When do you tear the house down?
A discussion about restoring historic wood windows has me in the mood to begin a new thread that’s relevant to my house.
Five years ago, I talked my girlfreind (now wife) into buying a house that was a way bigger project than either of us ever imagined. We’re probably 60% through the project which I estimated (in my blissfully ignorant youth 5 years ago…) would take us 9 months.
And while we love the house and have no (well… almost no) regrets about our choices. There is always this nagging thought in the back of my head that our house really should have been torn down instead of restored.
It was built as a small farmhouse in the 1880s and was one of the first in midtown Kansas City, MO. But the historical significance stops there. This house never had anything really fancy in the way of architectural details or features and 100+ years of various levels of negligent owners have eliminated most of what a conservationist would value.
Seeing as this house has required so much more work than we ever imagined, I often wonder: Is there any sort of thinking in place that considers the actual end of life of structures? I know that the way banks and the real estate industry is set up, there isn’t a whole lot of motiviation or financial incentive to tear down houses in stable (read: not “hot”) neighborhoods.
It’s not like we’re in upside down or anything. I mean, once complete, we’ll be able to sell our house for significantly more money than we have invested in it. But really, shouldn’t we have just torn it down and started over? It’s still a 120 year old house with 120 year old house problems…
I don't have an answer for you.
But where it the house located? What cross steet?
I live in a "slightly" newer house at Lake Tapawingo (by Blue Springs).
Hey every group has to have one. And I have been elected to be the one. I should make that my tagline.
We're in the heart of Southmoreland Park on McGee Street (which was formerly Hyde Avenue), about 3 blocks north of the Nelson Art Gallery. The first record of our house was from when KCMO brought city water down in 1888 (IIRC). I have also seen Sanborn Maps with our house on it, but I can't remember the year, probably from about that same time.
I hear you. In 2002 the wife and I embarked on a one-year (haha!) rehab project, and right now we're aboult half finished. A big front loader and a couple of 30-yd dumpsters were definitely an option, but then we would've missed out on all the fun!
Merry Christmas and good luck on getting those last pieces of the puzzle done.
Same can be said about rebuilding cars, rebuild a 1970 Chevelle or a 66 Mustang is it worth it? The answer is yes for some people but still some will say you still have a 30-40 year old car. Sounds like your place may be in the lines of a 70's Datsun B210 nothing real special except to the guy that owns it. A lot of the old farm houses had a decent structure and sound building it just depends on the maintenance through the years. If you have to rebuild a foundation and much of the structure, replace electrical and plumbing plus do the cosmetic things you would do in any house too then maybe it is not worth it. For some it comes down to a dollar value if you bought the place for $150,000 then put in $300,000 for upgrades what kind of place could you have built for $300,000? The $150K would then become the price you paid for the lot once the house was torn down.
I think some old homes need to be preserved and updated to run efficiently in todays world. Thankfully there are people out there with the drive, motivation and money to do that. Some places have served their time and need to be put to rest.
Yeah, good analogy about the cars. I used to have a '64 Ford Thunderbird Convertible. She was beautiful from about 20' away. Any closer and the flaws just started getting to me. Since I've spent the last 6 years in working on the house and looking at everything from just under arms' length, all I see are the flaws...
working on the house and looking at everything from just under arms' length, all I see are the flaws... and I though only I had that problem. I even had a post " How perfect is perfect" a couple months ago.
Have you got any more laid back over the years?
I mean finally learning to sometimes say 'good enough' and go on with something else?
be JohnT8 is a workaholic
damn, am I fat!
the answer is definitely no, if you are a numbers person.
I loved my 64 l camino, but when i priced what it would take to restore it (with me doing a lot of the work) i realized i could buy one that was done for less, and I wouldn't have to get dirty.
Same with a house, any house. Run the numbers. if you can tear it down and build new for less ( than restoring) that is what you should (or should have) do!
keep in mind that you can design and build anything, it can be built from 200 year old blueprints, and finished with milk paint if thats what you want. but it would have new plumbing, wiring, ventilating, insulation, etc and all for less than a rehab if you factor in the time
I will let somebody do the dollar¢s stuff, & will address the less tangibel aspects -
This is your house, & you are doing your own work, or a good part of it, right?
Yeah, we're doing almost all of our own work. The easy-to-do stuff, we've subbed a lot of that out (Building a new detached garage, new driveway, some drywall ceiling hanging...). But all of the tricky, fiddly, figure-out-a-way-to-make-it-work stuff we do ourselves.To talk dollars, DW bought the house for about $50k. She's got about another $70k in it. If it were done (big "IF"), it'd list for, I'd say $180k and she says $140k (we have vastly different opinions about what the place is worth and won't know until its done). So we're money ahead. The only question is whether our time was worth $2.00 an hour or $1.00 an hour. (Ha ha...)In Kansas City, it starts to get questionable whether or not we could have gotten the equivalent house for the same money. I'd say that for the $120,000 that she has invested in the house today, and the same amount of our "sweat equity", we could easily have built a new house of similar size and finish level. There's probably no way we could have bought turn-key the same house for $120,000, but there are lots and lots of options at the $180k price that our house could sell for finished...So in terms of dollars, we're in good shape. In terms of personal labor, the time and energy we've spent on our house, well... I don't know. There sure are lots of camping trips and softball leagues that we haven't been able to do because of the house. The good thing is that although the wifey and I have had plenty of fights over various house things along the way, her house has not caused our breakup/divorce, which leaves me feeling good about our future.But all in all, I was sort of hoping to have the house done and sold before the boom ended, so that I could be $$$ ahead and move on to the next one. (I'm an architect and would have preferred to have been building a new house about now...)
Well, if you were earning that $1-$2 per hour you'd have taxes taken out so then it'd be down some. But your house, and you've streatched it out long enough for qualification, can be sold tax free up to $500,000 for a couple IIRC.
"Being a cowboy aint all ridin and shootin" - Tim Mooney
Don't get me wrong, we've enjoyed many aspects of the work on our house. And yes, I'm watching all of my same-age freinds moving out to the inner-ring suburbs into 50's and 60's era tract houses to raise up their kids and that's definitely not us, we love our neighborhood in the middle of everything and the character of our house (he certainly is a character...).
It's just that now some of the work we did 6 years ago is going to need to be re-renovated... About ready to paint some of the rooms again. And our tastes have changed in 6 years. So a lot of the trim we tore down 6 years ago to get a more "modern" look, is going back up with a vengance.Just getting a kick out of the whole thing. A couple of years ago, I finally decided to quit worrying about a schedule and just enjoy myself and the work our house requires and it has certainly helped...
I wouldn't anguish about the teardown decision at this point. You decided to renovate so just go gung-ho and finish it, and then put it up for sale. I can imagine that as an architect you must be more than just a little interested in building your own home.
I would think that is a pretty significant dream that you might want to get on with..
To all the encouraging words: Thank you, all.
About building my own house: Funny comment, that. See, five years ago, I knew exactly what it was I wanted: Small, exquisite, clean, and Modern. Now, after five years of scraping paint off of trim, restoring old windows, and stripping paint off of ancient hardware, I'm kind of beginning to like the ornament and all of the fussy details that make these old beauties so well loved.
My old man used to say that a house is just a big cabinet (He was a finish carpenter). Some people want the latest cardboard cabinet (i.e. trac houses/developments) while others want that old armoire with the classic lines that has stood the test of time. Enjoy your renovations and restorations. Rember that scar tisue builds caracter!
There is one intangible benefit that you have alluded to. As an architect you had pretty clear ideas about the style you wanted, and which you have now learned just didn't work in your house. Through living in and caring for this house you have greatly increased your awareness of the harmony and balance of style - at a level you just can't get out of a book. You now have a richer portfolio to bring to your clients - always a good thing!
As others have pointed out, the shared experience is the other big win. Having gotten this far together you are building a very strong connection to deal with whatever comes your way.
In real estate there is something called "functional obsolescence".http://law.honigman.com/db30/cgi-bin/pubs/ShapiroC314573.pdfMany older homes have issues which hurt the home's value.In my area we have homes that were built in the 1930's in which the bedrooms have no closets. We have homes with poor floor plans and lots of wasted space.I looked at a home a while back which was a 2,200 two story victorian. It had only TWO bedrooms. Some homes have a shared driveway. We have bungalow homes in which you must walk through a bedroom to get to the one and only bathroom.Some homes have the bedrooms on one level and there is no bathroom on that level.We have homes which for some reason many years ago were built on an inconvenient place on the lot (way in the back of the lot).There are homes with odd floor plans which problems an issues with stairway locations. We have homes in certain parts of town which were built on a slab and the slabs have long since sunk down and need significant repairs.There are homes with detached garages in odd locations.We have homes with finished basements and the only stairway to the basement is outdoors. These are single family homes which have the washer and dryer in the basement.Some homes have a significant amount of sq footage from a poor addition or a garage which has been converted.We have homes in the middle of town that do not have city water.There are homes with seven foot ceilings in every room of the house.Some of these issues are classified as "curable" while others are "incurable".My point is that some of these homes just have too many problems and it's no longer feasible to put any $$ into them.If you have questions about the value of a home you should contact an appraiser. A realtor can also give an opinion.
S N A F U (Situation Normal: All Fouled Up)
Yep, tear em down!
S N A F U (Situation Normal: All Fouled Up)
Some of your points are very good reasons for a tear down. However, each "home" needs to be evaluated individually on it's partucular pros and cons, as well as the intent of the purchaser or home owner occupant.
Having an inefficient floor plan should not be the determining factor to tear down or not. Each home needs to be evaluated individually. I've seen a number of really old homes where the decision was based on a vision of what could be done as well as the cost factor. Why do you think there are a number of municipalities that award preservation certificates? People who just come into a community and buy to tear down and sell only care about their profits. I don't condemn all teardowns as I've done a number of homes where the teardown was the only real option. But I do lable those who blindly say tear it down and build it new, period. Very short sited.
But I do lable those who blindly say tear it down and build it new, period. Very short sited.
Short sited is a bit harsh.
We all have our preferences. Some people love the romantic notion of an old structure brought back to life. Others (me) would probably prefer new. I've very rarely walked trhough any old house that interests me, fixed up or not. I've been through historic houses where the homeowners spent thousands of hours and were quite proud. I didn't let them know that I'd STILL bulldoze it, even after it was already redone to perfection LOL!
To each his own. I wouldn't call you short sighted for renovating something you own and I'd appreciate it if you respected my desires if I bulldozed. If you want to keep it standing forever, buy it.
by short sited do you mean a small footprint on a little lot:o)
be you have to understand that ol' blue eyes is a Lions fan from Detroit and has to get his aggressions out someway by bulldozing cause the Lions are in another losing season.
damn, am I fat!
That and the Tigers lost the world series to a team that he told me just three months earlier wouldnt be much of a contest because Det. had just swept them in a meaningless 3 game series.
I guess its tough being a fan in the Detroit area now days!
Quit pickin on me guys!
I'm heading out to Austin on Wednesday. I'll be there over the holdidays. Anything interesting happening in Tx these days?
I gotta admit, I'm more shocked about the Cards then you are, not that thats any consolation! And of course the Lions are the Lions so..........
Theres always something going on in Austin!
You can always head down to 6th street and find something to do, however I dont see you as a 6th street kind of guy! No offence of course.
Drive by my house in San Marcos and make sure the guy living there is taking care of the place for me would ya, thanks.
As a realtor I get to show homes that have been remodeled. Some of the homes just sparkle and they sell themselves.However, other homes don't have that sparkle and it's obvious that someone has tried their hand at remodeling and they made it through their first project.I looked at a fixer upper several years ago and passed on it and someone else bought it. They moved in and stayed a year or two and they sold it and as I walked from room to room I could tell the husband and wife probably re-did the home together nights and weekends.I can walk through a home and can tell if an amateur did the interior painting.I can see from the street if an amateur rented an airless spray gun and painted the exterior, including overspray on the roof or on the brick or windows.I can look at laminate or tile floors and can tell if an amateur installed it.I've seen homes where people have removed walls. They've made two bedrooms into one. It doesn't work.How many times have you seen a bungled basement finish job?What about an amateur redoing a bathroom and nailing morlite or sometype of paneling on the walls?Have you seen vinyl tub/shower wall kits that sell for $19 ? They dont' look good.Have you seen a home with the washer in one room and the dryer in another?Have you seen poorly installed low-cost paneling?What about poorly done drywall?All of these homes were worked on with a lot of love and care and hard work and sweat and I'm sure the friends and families told them they did a great job.What's sad is many times people have spent a lot of their hard earned money doing these things.It's not fun showing these homes. Sometimes the Buyer has driven across town and really had their hopes up.^^^^^^
S N A F U (Situation Normal: All Fouled Up)
Re-modelling to suit the tastes of a prospective buyer can be risky business. Re-modelling to suit your own tastes is a different story entirely, especially if you plan to be there a (long) while.
I've seen some very nice, nearly-new kitchens and other stuff at the local ReStore, merely because it didn't suit some new owner's taste. And the trouble with "taste" is that it doesn't care if the work was done "professionally" or by an amateur, nor does it care how much love or attention was given to the task at hand. Lovingly and professionally installed tile of a colour which makes the prospective owner wince is unlikely to be of any benefit to the sale price! Painting, on the other hand, is something that most owners assume they're going to have to re-do before they move in, since they probably already own their furniture.
Bravo Moletenmetal. Your point is very accurate. I commend your open mind, and your sense of what people can do.
I'm sure you as a realtor purposely lower your commision in this situations, don't you.
Did I tell you about the realtor we took on to find homes for us. We had one very hight priority and that was to have amplle room for my office which wasn't that typical 8'x9' fourth bedroom at the end of the hall. Yeah, and we had to drive around all over looking at what she wanted us to buy. All he wanted was his share of the commision.
Look, the question is do you tear down or build new. The question has nothing to do with the quality of the remodel in the end. Those out there in it only for the money will do what will cost them the least and make them the most money. People out there with a limited budget but with a lot of vision can do miracles. People out there with a limited budget and sweat equitiy will do what they feel work for them, whether they choose to live in the home or flip it.
I'm sure you're good at what you do. However, don't pass yourself off as an architectural critic. Just sell the properties, sell the homes, cash your check.
You really sound like a realtor. I don't mean to offend the entire profession though.
Edited 12/18/2006 3:20 pm ET by JoeArchitect
Yes, you're right as realtors we do consider the commission on the sale of the home. It's not easy being a realtor and One of the difficult aspects of working as a realtor requires that we do our best to make the property sound appealing.For example, if a home is small we call it "cozy". If it's small and rough we call it "adorable and affordable". It it's old and run down we say it has "charm and character". If it's really bad we say that it just needs some TLC.Architects do wonderful things. I've seen some small homes with fantastic floor plans. Also, I looked at a nice well built home (about 2500 sq foot ranch built in the 1950's) that had two stairways to the basement. This really added a lot to this home. One stairway in the home per the usual, but the second stairway to the basement was in the garage and this was a fantastic detail for this home and it really added a lot. Maybe this is common in other areas but I've only seen this one house like it. Whoever designed it did a wonderful job.^^^^^^
S N A F U (Situation Normal: All Fouled Up)
One stairway in the home per the usual, but the second stairway to the basement was in the garage and this was a fantastic detail for this home and it really added a lot.
Around here thats getting pretty common in higher end homes. It does make a lot of sense.
I think what Joe is saying is true: you do sound like a real estate salesperson -- cozy, affordable, TLC, etc. Maybe I'm too much the grizzled old cynic, but I don't think a real estate agent should "sell" you anything. Rather they should let you look, let you ask questions, then provide you with the kind of facts and information that will help you make an informed decision. But my biggest gripe is with agents that just plain don't know how to listen. When we bought our present house, I thought I was pretty articulate about laying down the basic parameters in what we wanted. Most agents would sit there nodding attentively, and then take us around to houses that bore no resemblance to our criteria. Then I met a guy who did know how to listen. He showed us exactly two houses; we bought one, but we could have as easily bought the other. All of this took about four hours of his time -- 2 for talking, 1 hour for each of the houses. He never once made any overt effort to "sell" either house. He had been smart enough to figure out what we wanted, and the houses spoke for themselves. And he spoke only to answer the many qeustions we had about each.********************************************************
"It is what we learn after we think we know it all, that counts."
John Wooden 1910-
You can always head down to 6th street
Whats happening on 6th street?
Have you moved outa TX?
6Th street is loaded with bars, all kinds of bars, blues, country, gay, ........Pick your poison.
New Years eve on 6th street is kinda wild, carry protection!
Yes, I moved back to Iowa last Sept.
We initialy moved to TX because my wife was offered an opportunity that she couldnt pass up, then in Aug. she was offered a better opportunity back here with a different co. so here we are!
I contacted my old boss that I worked for when we went to TX and he hired me back, musta been desperate!
3 1/2 years was enough for me, liked it a lot but it wasnt home.
Well, Mooney's trying to convince us that the Cowboys are going to the Superbowl again.
but that's nothing new. Roar!
damn, am I fat!
My sympathy goes out to him. GO BEARS!
I restored my first car at 14 (1959 MGA) my first old cotton warehouse at 18-22 so i guess i was hooked early.... when i finish my loft project I have one more old building that i'll do something with... and i'm pretty sure thats the last OLD building i'll do... interesting... yeah... alot of work... yep... but at this point in my life i just don't see the balance in doing it anymore... i use to do it because "i had to"... then it was "well someone has to"... now it's "I've done my part"... I know i leave buildings better than they were when built... but i'm sure someone 150yrs from now will question what fool (me) did this as they try to fix my fixes...
yes many times you can build new cheaper... and i know you can do it faster... and as we rebuild old we learn how to rebuild old better and faster for next time...
Oh Oh, it sounds like my mentor is moving on...
I think trhat the profit lies in the intangibles - the experiences you've shared, & the experience you've gained.
I feel richer in working on my 300-year-old fixer-upper than the people who live in the McMansions springing up like toadstools all around.
Very well said Kate. Thanks for that.
I've usually owned much older homes that were in pretty bad shape and then thru time, sweat and a healthy infusion of cash have turned them into pretty decent places once again. None of my places have been of historical register quality but so what?
From a purely financial calculation I could have bought a new (or at least much newer) home for the same money or less and not spent vacations, nights and weekends working on the beast. But the newer home would have been a generic, soul-less house (not a home) that can be found on every street.
Part of the intangibles for me have been the "time capsule moments" when I'd tear open a wall and find something from 150 years ago, deciphering the original floor/wall layouts once I've striped off layers of flooring, etc.
Also, I've bought the older homes when moving into a new town; it's been a great way to meet people because they always want to tell you about the history of the place. I've been in my current house (a 1790's farm house) for 4 years and still the easiest way to give directions to anyone in town is tell them I live at "the old Rice place over on Elm Street".
PITA? Sure. But it's for it's also enjoyable.
Just some thoughts: I have a 100 year old house that we have done a LOT of work on, my son has a 100 year old house that I have helped him do a LOT of work on, and my daughter has a 70 year old house that I am doing a Lot of work on.
I won't deal with the charm and history of old houses (which is why I like them) but there are other advantages. I think the most improtant is that they are constructed of old growth lumber that generally is a lot stronger and larger than the stuff you can buy now, much more resistent to insect infestation ( the narrow growth rings leave litte for the pests to eat),
Also, often they are grandfathered realtive to current zoning and planning regulations. In my town, they are often larger, with smaller setbacks, larger garages, often with living space over detached garages, whcih is no longer permitted, etc.
Depending on how mcuh work is involved, you can usually live in them whicle you renovate, and you can't do that with a teardown and rebuild.
More specifically, if the structure is sound (or can be made sound relatively easily), if the floor plan can be used as is, (or altered relatively easily to what you want), the rest of the work is realtively straight forward for an ambitious do-it your-self person.
In my case, we added a 1000 SF addition to the original 1200SF house to take car of the master bedroom and bath, family room and laundry room. By tearing out the falling apart plaster ceilings and gutting the kitchen and small bathroom in the original house we were able to totally replace the plumbing, heating and electric (mostly by ourselves), while we lived in the addition. The rest of the old house work was repairing the plaster walls, new carpets or hardwood flooring, one small full bath , rehabilitating the old windows (double hung with weights - not replacements -- about a day each for 15 windows). The end result is a modern living arrangement for us, and 3 spare bedrooms (small, with small closets) for the visiting kids, a small bathroom, and a reasonable sized formal foyer, living room and dining room. All of this was completed 15 years ago, for a grand total of about 70,000 for the addition and 40,000 for the old house.
Last thought, my house was build by craftsman whou knew what they were doing. It is square and plumb, well nailed together. My son's is another story. The framing looks like it was put together by the Three Stooges. The foundation was poor and the settlement very uneven. Only becasue the layout was perfect for him, did it make sense to renovate it, and even with 30,000 of reinforced framing and jacking, it still suffers a lot of out of level and out of plumb issues.
There's no simple answer to whether it's worth it or not to renovate or tear down. I'd say you and the wife are the renovatin' type by now, and you're still together, which is a good sign. I assume you've been living in the house while doing the work, that's worth a lot. You have to love old houses to put up with the challenges involved. A lot of people couldn't be bothered. We're into our fourth old house, circa 1778, and it's the most challenging and daunting project to date. Forget about level or plumb, those concepts don't apply here. We've talked about building a house someday but it would be strange to live in a new house. There are tear downs going on all over in the hot real estate markets, it's such a wasteful approach. Hang in there, think of how much fun it's been, Ha!
here is an idea
we had a homeonwer come to us, say , knock it down, build us this
its full of asbestos, lead, junk
however, county department said, sorry , flood plain, it comes down , nothing goes back
we restored a very nice house, and not cheap
In 1991 my brother bought a house built in 1860 in Hutchinson Kansas.
It was a ugly two story victorian with stucco exterior.
The house had a poor floor plan.
The foundation was rocks mortared together.
The second floor did not have ductwork.
The wiring and plumbing were old.
The windows were old and drafty.
I can't think of anything positive to say about the house. I would never want a house like it.
Having said all of that he bought it, did some work, stayed for a few years, sold it for a profit to the next guy and as far as I know those people have happily lived there for 10 years in a house that probably should have been knocked down many years ago.
The current owners may stay another 10 years and they will probably sell it for a profit to the next guy.
Everyday everywhere some schlump somewhere is buying an old run down house that should be bulldozed.^^^^^^
S N A F U (Situation Normal: All Fouled Up)
Your question is a good one, and here's my answer. These are things that simply take time to come about, and I'm not talking about the fixing up or the restoration of your house.
All good things for those who wait.
Do you remember the childrens story The Velveteen Rabbit? It's where this stuffed rabbit starts out as this new toy for a child, and how through the years the rabbit gets used and abused, torn up, loses one of its eyes, gets left out in the rain, loses some of it's fur etc. But as time goes by it becomes worn and supple and loved by the child until it ultimately becomes "real" as the story put it.
Five years. Seems like a long time to you perhaps, but it's not really. It does sound like you've crossed the Rubicon but are glancing back still unsure. Remember the time when you found your wife in tears because of the complete overwhelm she (you too) was under? Or the time the plaster dust was just too much and the two of you had to get out and just go to the diner and maybe even a movie later? What about your first Christmas there, or whatever holiday you celebrate? Remember when she was your girlfriend? She's your wife now, but is she still your girlfriend?...and the house was there then. If you plan to stay there, the years will slip on by and every inch of that place will have become yours. Even if you sell it at a profit and move, which anyone could understand, the house will always be 'real' for you guys.
You're in the midst of it right now and the blood & sweat is still flowing. Don't worry about 'should have torn it down', you're doing fine. Had you torn it down, you probably would have been fine too, and maybe thinking that you could have saved the sucker. But you didn't. Decide and deal with it.
Wherever you are is where it's at.
I have a 1880's house that's in pretty good shape, needs some stuff done to it but all in all its OK.
I was offered a 1850's house last Saturday that had some remodel work done to it back in the 60's, kitchen, indoor plumbing, you know, all the fancy amenities, the upstairs has had nothing done to it since it was built!
I love to redo these things. Drives me nuts at times but its very rewarding to. I assume you feel the same way to some degree.
I know I'm crazy for taking on another one when I still havent got all the stuff done on the first one but I cant resist!
I'm fortunate in that I get to work in million dollar house all the time but I would still rather rebuild or restore an old place over all the new houses that I work in.
Think about the wealth of knowledge and experience that you have gained, you wouldnt have that if you went out to the burbs and hung out with your friends! Plus it keeps you off the streets at night!
You cant think of the what-ifs, it'll drive you crazy. Good for you for doing what you did.
After 100 years the houses built back then are often in such rough shape that to do a good job of bringing them up to speed will cost more than tearing down the same section and rebuilding to original dimensions.
Beer was created so carpenters wouldn't rule the world.
In the course of my work, I often differ with the customer on this issue; he wants to remodel, I want to get a bulldozer and start over.
Now, sometimes local codes prevent this; you are allowed only to remodel, but not to rebuild. That strange situation aside, I ask a few questions before coming to my conclusion.
First of all, I try to imagine the property in a fully restored state. Is it suitable for the intended use? After all, most folks want bedrooms quite a bit larger than were typical 50 years ago, and the layout we desire has changed.
Then, I look at what is necessary to reach that condition. Our expectations as to electrical outlets, air conditioning, etc., have changed dramatically over the years. In order to accomplish this, you're likely to end up completely gutting the place.
Finally, there is the matter of structural integrity; a cracked or shifted foundation is not something to be patched with 'thinset!' The same applies to the frame and trusses.
There are two very difficult matters that only you can address. The first is that you need to be brutally honest with yourself as to your intentions. There is no room here to "keep options open;" either you have a definite purpose, or not.
The other is to set aside all wistful thinking, and recognize the true state of things.
1) Financial; Is it cheaper to rebuild or not?
2) Experience; Will you learn/experience enough in the process of remodel to add to the asset side of the ledger (Kate's point) or gain a perspective you never had before.
3) Historical; When finished, will the home still be recognizable next to a photo of the neighborhood when the original was new? If not, the emotional value of saving bits of history diminishes greatly, IMO.
There's another issue about how the remodel is done. It sounds like you're talking about remodeling/rebuilding the house one room at a time, when you have the time and inclination to do it. When I remodeled my house, it was similarly one room at a time, though it was more full time work. But we still had to live in the house, and cook and eat and use the bathroom.
Looking back on it, I think I should have made a more complete plan of action from the beginning, and done everything at once as much as possible. By which I mean: Tear out plaster in every room that needed it, reframe where necessary, and put up new rock. All in a few weeks or a month, done and out of the way. then I could do stuff like refinish all the floors, without worrying about damage from tearing out plaster. Even when I needed to tear out sheetrock to do a little more plumbing or wiring, it would be worth it to not have to take out a plaster ceiling- miserable experiences like that should be lumped together and gotten out of the way.
There are exceptions to this, like a bathroom, where I might have spent a few weeks working just there before sheetrock was ready to go back in. But living and bedrooms could be quickly reframed (where needed), rewired, and rocked.
So if you're comparing having a new house built by a contractor (rather than by a weekend warrior) with remodeling a house in evenings and weekends, it's kind of apples to oranges. Pick what works best financially, aesthetically, and personally, and don't look back to much.
"When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone." --John Ruskin
"so it goes"
If you're talking about total remodel vs. teardown, you're talking about a big extensive project either way. So, evaluate the existing first. What's the condition of the foundation, any settling cracks, history of seapage, etc. Check the tops of window and door openings for deflection. Check the exterior brick, siding, soffits, roof for deterioration. Now evaluate the existing layout, flow of circulation, room sizes, views, and overall efficiency of the spaces. What would you add or open up to make the layout better. Now you can evaluate if the existing structure is in good condition, then gutting the walls and ceilings down to the studs and joists, redoing all of the electrical and plumbing, reinsulating, and reframing as required to create the more open spaces, new insulated windows, doors, drywall, etc. and then whatever addition you need can all be done to preserve a certain architectural integrity and neighborhood. Yes, check the cost of one vs the other. Then make your decision on how much fun you want to have and what kind of stories you want to share with your friends over a bottle of Point.
Rasher, I'm the type that generally sees old junk houses for what they really are: junk. I say tear them all down. I don't see anything romantic about junky houses with small undersized rooms, poor layouts, poor mechanical systems and nasty old warped lumber and floors. The windows suck. The electrical system is woefully under engineered and the pipes are nasty inside, even though you can't see them.
So, basically everything in an old house has to be redone.
I would approach your project from the financial point of view: how would I make the most money? Tearing it down and rebuilding, or remodeling? To answer that, you have to be honest about your sweat equity and the time cost of money.
If you are doing the renovation as a labor of love, then all other factors are meaningless and you should just enjoy your journy and ignore all the other factors.
there isn't a whole lot of motiviation or financial incentive to tear down houses in stable (read: not "hot") neighborhoods.
No necessarily so, as in the Heights area of Houston, and the sattillite cities of West University and Bellaire. In many cases the lots are worth more vacant than with the older and smaller homes on the lots. The areas have been really hot for upscale homes.
In your analysis, I think you would need to figure restoration cost and overall finished value versus tear down and new build finished value.
To find out about what your currant homes value is go to zillow.com come enter your address and zip code and the formula based answer will appear. Now use caution when looking at those numbers..
My home listed for $1,086,000. however the bank recently appraised it at $1,550,000 (estimated $2.3 million when finished) My sister's home was similar it was listed at $664,000 and the bank appraised it at $1,310,000
As for tear down versis rebuild..
A whole lot of factors enter into it.. for example.. sweat equity.. can you put the same sweat equity into new construction that you do into a tear down? Are there issues with regard to future size or set backs that won't allow you to use the lot in the same fashion..
Market considerations enter here as well.. will the new home be over built for the neighborhood compared to a remodel?
Having said that there are real efficencies in new construction that you cannot get with remodeling.. (for example you can build with SIP's or ICF's rather than stick building) Rooms too can be bigger which may mean the home becomes more valuable.
On a pure cost basis it can be cost effective to tear down and build new rather than patch stuff together.. However you've addressed that with your sweat equity, trading your own sweat for the time consuming portion of rebuilding.
Frenchy,You are giving bad advice. It would not be wise to base a large finacial decision on a Zillow estimate. In my job I see Zillow estimates on homes in different markets around the country. The Zillow estimates are not reliable in many cases. A better idea would be to talk to realtors who are active in the area. Since they deal with buyers and sellers on a regular basis they are the best source of information about home values and buyer preferences.
Did you read what I wrote? Especially the caution Part? The very next sentence! I gave actaul examples of where zillow was off!
next time please read the whole thing before you start to type!
Edited 12/17/2006 11:02 am ET by frenchy
The problem is that, while it may be a good idea to tear down a structure from an overview of what ideal might be, it is rarely feasable financially. Tearing down a structure only becomes feasable when, in appraisal terms, the "highest and best use" can still include the destruction of equity that the old structure still represented.
I live in a town with probably half houses that, from my construction point of view, should be torn down. The market clearly doesn't support doing that, so they get fixed up again.
"Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd."
We bought a house that was reasonably solid but hadn't been maintained properly in a very long time. And it had some fundamental flaws. It was ill-positioned on the lot, sitting entirely on the left-most of two narrow lots that were not possible to sever. Only a single window faced south toward the backyard, and there was no back door. There wasn't a decent floor in the place. It needed its services upgraded or replaced. But we could AFFORD IT- and it was far better than living in an apartment.
We took care of the major stuff immediately: a roof, electrical service panel, and all the accessible plumbing. We took care of the rest of it room by room, as we could afford the materials- and as we could tolerate the mess. And much of it we just plain left alone, because it was fine the way it was.
Best financial decision we ever made. Delaying to save more money to buy a newer or better renovated property would have been financially disastrous for us.
If your desire is to have a new house when you're done, then don't compromise: buy the cheapest house on the property you want, tear it down and start again. Or better still, buy new in the first place. If you think squeaky floors are annoying, don't buy an old house!
15 years ago I bought an old duplex, ugly as a shack. My plan was rent it cheap until I paid off the mortgage, knock it over and build something new. Mission accomplished, applied for a demolition permit. Out of the blue, the City's official architectural historian called me to ask if, before demolition, he could pull a few artifacts off the structure. "Sure," I replied, "but there's nothing there, just old smelly carpet and warn out woodwork." He clarified, "Yea, I know, it's just that my great grandfather built the house and then added a small grocery store on the side." Mmmm. I thought, now I understand the weird, hideous, flat-roof addition. Nevertheless, knocking over the local historian's ancestral home didn’t feel like good karma.
Coincidently, I had been searching for an office location for my business. I thought about the historian’s comment on the grocery store and called him back. "Ed, do you think there's a way to restore the old place so I can put my office in the old grocery store portion?" The area was zoned residential, but I owned the building outright and the idea of officing inexpensively appealed to me. I waited a few days, and then he called back with good news. In order to obtain a Special Use Permit for commercial space in residential zoning, we would have to do some research and find the means to declare the building a state historical monument. It turns out this old, insignificant building represented one of the last standing examples of the “corner grocery store,” where the grocer lived and sold his goods. Several months later, I had permit and a beautiful rehabilitation plan designed by a historical architect. We now office in a building that has won architectural, community and historical recognition.
All of this is just to suggest that with a little research, you may discover that your building was certainly worth saving. You may, like me, even obtain some significant tax benefits. Keep on trucking!
You may, like me, even obtain some significant tax benefits
I'm considering an old building renovation. I know one of the buildings could warrant historic tax breaks but I'm not fond of the anticipated paperwork or the tight restrictionson it's renovations.
How bad was the paperwork?
The paperwork is always bad. In my case, I had assitance from the City and mostly I supplied raw information and signatures. Still, this was a state project and the benifits came in leveling property taxes at the level prior to completing imporvements. What you're talking about is a little diffrent. If you really mean historical tax credits, this inolves a lot of paperwork and can provide substantial benifits in the way of money investead into the project. I what you mean is a historical tax deduction, then your tax accountant can advise you, basically your property has to be on a register with the Fed and you must documnet the cost on rehabilitation. If you go to the planning department in your city, someone in urband development, rehab or neighborhood redevelopment can help. They use these kinds of tools to make projects happen that would not otherwise. Is the paperwork bad enough to discaourage you? Probably not; in may case I recived not only lower property taxes, but about $8,000 in grants (lead abatement and commericial facad improvements) but a woping $80,000 intrest free loan with no payments until I sell the property. Was it worth it? Yea.
I'll email myself a few from the office and then post them. thanks for asking.
i bought my current home in 73 with the intent of tearing it down untill i realized what it would take to dispose of a 30 x 60 2 room stone school house with 30" walls
thank god i dident let the locals laughing at me bother me or i would of quit right then
we renovated (tore out everything to the stone walls plus the ceiling ) before we started
it has taken a lot of years but we now have a 15 room house including 4 bathrooms, a hand cut stone fire place , a 30 x 30 stone garage with loft plus a 30 x 40 shop office wth loft all brick on the front to the peak , this bldg also has a bath room. While doing the above i bought 44 acres next door & eventually subdivided it into 39 lots http://www.foxfireridge.com
a few years ago i bought 32 acres accross the road and currentky have 1/3 of it rezoned residential for possible future developement .
all of this started with a renovation project on a piece of shid i was to stuped to walk away from due to having $5000 committed (really only $1500 as i borrowed the balance from the vendor}
i often tell people if you have nothing what do you risk loosing
I think people need to look closely at the flaws in the old house prior to putting money and hard work into the project.A realtor asked me to look at a house that was going to be flipped. The house had a lot of problems.We walked into the kitchen and there was a six foot sliding glass patio doors in the small or medium sized kitchen.The six foot patio door wasted a lot of space. I think this was a design flaw (if the house was originally built this way). They took out the six foot door and installed a regular 32" door and this gave them enough room to lenghten the countertop and add more cabinets and I felt it made a big difference in the kitchen.They not only added to the length of the countertop but they made it into an L shape in the newly found space and this helped the kitchen a lot.It's hard enough redoing these houses, but it's even worse having to correct things that weren't don't properly in the first place.^^^^^^
S N A F U (Situation Normal: All Fouled Up)
I often tell people if you have nothing what do you risk loosing
Lol, that's my way of thinking too! I often tell my wife "If I lose everything, I'll still have to get up tomorrow and go to work!" Either way, I get to go to work, so I might as well risk making a million or two, eh?
Now you know why I bought the 40,000 school project! Incidently, we're "risking" the amount..$6000. But it's not really a risk because if the project doesn't warrant funding, we get all our money back.
Good story Dude!
I don't post much, prefer to lurk. Couldn't pass this one up though. We are at the tail end of a major rebuild/remodel of our northern wis farmhouse. I have been a carpy for twelve years, mostly remodeling and additions with a few new homes that I've worked on. I knew our house was a near tear down from the start, but we just couldn't stomach the thought of destroying a house we owed on. We have worked on this project for a little more than two years now. It's more or less a new home. It was a lot of hard work that I never want to do again. Do I regret it? No. In some ways remodel vs. build new isn't that diferent new materials cost what they cost. It's the labor that is different. As others have said, building new is faster, so labor is less. I was able to work mostly full time during our project, so my income was not an issue. I worked lots of long hours after "work" and on weekends. Mostly just worked all the time. By remodeling we were able to live in the house, we avoided moving our septic system, running a new line from the well, running a new electrical service, or changing our driveway. We also avoided the cost of a new foundation and the cost of demolishing our house. Even if we had the fire dept. burn it down, we still would have the foundation to contend with. Our house is on twenty acres. I figure we could sell for about $90,000 more than we owe and still keep half the land. That's not too bad. If we do sell, one thing we are not doing is remodeling another shack like this. Here are some pics if I can figure out how to post.
Excellent info it's good to hear real life experiences like yours.I would love to see more pictures.
S N A F U (Situation Normal: All Fouled Up)
As a realtor I can look at sold properties going back 5-6 years. A year or two ago I spent a weekend running MLS computer searches and looking at "flipped homes". I looked at quite a few.Some were sold in a few months. Some were sold in six months. Some were sold after a year.Anyway, I studied the MLS listing at the investor's purchase of the home. I looked at the price, the pictures, what I thought needed to be done, how much I would have spent, etc.I found myself saying "I would not have bought that house" to many of the houses. I was too picky.I would have passed on homes with poor curb appeal. I didn't want homes built before 1950. I didn't want any two story houses because they're hard to work on.I didn't want any house that did not have a garage.I was too picky. People were buying these old homes that I would have passed on.Were they making a profit and how much was the profit? I don't know for sure but some of the homes appeared to be selling for a decent profit.^^^^^^
S N A F U (Situation Normal: All Fouled Up)
Couldn't find any recent pics. Just took these.
The porch is awesome and the house is looking really good.^^^^^^
S N A F U (Situation Normal: All Fouled Up)
Looks great and I love the porch.
Great job dc.
I took the liberty of downsizing yer pics for the dial up patrons. I'm including a link to an old post that details the attachment posting on BT.
damn, am I fat!