Monday, September 04, 2006

Thinking Through Additions/Remodeling Projects

When I was a young girl, I was fascinated by the story of the Shunammite woman who built a guest room for Elijah. I loved her example of hospitality (And, at the same time, a future HGTV watcher was born!)
At one time or another many homeowners consider re-modeling, adding, or at the very least, re-decorating their homes. Often, the results are lovely and add to the comfort of family and friends. And, in some cases, they add to the monetary value of the home as well.
Often, houses do need to be expanded to meet the needs of growing families. And, all houses need some re-furbishing from time to time, so as not to fall into disrepair.
However, when considering a home improvement project, here are a few questions to ask:
1) Do I live in an area where the cost of this project would price my house out of selling range? Would the improvements make the house harder to sell or easier? Do we want the project badly enough to do it anyway, even if it means that we or our heirs might have a hard time selling it later? This is something to think about even if you live in a rural area, with lots of farm acerage between houses.
Our not-too-far-away neighbors refinished their basement to make a gathering space. It was complete with a kitchinette, a bathroom, a place to project TV onto a huge screen, "stadium" style tiers of comfy seats for viewing the screen," a foosball table, a little seating area with a table, a pinball machine, and soundproofing. This area served their family's needs. They often invited people over to watch a football game or listen to her "oldies" band play. This additonal space kicked up their finished square feet so that they became the largest and most expensive house in the neigborhood.
But, a few years later, they moved to another state. Their house sat on the market a long time. Not many people wanted to buy the most expensive house around. One family that did not watch TV at all looked at it and rejected it in favor of a smaller home in the same neighborhood. This family had to make double house payments -- in their new home state and on the home they left behind for many months. Finally, the right buyer for this house came along.
2) Will this project add to or detract from the value of a historic home? Many families live in delightful old farm or city houses that do need modern kitchen appliances, heating and cooling, and bathrooms. However, if you update an old home, you will want to do this in a way that does not detract from the historic value.
In the 1960's, father and aunt sold a family that had been in my grandmother's family since the 1870's. It is located in a very small town. At the time, it was all the rage to drop the ceilings of old houses and to completely re-work old houses so that they looked "modern". That is what the new owner did. In the 2000's, when people buy old Victorian houses, they often spend a lot of money knocking out former re-modeling projects in order to restore the home's original glory. Therefore, they are reluctant to pay full price for something that has been re-modeled badly.
3) Is our decorating style so distinct that it would put off potential buyers. Again, if so, do we love this style so much that we are willing to do it without thinking of re-sale?
When we bought our house, a developer was still building homes in our neigborhood. The house next-to-us had been bought by a family who had lived in it only a year or two and then needed to re-locate. The woman, apparently, had painted her house attractively, but in a very certain "decorator" type style that she had copied from decorating magazines. Even the ceilings were painted in strong colors.
This house sat on the market for months and months, as well. Buyers preferred to deal directly with the developer, so that they could choose their own fixtures and paints. Finally, a family came along whose furniture just happened to work with this woman's distinct style, and they bought the house.
4) Will this re-modeling project be "user-friendly" when we are older and less able to maintain our house and garden? When my parents-in-law retired, they built a lovely home with a studio for him to paint and a studio to quilt and for children and grandchildren to come home. They loved to garden, and they put in huge flower beds and a nice-sized vegetable garden. But, they also love to travel. They found that between traveling and some minor health problems creeping up here and there, they needed to take out some of their gardens and replace them with lawn. They built their home with top-grade materials. At the time, the majority of their children lived in the same town with them. But, through various circumstances, the majority of their children now live in another, more expensive town. They would like to move to be nearer their children, but are finding it hard to build or find an equally nice house in the other town.
5) Is the improvement I'm making one that is popular in our area and that will make our home easier to sell? Get advice for your specific locale. But, in general, you can re-coup your investments in kitchens or bathrooms.
Some couples buy a house and live in it all of their married lives. But, the future is in God's hands, and, since we don't always know what plans he has in store with us, we can't be certain we will stay in the same home for forty or fifty years. In fact, if your family is in the ministry or the military, you can be almost certain that you will move a number of times.

Speaking of re-modeling, I have inadvertently done something wild to my little home on the web. I am dangerous with HTML code. :) My PhD computer whiz of a husband is trying to un-do my "remodeling" project. So, in the meantime, please bear with me.


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