Build or Remodel
Allow me to add the homeowner & chronic DIY-er’s perspective here: I vote old over new, for just the reasons already mentioned here. However, a few things you should have in your “tool kit” as the homeowner:
1) A good marriage/stable relationship: If you and your significant other are not 100% eye-to-eye on this venture and ready to be each other’s main cheerleading section, forget it. Thank God I’ve never had this problem but I have had friends who’ve gone for the jugular during remodeling.
2) Money: No matter how much you have, it’s not enough. Guaranteed. (Rent the old movie “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream Home” with Cary Grant and Myrna Loy for reference.) You will — for certain — fall under the romantic spell of the old place and nothing will be good enough but top-of-the-line everything. You will be able to see the place in your dreams the way it “should be” and you will want to spend accordingly.
3) Patience: Get used to living in an unholy mess. Becuase you will not have enough of #2 (Money), you will wind up living with things torn apart and half-finished far longer than you thought a human being ever could or should (see any episode of “Green Acres” for a preview of your new living conditions).
If you have these three (in spades) you stand a good chance of success. If you stick it out long enough, you will also have a jewel of an old place to call home. Best wishes — Buck
Well, you didn't say if the house had a lot of unique charm,
exceptional mouldings, floors, stairways, etc. That stuff
makes me want to buy and remodel. If it's just another
drab, unimaginative, faceless farmhouse built for average or
less farmers with lower budgets, then why bother?
My dad bought a nice farm with interesting land and a dumb,
boring, cobbled up house. Stuck a wad into adding on, but
left most of the foremer house the way it was. Now he wants
to sell it, and everyone likes the addition but wonders why
he didn't just build a separate house somewhere else on the
property. Moral here-if you do it, remodel and make the
whole thing cohesive, have a good plan and stick to it.
Follow the lead given by the original house, and try not to
fall into the "stupid addition" trap. You know what I mean,
just look around!
He didn't have any codes, inspections, permits either. In
your case, it is most definitely a good thing.
I think this actually works out in our favor. If the inspector wants more than is in "the book", you don't have to do it.
If he wants less, that's great.
I'm talking about upgrading things that are really fine, not saying that it's great if they let you break the rules.
The BOCA code has a very involved formula for deciding if the building must be brought up to code based on the value of the property and the cost of construcion. I've never even used the pages of forms used to calculate it.
As I've said before, I live in a rural area and the inspectors are pretty reasonable here. They really don't want to enforce anything that is a hassle unless they have to. They won't make me redesign a set of steps if those steps have been working fine for a hundred years as-is.
I'm considering buying an old farmhouse and having it remodeled. It isn't in terrible shape, but I'm sure there are a few structural issues, and a lot of work will need to be done to the interior. The rooms are in wacky places and there is no storage space. I want to turn it into something nice. I also want to expand it by about 1000 sq. ft.
I'm wondering how much I'm buying in this house, knowing that I'm going to have to put a lot into it to have it remodeled. I already have electricty, water and septic, if nothing else. I'm trying to decide if I would be better off just building something instead or messing with a remodel -- expansion. Are there any rules to help me decide if it would be better to start over or remodel what's there?
-- Andrew Bell
*Andrew - You'll hear many folks say that you can build a new house cheaper than do a total gut job on an old house. In some cases this may be true; of course, each remodel is different. The reason I prefer to remodel is that each old house has its own character, or flavor, if you will. If you're carefull, and pay attention to the original style you can end up with something very special when you restore - kind of the way an old vehicle restored is a joy - even if it was a run of the mill vehicle in its day. An old house, even if it never was anything special, somehow stirs memories and can uplift us. Where are you located?
*Can't do more than give you my personal formula for the remodel vs buy decision. How you apply it includes some personal values that don't lend themselves very well to numbers.1. Decide what you want. Find out what it would cost to build new. This is Total Cost New2. Take the cost of the old house plus the cost of the remodel plus a fudge factor for the unk-unks. This is Total Cost Remodel.3. Look at the resale market. How easy will it be to sell the house at Total Cost Remodel immediately after project completion. I know you don't intend that. But it is amazing how many folks sell their "dream house" shortly after moving in.This will give you numbers to make a decision from. BUT, you may want to do one or the other just because you want to. If so, go for it. Just be clear why you are making that choice.
*One thing to consider...depending on your locale...Often times older houses don't even come close to meeting todays current building codes. The problem arises in that there is a not-so-fine line where a remodel turns into a gut job. In my locale, when this line is crossed, the inspector requires that the entire structure be brough up to current building code.Not a problem eh? Consider stairs. In general, older stairs are steeper. To bring into compliance, you'll need more run to the staircase. How does this affect the current floorplan? Usually it's not pleasant.Wiring? Septic? Well? Current energy code requirements? Floor joist sizing? Lead plumbing? Lead paint? Asbestos? Those men in spacesuits are plenty expensive.Sorry to say, the list goes on. Prior to purchasing, have a conversation with your building official. Then do some heavy-duty ciphering.An old structure can be charming, and ever-so-satisfying to own. It can, however, also be quite expensive to bring into compliance. Know what you're getting into before you leap off that cliff. It could be a long, long fall.Good luck. When done properly, reclaiming an old structure can be a noble endevour. I'd love to see it work out for you. NO VINYL!!
*Dont forget if you want to move walls you may be talking some serious strutural/foundation work.Rick Tuk
*Some good points here, especially the code issues. All I can add is the availablity of similar lots in your area. Looks to me like your looking for the "5 acres, 5 miles from town." In my area this is a very hot commodity, just for the land, not to mention that it already has power, septic, and a well. The problem in my area is once you start looking at lots, they all have covenants that come with them. The biggest problem, for me anyway, is they dont allow any detached structures. And, hey, I need a workshop/storage area. So, I guess that needs to go into the formula somewhere. Just my two cents, and I know, you dont get much for that these days!!Dave
*It is sooo easy to underestimate remodeling costs, given all the unknowns that may pop up. With new, it's mostly all there on paper, with a warranty as well. That said I prefer old to new and would rather live in an awkward old place (i.e., not remodeling everything for lack of money). The exception would be the unworkable, ugly, or decrepit old, which should always go down IMHO. (Watch TOH for people who don't subscribe to this!)Around here the land is getting valuable and I've seen a bunch of "demo-remodels" -- they essentially knock everything off but the foundation and a few sticks so that it can still be called a "remodel." "New" construction is a hassle on these tiny lots because of permitting process and the fact you lose all the grandfathering that gets you around the regulations such as ridiculous setbacks now required. Just an interesting wrinkle to the build/remodel decision.Mongo, how does your inspector decide when a stair must be rebuilt? Assuming you're not altering the stair (such that fixing it is relatively reasonable), where's the line drawn?
*Allow me to add the homeowner & chronic DIY-er's perspective here: I vote old over new, for just the reasons already mentioned here. However, a few things you should have in your "tool kit" as the homeowner:1) A good marriage/stable relationship: If you and your significant other are not 100% eye-to-eye on this venture and ready to be each other's main cheerleading section, forget it. Thank God I've never had this problem but I have had friends who've gone for the jugular during remodeling.2) Money: No matter how much you have, it's not enough. Guaranteed. (Rent the old movie "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream Home" with Cary Grant and Myrna Loy for reference.) You will -- for certain -- fall under the romantic spell of the old place and nothing will be good enough but top-of-the-line everything. You will be able to see the place in your dreams the way it "should be" and you will want to spend accordingly.3) Patience: Get used to living in an unholy mess. Becuase you will not have enough of #2 (Money), you will wind up living with things torn apart and half-finished far longer than you thought a human being ever could or should (see any episode of "Green Acres" for a preview of your new living conditions). If you have these three (in spades) you stand a good chance of success. If you stick it out long enough, you will also have a jewel of an old place to call home. Best wishes -- Buck
*Andrew,Around here if the remodel goes to 50% of the value of the house (lot not included) the entire structure must be brought to code, FEMA regulations. It really gets fun with houses on the national historic register that the Fed says you cant change, Then FEMA says you must change. Add in if it is a building of public accomidation (a bed and breakfast perhaps). Then the ADA kicks in. It gets to be fun.Rick Tuk
*Thanks for all the advice. I don't know if I'm lucky or just really in the sticks, but I called our local code enforcement office yesterday to ask their take on such remodels. THE COUNTY HAS NO BUILDING CODES. What a deal. You don't even need a building permit if you don't change the footprint of the building. I don't know if this is positive or not. Certainly the codes are there for a reason, and just because you don't have to bring a building up to code, doesn't mean you shouldn't do some of that.Anyway, we're going to sit on the idea over the holiday weekend and make a decision next week.Thanks for all the adivce!
*Ouch! Why does FEMA have jurisdiction (I thought they only acted -after- disasters)? Is your area designated "disaster prone"?I've considered buying a house in the neighborhood, fix and rent it, then sell for, I hope, a higher price. Now, would the cost of remodel be materials only, or materials plus market value of my labor?
*We remodeled a 1930's bungelow and I will add two things: if you have any option of living someplace else while you remodel-take it! We lived with my parents for 14 months while we searched and then remodeled. Unless you have the space for two of everything (one to use while you remodel the other) try not to have to live in the mess.The second thing is be sure to remodel that which is un-safe!
*In your area does a breezway count as having the structure 'attached"? If so, I have seen some nice workshops (or garages) attached by breezeways that might work...Just a thought.
*"Mongo, how does your inspector decide when a stair must be rebuilt? "Andrew, that's one question I'd like to know the answer to. It's essentially on a case-by-case basis. A client's plans will be presented, the answer is discovered when the plans get returned.
*I.e., arbitrary. Unfortunate way to run a gov't. You should be (excuse me: are) entitled to specific guidelines and reasons for his desionmaking (due process). I know, you don't want to make a federal case of it, but this sort of thing is clearly BS.