appreciation of the home you already live in.
  • Some remodel strategies can improve your home's value in excess of what they cost. Taxable values often don't reflect the value of these increases.
  • Improving the "curb appeal" of your home will likely lead to faster sales and a higher selling price.
  • For those interested in a sustainable or green approach to housing, remodeling makes a lot of sense. Reusing and improving an existing structure is often less impactful than building new. The LEED green building rating system for buildings offers several credits for utilizing existing buildings and for material reuse.

Depending on your circumstances, remodeling rather than buying a new home may be a wise choice. Before you decide to remodel your existing home or think about buying a home that will need future upgrades, keep in mind the following:

  • A big mistake I see all the time is the Homeowner/ Home Depot remodel. Most people lack the knowledge, equipment and time to do a quality remodel job that looks good and meets safety codes. Discriminating buyers who appreciate thoughtful details, quality craftsmanship, and integrated design can usually tell right away if a project was done by professionals. My advice is to hire an Architect, Interior Designer, and a Contractor who has a lot of remodel experience.
  • Depending on the extent of your project, moving out of the house for a period of time may be the only option. If you do decide to stay, be aware that a construction project in an occupied home is always disruptive, usually slower, and will definitely require some sacrifice on your part.
  • The payback (in resale value) of some remodels is often less than the investment. Improvements that are less visible (insulation, new windows, re-wiring or re-plumbing) tend to have a lower payback than things like a new kitchen, a bedroom addition, or a new deck. If you are thinking of remodeling to increase your home value, do your homework and a cost/ benefit analysis before deciding how to proceed. This is one area where an Architect can be helpful.
  • If you plan on staying put for a while, some improvements may be worth doing simply to increase the enjoyment of your home and how well it functions for you.
  • It can be difficult to get a fixed price contract for a remodel project because there are usually many unknowns until the work begins. Depending on the complexity of the project and what is found under the finishes, remodeling can be more expensive than building new. This is another area where an Architect can be a valuable resource. They can help you execute a good contract that is fair to everyone, and watch costs and billings closely to make sure you are getting what you pay for.
  • It may be worth offering a contractor financial incentives to finish quickly, or adding a liquidated damages clause (financial penalty for exceeding a set completion date) to your contract.
  • Be wary of spending a lot of money to create the nicest home in the neighborhood. The context your home is in will have a lot to do with its resale value.

I have done several remodels for myself, and I have taken part in many remodels as a project manager and as a carpenter. The most important thing I learned from these experiences is that a major remodel is a serious undertaking that requires a lot of planning, a knowledgeable contractor, a flexible budget, and a sense of humor. Hiring skilled professionals will eliminate many of the headaches of remodeling, and will insure better results. It is essential to have good guidance in making decisions and knowing how to get the most for your remodeling dollar. Feel free to contact us if you have questions, or if a remodel project is in your future.

Tom Russell, LEED AP, Project Architect

Hendricks Architecture, mountain architects located in Sandpoint, Idaho.

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