Renovate or rebuild?

Danny and Queenie Ross love Dunwoody, where they have lived for 39 years and raised six children. But they feel their current house is too big and no longer meets their needs. Like many homeowners, the Rosses have discussed staying put or moving on.

“We wanted to downsize but stay in Dunwoody,” said Danny, a former Dunwoody City Councilman.

A year ago, the Rosses found a lakeside house for sale in Dunwoody, not far from their current home. They bought the house, built in the 1960s, with a teardown-and-rebuild in mind. With the help of Bill Grant Homes in Dunwoody and Acworth-based Tim Call Design, the couple is building a new, four-bedroom house on the lot.

The new, single-story house will include an open floor plan, vaulted ceilings, plus a master and guest suite on the main floor. The fact that the house was on a lot that overlooks Kingsley Lake was a compelling reason to move forward with the downsizing plan.

“With a house on the lake, we will give our grandchildren even more reasons to visit us,” said Danny. “Our kids are excited about it too.”

Whether to renovate your current living space or build a new home is a common question. But there is no one right answer. Each situation is unique. The best choice for you, depends on your budget and individual situation, according to Atlanta-area builders, designers and architects.

Families like the Rosses are part of a growing, Atlanta-area phenomenon to buy older homes with the intention of razing them and building new houses. Major home renovations are on the rise as well.

“Small, older homes, lack of vacant lots and prime neighborhoods (along with schools) are the main reasons for either tearing down and rebuilding or making additions,” said Randy Glazer of Atlanta-based Glazer Construction.

If you are thinking about whether you should remodel your existing home or build a new home, consider these tips from Glazer, Tim Call and the National Association for the Remodeling Industry (NARI).

Advantages of a renovation or an addition

- Home is in a desirable area. You like the schools, neighbors, the community and commute.

- Home is structurally sound and in good condition.

- The floor plan or layout generally work for your family’s lifestyle, but space needs to be updated or reconfigured.

- Additions or renovations that are localized in one of two areas of the house. These could include a master bathroom remodel or bumping out the back of the house for a new kitchen, family room and porch.

- Renovations add space, and square footage generally adds more value to your home.

Advantages of a move, teardown and rebuild

- The property is in a sought-after neighborhood or location, but the houses for sale are dated, in disrepair or difficult (and costly) to remodel.

- A new home’s design is tailored to your needs. It also is stocked with the latest features.

- Newer more energy-efficient systems, windows and doors.

- Higher ceilings, which make the space feel more open. If you build a new house, you can have 10-foot ceilings on the first floor, said Dunwoody’s Bill Grant. “Homes with eight-foot ceilings are a big reason people want a new home, said Grant. “It’s expensive to raise a ceiling.”

Questions to Ask

In one his recent blogs, Glazer addressed some common questions about renovation versus rebuilding:

What is the condition of the home?

If the home is in poor condition, has a dated floor plan or problems, such as mold, water, asbestos, plumbing, electrical or foundation issues, remodeling costs are likely to creep up beyond the initial estimates.

Glazer suggests watching the popular HGTV show, “Love it or List it,” to see what type of issues pop up during renovations. Inevitably, the scope of the remodel gets scaled back as part of the remodel budget is sucked up by the unexpected problems found that need to be fixed.

How much change is needed?

Combining rooms (such as a kitchen and dining room), adding rooms to the rear of the house, or converting a basement or attic space to usable space are good candidates for a remodel, said Glazer.

But if you don’t have space to extend out, up or down, have to remove anchor walls or change all of the plumbing and electrical work, a teardown might be a better option.

What is the value? Consider your home’s current value and the future value of a remodeled or rebuilt home. Typically, the cost to tear down and rebuild will be about 20 percent more than an extensive home remodel. But the finished home’s value (with new materials, construction techniques and a modern footprint) is likely to be higher.

“Plus, you will have a house that meets your need versus having to make some tradeoffs going the remodel route,” said Glazer.

What about costs?

In the end, the decision comes down to cost and your budget. Sometimes a renovation is the best path. But if you have to renovate the entire house, it’s easier to tear down and start over. There are fewer unknowns with this approach. You are also getting a new home designed to your needs and your budget.

House help

To get an idea of your current’s house worth or a neighborhood you are shopping, talk to a real estate agent familiar with the area. For advice on whether to renovate or rebuild, meet with a skilled and experienced architect, builder, designer or contractor. Put together a wish list for both a renovation and a new home and assess your options.

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