Home Renovation Question

We are considering buying a 30 year old 1 story lakeside home with basement and renovating it. It is 30 X 40 ft with zero architectural features, tiny windows and only siding. It has 8 ft ceilings and the roof has hardly any pitch.
The basement only has 4 sides of walls and the heating unit. It has a dirt floor and is fairly musty smelling now. 3 sides could have windows.
Currently the basement is cement block and actually is at ground level. The main living area currently is on the second floor as you face the house. You get to the door by walking on a deck.
We could do a cool craftsman style house if we could dig out the basement and convert this to a two story house.
Is it possible to inexpensively take a musty cement block basement, give it a brick or stone exterior plus hardiplank and actually have it look like it was made to be a first floor?
If we don't go down to the basement, our garage will be 1 story down which is a real hassle. Also, I can't figure how to do a cool craftsman style house where the only place to put the porch and columns is suspended on a deck one floor from ground level as you face the house.
Any suggestions? The only reason we want this house is that it has a gorgeous view of a lake.
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Sounds like the one I rented a long time ago. From your description, I'd tear it down and re-build the house I wanted. Tom
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BettyM wrote:

Pay an hourly fee to an architect. Choose the architect based on recent projects you like. TB
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inexpensively'. I worked on a lot of lakefront houses as a kid. Sloped lots, so walkouts or piling houses were common. A hillside house has 2 problems- hillside slump, and drainage. The house is in the way of water coming down the hill, and often, the entire house slides downhill a fraction of inch each year. Not a problem, as long as it does it in a controlled fashion. Before you make the deal, if the current owner is willing to play along, you need to get a soil engineer and an architect out there to do a site survey, and see if what you want to do is practical at that site. Digging a deep crawlspace out to make a full basement is usually doable on a flat lot, but the slope, local soil conditions, and water drainage patterns may make it impractical there. The two experts together can tell you what is possible/practical for the existing structure and conditions. They probably built it the way they did for a reason. Might be cheaper to knock it down and start over, if your budget can stand it. If there is road access, and it is in good shape, the existing house could get sold to move elsewhere, like to a flat lot- that may get a few bucks back for you. But that is already out of the cheap arena. From your description, it almost sounds like a manufactured home- if so, moving it would be considerably cheaper and easier than a site-built house would be. Is there an obvious seam in the floor framing down the centerline, looking up from below? (ie, the joists from each side do not overlap over the steel or wood beam that sits on the support posts) If so, it is probably a manufactured house that was delivered in 2 halves, and dropped by crane onto a cheap foundation. The architect will be able to tell in seconds, once he sees it.
aem sends...
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That all sounds good but cost money. I'm sure that collectively, all the strangers reading a newsgroup, some thousands of miles away, can give him the information he needs. We are, after all, a very trustworthy group and would never give bad information. Besides, if he is 50' from the water and it only slides an inch a year, no problem in his lifetime.
Hey Bubba, grab your shovel and a six-pack. We got a new job!
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Ameijers . . . you actually pegged this problem correctly. It is a very old manufactured home. In the front yard is a 4 ft. retaining wall. The backyard is heavily terraced with old telephone poles. We are hoping to get a new septic system passed and that is yet another hurdle.
Structurally, experts who look at this house say it is sound. It doesn't look like a manufactured home even to an architect that inspected it. The architect said he couldn't work with us though when we said we wanted to remodel and possibly add a new floor on the footprint . . . guess it wasn't worth his time.
One builder looked at this home and said we should start from scratch. $10K and it could be gone. :)
The builder said he may be able to dig out the basement. He said if we stay on the footprint and don't go up we could easily recover our investment if we ever need to sell. He is not sure we would recover if we dump another $300K into this project.
This house is in a very desirable intown neighborhood with million dollar houses surrounding it. The lake view is incredible which is its only appeal.
Unfortunately we have to do a remodel for two reasons:
1. We will be cash poor after paying an outrageous amount for this home.
2. New home construction will negate the grandfather status on its zoning and septic system which does not meet current requirements.
We want to spend about $150K on renovations. If we can go down to the basement and start our first floor to give us another 1200 sq ft, maybe we won't blow the budget.
However, I am not sure we can get 9 ft ceilings, remove the mold smell, completely block out all moisture and not have a basement feel. Can using the basement as a first floor ever be a good option?
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{random bits deleted above}
Why don't you build a web-site with photos or diagrams of all four elevations, the attic, the basement, the plot-plan, and a description of the dirt and underlying rock, and include how many people are going to be living there for how long? Post the URL and ask again, and maybe you can get answers and suggestions that aren't in a vacuum.
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