Are You Ready to Remodel? What to Consider Before Gutting Your Home
I think it’s safe to say that most of us dream about making upgrades to our home. “Someday in our fancy new kitchen, let’s put a fancy French stove…wouldn’t it be exciting to have a bedroom big enough to put things in it besides just our bed... and let’s have a live-in masseuse to go with it…”
Most of us have home dreams we aspire to make reality so that our home better fits our family and our needs. Figuring out when the right time to start depends on a few factors, and it will be different for every person and situation. Let’s look at what you should consider.
Equity & Affordability
This is almost always the first place to begin. Because you will be investing money into your home, the equity and affordability should direct your frame of thinking. The best way to pose the question is: what is the return on investment? First and foremost, what is your current equity on your home? If what you owe is more than what your house is worth, it’s probably not the right time. You need a certain level of comfort in your equity before moving forward in even a small remodel, as the longer-term increase in equity may take a minute to catch up to your initial expenses.
If you believe that in five years, your return on investment will build your equity back to what it was pre-remodel, then the practicals make sense to proceed with a remodel. Kitchens, baths, and decks/patios give the best return, in our experience. If the remodel gets more extensive, it may change your ability to meet these criteria. Of course, many people will choose to remodel in stages when the list is long. However, what may be surprising to learn is that sometimes the refinance can be more affordable to just do it all at once.
A good rule of thumb is your existing home expenses and utility cost plus the cost of the remodel should be no more than ½ of your monthly income. You want to avoid bringing your house and related payments into a place that you can’t afford. Do you have room to expand your monthly cost of living and take on an additional payment or even possibly refinance? The answers to these questions will help guide your decision.
When making changes to your home, you always need to be forward-thinking about your life plans. Is your current house located where you want to be in 5 or 10 plus years? Location can make a significant difference in your overall health and happiness as a family. Every person’s needs will look different, but if you know that you don’t want to be in your current home for long, that should be an important driving factor in your decision-making. When thinking about remodeling, you, once again, want to make sure that your return on investment is worth the cost. If it’s not, investing in your next home purchase will be a more sound decision.
For us here in Duluth, the terrain and geographical location can make a big difference when considering a remodel. Being on the shore of the world’s largest body of freshwater has its perks, but factors like wind speed and erosion can also pose significant risks to your home over the long term. Be sure to investigate how your environmental surroundings could help or hinder your home remodel.
Above the J&RS crew works on a second story addition up the north shore.
Everybody interested in remodeling has probably heard the term “good bones.” Making sure your home has a strong structure is vital to the longevity of your remodel. The foundation is arguably the most important piece of the home. It is very important that your home first has a strong foundation that keeps the elements out. Along with that, make sure drainage, windows, siding, and roofing conditions are strong before moving forward with a remodel.
When thinking about a remodel, make sure to bring in a professional who can address any foundational issues like rots, leaks, cracks, and more. At J&RS, we are very transparent with anyone who comes to us about remodeling their home. We’re not afraid to have honest conversations about what’s behind the walls. It would be an irresponsible business practice for any builder to install a new kitchen over a bad foundation.
Ultimately, each situation will look different, and the decisions you make about improving or upgrading your home will be determined by evaluating what’s going to make you the happiest along with what makes the most sense practically. The important thing is that you determine what’s most important to you and your family’s short-term and long-term goals.
Occasionally, we will get a client who embarks on a remodeling journey only to discover that building new makes more sense. One pre-retirement couple who lived in Duluth, MN, in the same home for 25 years and owned it outright (about $325k) wanted to remodel their abode to update many things: roofing, siding, windows, kitchen, basement update, flooring, and paint changes. As they began to price out their priorities and wants in their remodel, the cost started to reach around $300k to remodel their existing home. That, coupled with the fact that they hadn’t made strong plans for how they would age in place in their home, gave them pause on their plans.
Through further discussion, they decided to instead complete minor repairs on their home to sell it and take their equity to build a brand-new custom home. J&RS successfully designed and built a $400K single-story slab home with an attached 2-car garage to meet their list of needs and have a home they could live in for the rest of their lives. Not only that, but also their new home is in a desirable neighborhood with universal design elements that will make it appealing to any family should they ever decide to move. They were very happy about their ultimate decision to build new.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about custom homes, remodels, or our design process, please get in touch.