Remodel or sell--how to decide? (long)

Page 1 of 2  
I'm struggling with the decision whether I should remodel my current home or sell it and buy something newer with more of the features I want. My current home was built in 1929 and has two stories along with a partially-finished basement (carpeted and sheet-rock walls, but no ceiling). I'm a single person with a middle-class income and very limited home-repair skills (know how to mud and tape like the amateur I am, know how to hang curtain rods, have built a fence with assistance) so I'd have to hire most of the work. Here are the things I love about this home:
Location--quite street, corner lot, nice-sized lot Original white oak floors, recently professionally refinished Original built-ins and chandelier in dining room Original double-hung windows with the lovely wavy glass (but not in the best repair and not in all rooms) Crystal door-knobs Lovely wood-burning fireplace Roomy basement (currently used as storage and junk) Solid, quiet, safe ambiance of an older home
Here are the things which would need fixing/remodeling:
*Electricity (was last upgraded in 1962!)--lots of cloth-covered wire still exists, many rooms need more outlets and/or lights, breaker box is at capacity and needs updating
*Furnace--don't have one. Electic baseboard heat only, no AC (electricity is dirt cheap here so it's not as bad as it sounds, but the heaters are ugly and I'd love AC)
*Basement--needs ceiling. Is only 7 feet high, so it would have to be sheet-rocked, else my 6'5 son won't be able to stand up down there.
*Basement also needs more lighting--it's very dim.
*Main level--kitchen needs to be re-configured (was last done in the Great Remodel Of The 70's). New cabinets, new floor, appliances.
*Garage--Tiny little thing that barely fits my mid-sized sedan. Would love a new 2-car garage with some storage.
*Second floor--repairs needed to bathroom. Currently, only the toilet is usable. Sink leaks and there is a window IN the shower, so we don't use it either of those. Need more outlets in bedroom.
*Kitchen/Utility/Bath/MasterCloset--part or all of these rooms apparently were on a back porch before the Great Remodel. Bathroom needs to be gutted and the whole area re-configured. Right now, I could sit on the pot and wave at people on the front porch if the door was open (I don't do that, but I could). The tub is a regular fiberglass enclosure, but it's "sunken" because of the whacky roofline and you have to step down into it.
This last item will obviously be the most spendy because it would most likely involve tearing out walls and re-shaping the roofline to add a little room and get rid of that pitch. If I were to do this, I would also re-do the upstairs bath which is directly over the downstairs one.
I know I need to get an estimate from a contractor. I bought the home for around $125k four years ago, but I'm sure it's worth more now because of rising housing costs in my town. It would be a lot easier just to sell this house and buy something else but I love the location and really, what's the difference between a $40k loan to remodel or getting a mortgage for $40k more?
Note: I'm not necessarily asking for someone to tell me which route to take; rather, I'd love input on how others have arrived at their decision between remodeling vs selling. What factors did you weigh? What finally tipped the scales for you, whichever way you went?
Lauri in WA
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
You start off by listing everything you love about the home. You list all the things that need upgrading, but nowhere did you mention anything about the home that you hate. Nothing in your list is unhealthy, or really dangerous, or structurally unsound. All of it can be fixed. If you don't have enough money, learn how to do some of the things yourself. The internet and books can be a great source of information. The feeling of accomplishment can be a wonderful thing. For the stuff you can't handle, hire someone, but I see no compelling reason to get it all done at once. The most important thing about a home is location and neighbors. If you buy a nicer home, and find out that you hate the neighborhood or (worse yet) your next door neighbors, you'll be truly sorry that you moved. Without a doubt, I vote for you staying there.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Lauri,
I'd say it really depends on how much you love your current home & location. The work you're describing sounds super major both in $$s and contractors' time. Also, are you able to live happily in a construction mess for a lengthy period of time.
What I'd suggest doing is to call in a Realtor saying that you're considering selling/buying and need advise vs. remodeling. Even given that a Realtor's mindset is to have you sell/buy rather than remodel, I think you'd be able to get an estimate from them on what your current home would sell for (and what small improvements should be made prior to selling) and that they'd be able to show you newer homes in the area that could be bought for $40k-ish more than you'd sell for. Check out the newer homes and see if the convenience of heat/AC/new kitchen/2-car garage, etc. make the current home less desirable to you than it is now.
Craig
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 08 Jan 2006 19:15:42 GMT, "Craig"

Thanks for the good advice, Craig. This is something I will consider. I really, really do love this neighborhood, but I know that I could also learn to love another, equally nice neighborhood with a newer home. Your point about living with construction mess is a good one. Sigh. What I really need is a very handy boyfriend, but I guess that's a post for a different newsgroup. :)
I could probably get by with a reduced list of wants/needs, but if I'm being honest, it doesn't make much sense to do something like close in the basement ceiling with a bunch of 75-year-old wiring behind it and it's tough to add new outlets when the breaker box is pretty much at capacity. So you can see how the whole project has expanded into a potential major remodel!
Lauri in WA
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
If you want an idea about current home prices and features, go to a realtor and ask to see their multi-list book. You can do that without ever having a realtor come to your home. I understand what Craig is saying, but unfortunately it doesn't always work that way, especially for a woman. Some realtors are honest, but some are unscrupulous and will say almost anything to get you to list the home. Don't fall for any lines, and don't sign anything without thinking it over. Don't assume you can learn to love another neighborhood. Many people have horror stories about neighbors.
If you decide to stay, one of the first things you want to do is get heat and central a/c installed. After you do that, you can easily rip out the old electric baseboard heat yourself. Then you might not need a new electric panel, because you'll have a lot of empty spots from the electric heat breakers. You also might be able to use some of the existing electric heat wiring for more outlets. An electrician can advise you on that.
If you decide to hire a contractor, he should clean up after himself every day, and that should be in the contract.
wrote...

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
About 20 years ago, I would have said to remodel.
But these days it is very expensive to remodel. And ridiculously expensive to pay someone else to do it. i.e. $30,000.00 kitchen remodel jobs, $5,000.00 just for the kitchen countertop, etc.
So I would advise you to look at homes for sale and see what you like, see if you can afford what you want, then make a decision. If you buy a home which already has the features you want, then you will know in advance how much it will cost. Every project I get involved with for my home (do-it-yourself) winds up costing a whole lot more than I ever imagined.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

On the other hand, to refurbish a new space to one's comfort (no remods, but replacing carpet, refinishing floors, etc.) costs more than usually imagined, too. Even new construction with options bought - everyone I know ends up replacing and refurbishing within a few years, and there are decks and landscaping to be added, etc.
I dunno what's right. It's really a question of what path gets one to where one wants to be, within what one can afford and tolerate.
I'm biased toward remodelling, if the location/neighborhood is good. A change to either of these can lead to unexpected surprises. (But a crappy neighbor can move in, too, but that's a smaller risk than swapping out the whole neighborhood!)
Banty
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Lauri wrote:

Location location location. Do you like where you are?
Take a look around you. Would your home be worth more than those around you after you have finished the remodel? If so it is not a good candidate. You don't want the most expensive home in the area. They are bad investments.
Consider the total cost of getting what you want done to your home, and then do some serious hunting for the home you would like. Find the one you like best and then compare what you would have after fixing yours up and what the other one would cost you, factoring in all the fees and expense involved.
--
Joseph Meehan

Dia duit
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 08 Jan 2006 20:23:00 GMT, "Joseph Meehan"

Yes, I love my neighborhood. But there is a vacant lot across the street, and the construction that will soon happen could either be very good (retirement condo with a few lovely units) or very bad (what if they don't sell...could it turn into Section 9 rentals?)

Honestly, it could turn out to be the most expensive. Most of the homes are like mine--70 to 80 years old, well built, but in need of updates. We all seem to have the interesting combination of lovely built-ins and hardwood floors, with sparkly formica countertops in the bathrooms. :) If I were to remodel, I wouldn't go with all the granite and zillion-dollar cabinets, simply because I can't afford it and I think the granite/stainless steel look will likely become as dated as Harvest Gold/Avacado is today. But still, I could end up with the most expensive home on our block of modest dwellings.

I'm going to an Open House today to start my research. Thanks!
Lauri in WA
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I doubt if anyone would buy a new condo, then turn around and rent it out to government subsidized low income tenants who might or might not trash the place. It's human nature to have a fear of the unknown, but what happens if a tall, dark, handsome, single guy moves in there?
wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Depends a lot on your temperment. I would NEVER consider undergoing major renovations on a home. Wouldn't want to put up with the mess and the timespan to complete the renovations, which always seems to extend long beyond the estimate given by the contractor before he/she started the job. Dealing with renovation contractors is a potential minefield of problems and costly extras that weren't included in the estimate. In renovation work, the contractor can run into time-consuming and expensive problems that weren't evident before starting the work and will expect to be paid for the additional time and materials required to solve the problems. Life during a renovation project can be a nightmare. I would never consider exposing myself to the uncertainties or major renovations. I would sell a home I wasn't happy with in a heartbeat and buy one that had the amenities I valued. FWIW Ric

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Ric Shaw wrote:

Not to mention if you just pick the wrong contractor.......we remodled our home two years ago and hired a general contractor who had done some work for us in the past on an older home. While we liked him a lot, turns out he was unable to manage a big project (very little project management skills). We ended up coordinating the activities of his sub-contractors just because he was so inept. We were just glad to get it finished.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Yes to all of the above. But one would have to buy new construction, probably custom, to get there without the reno, no? Or at least be happy with most everything out there.
As an example of a somewhat different temprament, though, I don't expect at home (at my work in microelectronics production it's quite different!) that everything work perfectly the first time, happen right on schedule, etc. To me, what's important is that the job be done right, and I be worked with as far as keeping essentials in operation (like my only bathroom when it was reno'd!), and I can communicate well with a good contractor and crew to work out the glitches. Since the END product is exactly (given budget etc.) what I want, up to date, new, and livable, for the coming decade or more, it's worth it. Heck, it's something of an adventure. And I have a more-than-one-way-to-skin-a-cat attitude, too. And by time the contract is even written, I've already pulled up some flooring, broken into a wall, whatever, or at least saying "I'll be there when you open that up, downstairs looks like there was a leak in the past".
I'm strongly process-oriented, though, always have been. It's the temprament thing. If I know the good end product is upcoming, and I have confidence in the contractor, the dust, noise, hassle, rigamarole and inconvenience, and even schedule uncertainities are - interesting. If one is really goal oriented, yes, it can be frustrating. That also means if one lives with goal-oriented people (like a spouse), have small children or other endeavors that have to be maintained in the meantime, it's hard even if one would be OK with the whole process and all the disruptions by oneself.
It all depends. There's an acronym in my home newsgroup that applies - YMMV - Your Mileage May Vary.
Banty
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Ric Shaw says...

Banty points out what to me is the biggest pitfall of not renovating. You need to be happy with the house someone else designed and built. Despite the mess and headaches that come with remodeling, I have definite wants and needs in my home, and am willing to put up with messes and headaches to get those. No matter what house I buy, I'm going to have to customize it. So I buy for location, and a basic floorplan I can work around, and go from there. We've remodeled our past house twice, and our present house twice in the 12 years we've lived here. Right now there is nothing else I'd need, so it's fine. (And I keep saying this is our last house.) But I know, in the future, there will be some function that I can't forsee that I'll want to add, and the construction guys will be back.
That said, I wouldn't over customize a home (or make it the fanciest in the neighborhood) unless I have plans to live there at least 20 years. The OP's description of the neighborhood would give me pause. That, and I can't imagine any major remodel costing less than the price of her home. But then again, I live in the SF bay area.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Yep.
Well, you have to be flexible either way. If you're inflexible about a reno, the glitches will drive you crazy. But you have to be flexible to like a house without reno, too.
I'm (slowly) renovating the little ranch house I bought nearly 12 years ago. Now, twelve years ago, I was a single mom of a baby, and was NOT going to move any walls (though some refurbishment was OK with me), and bought for floor plan, price, condition, and location. And a kitchen with LOTS of storage space, and perfectly servicable (though old) appliances. Very happy with it - no reno. I didn't have the energy, time, knowledge, or money to renovate or even think about how the house would work better for us if it were set up differently.
NOW, we're two big people in the house, crashing (literally) into some layout problems in the over-built kitchen (previous owners had added a lot of cabinets, small people, and made a couple of bottlenecks doing it), the appliances are reaching the half-century mark and failing, I have more time and energy, and a higher salary, and more 'mindspace' to have a vision for the house. Things like rooms on the bottom floor set up specifically for hobby spaces.
But no reason to actually change location, or need more actual living space. And just about all new construction around here is hideously big, or I'd need to buy a plot and get a custom, 1500 - 2000 sq.ft. house built. People *do* do that around here, but that's especially costly per square foot.
So, the renovations started.
Banty
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I'm shocked. Shocked, mind you, and almost unsure if this is still USENET ;-) Here we have an original post, several sensible replies, quick re-replies from Lauri...and not a troll or know-it-all to be seen. Just joking--if only this was not the exception in newsgroups!
One potentially final reply from me, Lauri.
If going the remodel route (which sounds scary to me given all you've said in your first post), take a look at some solid kitchen counter tops rather than just replacing with new laminate. When on sale, the less-expensive-than-granite options like Silestone or Corian will really add to a kitchen renovation. They're worth checking out at a place like Home Depot or whatever and if you go in with your rough current counter dimensions, you can get a good ballpark figure for the total bill. I put in Silestone (cheaper than granite and no annual/semi-annual sealing required) and really love it. Of course, with any solid countertop material, you will have the option also of undermounting the sink--very nice, too. Figure $200 for a new sink, $100 for a new faucet and an extra $200 labor if undermounting. Home Depot has a great store-brand sink, the Pegasus brand "granite" sink in black or white. It's something like 80% granite and 20% resin.
Re: Sell/Buy As another has said, maybe avoiding the Realtor in your home is smart right now as there is a lot you can do on your own. You can certainly visit open houses and check your local MLS on the internet for newer homes to buy. Also, if your area is like mine, homes often sell in a very narrow range of dollars/sq.ft. of living area. Armed with your area's price per sq. ft., a quick measurement of your home could estimate what you could sell it for.
Craig
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 08 Jan 2006 22:44:24 GMT, "Craig"

Haha, well, you never know....perhaps I'm just stealthily gathering names for my new SPAM business! Gotta pay for these remodels somehow, ya know!

Thanks...I'll save this post to refer to. A friend recently had granite tiles done on his kitchen counter, and that looks nice. Plus, it's tons cheaper than a slab of solid polished granite.
Why does my remodel sound scary? Just because of the size of it? The scary part, to me, would be if I did the downstairs bathroom/laundry/kitchen gut job. Mostly because it would involve changing the roofline, which is major. And I know kitchen cabinets can be expensive.

I went to an Open House today. The home was built in the 1940's and had been remodeled/trimmed out by a master carpenter. It was beautiful from top to bottom--vintage doors, perfect 50 year old hardwood floors, built-in oak bookcases, crown molding, baseboard, trim, etc. 3000 square feet of beautifully restored home for a mere quarter of a million dollars. Gahhh. It's going to take me awhile to forget that house, as it was gorgeous and so well cared-for.
What I'll probably end up doing is having the wiring re-done (as much as possible without wrecking my plaster) and then doing some cosmetic work in the basement. If I do those things, and repair the upstairs bath, that'll go a long ways towards making me happy for now.
Thanks for all the input!
Lauri in WA
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Lauri wrote:

1/4 mil. will buy a little dingy shack on a palm sized lot here in Calgary. That house sounds nice for looking but what's underneath, between walls, above the ceiling? Wiring, plumbing, whole shebang of things to check out. Tony
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

It's all in the market. 1/4 million would buy a shack in the Seattle area as well, but I'm a couple hours east of there where you can still buy a very nice place for that amount. Of course an inspection would be done before any home purchase but for that amount of money in this market, you'd be buying a pretty nice home in most cases. I was in the basement workshop area and looked at the ceiling, where I saw lots of nice copper plumbing.
Lauri in WA
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote...

That's strange I know someone who lives in a 1800sqft home in Calgary that's worth $140,000. If you really want to play with the big boys come visit us in Vancouver, BC :)
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.