Monday, April 30, 2007

Getting It Right the Second Time: To Remodel or Not to Remodel

Sometimes the house that was once your dream home is challenged by the changing realities in your life. Then it's time to decide whether to change the house you're in, or just change houses.
Your family may not be the same one that originally moved in – kids arrive, or people start to work more at home, and the house suddenly seems smaller or unsuited to new needs. Or maybe your new-home search has just been taking too long, and you've decided to try and make your current one "new" instead.
This is a major undertaking that calls for serious consideration before moving forward. Are you so happy with your current neighborhood that you'd like to do as much as possible to avoid moving, or are you ready for a change of area? Can your family take the strain, and your business the disruption, of a project that will demand a significant shift of routine and even displacement of living arrangements?
There are practical considerations to add to these emotional and financial ones. You'll want to find out if the changes you have in mind are compatible with local planning, zoning and building rules. And you'll want to consult with designers and architects as to the feasibility – and approximate cost – of those changes. A related and crucial consideration is the future value of your house for resale if you remodel but still later wish to move. This is important because increasing your home's resale value through renovation is not necessarily a given.
The reason is not just that remodeling can compromise a home's aesthetics and efficiency – though this is a significant concern; rather than buying another home to suit new needs, remaking one forces you to work around existing systems (such as plumbing) and can lead to eccentric and unwieldy spaces. The consequences of the renovation working "too well" could be equally disadvantageous to you: a house that is much bigger than others near it, or otherwise uncommon in its neighborhood, can disrupt its location and be priced beyond what anyone looking in that area is willing to pay.
To make sure all of your domestic dreams are good ones, do some planning and consider consulting a real estate professional (who can help with everything from architect referrals to advice on what renovations are right for your market). This will make all the difference between building to a problem and modeling homeownership happiness.