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Remodeling or Building New – What’s Best for You?

There’s nothing more exciting than getting to custom design your home to best fit your family’s wants and needs. You get to see your inspiration come to life right before your eyes. The best part is that it’s all yours to enjoy for many years to come! So how do you go from the space you’re living in now to the home of your dreams? You have two options: a whole-home remodel or a custom home build.

Remodeling and building new, both have their benefits. There are many practical factors to consider before deciding on which option to choose. As a homeowner, you need to balance your goals against practical limitations including cost, timing, and ease of construction.

With such a large investment on your hands, you need to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of a remodel and custom home build. Below, we will help you determine which option is the right fit for your family and your desired outcome.

Remodeling vs Building New – A Direct Comparison

When it comes time to re-imagine your living space you need to know the general pros and cons of remodeling vs. building new. Each option has unique benefits and downsides. Some of these factors are emotion-based, while others are purely functional.

Let’s look at remodeling first. This option involves redesigning the layout, updating the features, and adding  your personal touch to your existing home. 

Benefits of Remodeling

There are a few main benefits to choosing a remodel instead of new construction.

  • Reduced Overall Cost
  • Keep the same location and neighbors
  • Less likelihood that you will need to find a temporary residence during construction

In general, remodeling is a much more cost-effective option. The national average cost of a remodel is usually between $20,000 to $75,000.

In contrast, building a new home is drastically more expensive. The actual cost of doing this depends on many factors. But in general, a new home will cost well over $100,000, nationally.

But of course, your home means much more than a simple dollar amount. If you have strong relationships with your neighbors or a particular affinity for your location, remodeling allows you to keep those benefits. 

Add to that, the fact that, more often than not, you won’t need to move in order to enhance your home. 

Most remodeling can take place while you are still living in your home. This aspect of remodeling means that it is an option that gives you a lot of stability compared to building new. 

One of the best parts of a remodel is you can decide how much or how little of the existing space you want to enhance—making remodeling a cost-efficient method of improving your home’s interiors.

But while there are upsides to remodeling, it is not without its drawbacks.

Downsides of Remodeling

As with any option in life, there are positives and negatives. Some of the common cons of remodeling are below.

  • Less flexibility with design ideas
  • Potential of finding hazardous materials
  • Unforeseen structural problems

The primary flaw with remodeling is that you simply have fewer options. You can only work with what you have. On the other hand, new construction allows you to design with as much imagination as your budget allows.

Another danger worth pointing out, is the potential for finding hazardous materials. Depending on the age of your home, it may have been built using materials that have since been found to harm human health. 

If you have a lot of toxic materials in your home, a remodel can be like opening up a can of worms. What you think is going to be a small project can turn into a large, costly project because of wiring issues, or the like, that you find within your home’s walls. 

For example, asbestos was a common building material in the 1980s, but it has since been linked to certain ailments like cancer. Not only is this a threat to your wellbeing, but it is also somewhat costly to remove.

In addition, there may be other hidden costs associated with remodeling. For example, you may come across some structural issues you did not previously know about. 

In many cases, it is not until you begin construction that you realize your walls or other supporting features are in a state of failure. Again, this will amount to other unknown costs the size of which will depend on your specific circumstance.

To avoid these unknowns, you might consider building a new home from scratch.

Benefits of Building New

Just as remodeling has its benefits, so does building new.

  • Design freedom
  • Choice of location
  • Modern materials

If you decide to build new, the only limitation to your design ideas is your budget. This means that you have much more flexibility in creating your dream home. With remodeling, you can only work and build off of what already exists, for better or worse.

In the same vein, you get to choose your location as well. If you don’t like your current neighborhood, building new  removes this problem. You have the ability to move to any location that has land ready to develop.

With building new you also have the benefit of modern materials. These new materials reflect the progress we have made in the construction industry. With building new you have the chance to choose materials that are longer lasting and more energy efficient.

But of course, building new has its detractors as well.

Downsides of Building New

  • Higher cost
  • Unpredictable construction timing
  • Ongoing costs

As alluded to before, a new home comes with a big price tag. Even if you remodel your entire existing house, it will likely cost less than building new. 

But this is not really a surprise. Most people would not be shocked to find that building a new home is an expensive task. But there is another downside that may not be as obvious.

Timing can present some difficulties for building new. Many people are not aware of these challenges before beginning their quest for a brand new home

For example, it will take a matter of months for your new home to be built. The average is 7 months but depending on the project this period can be much longer. During this time you will need a place to stay. If you don’t plan well for this, you may end up spending more money than you thought on living expenses.

For example, let’s say you sold your previous house with the expectation that your new home would be finished at the close of the deal. If construction goes on longer than expected, you will need to find yet another place to live. You may find yourself searching for a new apartment even though your initial cost estimate for your new home did not include paying a few months’ worth of rent to a landlord.

Lastly, there will likely be some ongoing costs that you did not foresee initially. Once your home is built, the process is done, right? 

Well, what about the land outside of your house? This will likely come with limited landscaping. To remedy this will take more time and money. It may even take years before your landscaping gives you that at-home feel.

Above is a brief outline of some pros and cons. However, it is likely that you still don’t know which option is best for you. The questions in the next section will give you a better idea of whether you should choose to remodel or build new.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Deciding Between a Remodel or Custom Build

Whether you’re leaning more towards a remodel or new build, there are a few questions you should consider before making the final decision.

  1. How long do you plan on staying in your home?
  2. How much do you have budgeted for the project?
  3. What is the current condition of your home?

How Long Do We Plan to Stay in Our Home?

To decide which is the more cost-effective option for you, you need to ask yourself how long you plan to stay in your home. Will you need to move in a few years to a different location with a better school district? Is there a chance you’ll have to move for a job in a few years? The best option will vary for each situation. 

Although building a new home is often the more expensive option, if you plan on moving within a few years it can also be the better option because it will usually sell for a significantly higher price point.

How Much Do We Have Budgeted for this Project?

If you don’t want to have to compromise on the quality of your fixtures and features (like countertops, flooring, etc.), then remodeling might be the better option if you don’t have a lot of money budgeted for the project. Typically, a remodeling project, even a large scale one, will cost less than a custom home build.

However, it’s important to note that if you’re remodeling an older home (i.e. a fixer-upper and not the home you’re currently living in), there is a chance it could get costly if you run into structural, electrical, or plumbing issues during the remodeling process.

What is the Current State of Our Home?

Most people who choose to remodel love specific characteristics about their home that they don’t want to give up. This can vary from historic hardwood floors to crown molding. 

If your home has an historic charm that you want to preserve (and enhance!), you can keep that charm with some newly added class. For those who are more attached to their home’s history and unique characteristics, a remodel is a great fit.

Something else to keep in mind is that a remodel project can be greatly impacted by existing issues with the property. If you’re aware of foundation damage, plumbing or electrical issues, faulty or outdated HVAC units that aren’t up to code, building a new home might make more sense to avoid trying to work around these expensive problems.

Here’s When You Should Remodel Instead of Rebuild

If you’re still on the fence about which option is right for your family, that’s alright! It’s a big decision with a lot of scenarios to consider. 

But to help you out, there are some surefire signs that you should opt for remodeling.

  • You don’t want to leave your neighborhood
  • Your home has sentimental value
  • Home values in your neighborhood are rising
  • Your home value is low
  • You have a tight deadline

Below are some further details on why these scenarios mean remodeling is right for you.

You Don’t Want to Leave Your Neighborhood.

If you love your neighborhood, it can be hard to imagine leaving. Whether you’re a big fan of your neighbors, its location, the school district, or its amenities, it can be hard to give that up—especially if you haven’t found a house or lot on the market that comes close to it. 

A remodel is a great idea if you love the location of your existing house and there are no empty lots available for you to build new in the same area.

Your Home has Sentimental Value.

It can be hard to part with a home, especially if big milestones have taken place while you live there. Your home has been your sanctuary, where you go when you need to wind down, but also a place where you’ve been able to celebrate big moments in your life! From engagements to first children to first steps and more, your home might have a lot of sentimental value that you’re not ready to part with yet!

Home Values in your Neighborhood are Rising.

If you live in an area that is booming, it might be worth it to stick around a bit longer! Depending on your area, there’s a fairly good chance your home’s value has increased substantially over the past few years, and it might be on the rise as more and more people try to move into your area! If that’s the case, remodeling is a great option. 

Not only will it allow you to keep a property in an area that is already booming, but the remodel will add value to your home—boosting your profits down the line!

Your Home Value is Low

If your home is missing the curb appeal (or any appeal at all) but has other things going for it like location, a whole-home remodel can help bring it up to be on par with the other higher value homes in your neighborhood. Remodeling your existing home will help increase its value, making it much easier should you choose to eventually sell it (and at a higher price point!).

You Have a Tight Deadline

No project is going to be quick and easy, but if you’re working with a tighter timeframe, then a remodel might be the better solution for you. Remodeling typically takes less time than building because there are fewer permits to get and you don’t have to rely on sunny weather as much (since there is already an existing structure over your head).

Here’s When You Should Build New Instead of Remodel

If you’re ready for something new, that’s quite alright! Custom building a new home is a great option if:

  • Land is available in your desired neighborhood
  • Your wish list can’t be fulfilled in your current space
  • The cost to remodel will outpace the resale value
  • Your home is structurally unsound

Land is Available in Your Desired Neighborhood

Whether you’ve found a plot of land in your current neighborhood, or you’ve done your research and found land in a neighborhood with better amenities, location, and school district, then choosing to build is a great option. You can get the best of both worlds by moving to the new area you prefer while getting to custom design a space for your family to enjoy.

Your Wish List Can’t be Fulfilled in Your Current Space

Sometimes the home features and amenities on your wish list won’t be possible with a remodel, whether impacted by square footage, acreage, or structural capacity. If that’s the case, you’ll have to decide if the compromise is worth it to remodel your home – if your “wants” are actually “needs”. 

If you can’t live without them, then a custom home build is the way to go because you’re able to take all your ideas and merge them together to create your dream home from scratch. You won’t have to cram all your ideas inside an existing structure (often making sacrifices or compromises) but instead can build the structure to accommodate all your desired features.

The Cost to Remodel will Outpace the Resale Value

One of the most popular reasons people choose to remodel their homes is because of the added resale value it can bring. However, just because you’re remodeling your home doesn’t mean you’ll be able to sell your house and cover the costs of the remodel. 

You need to keep in mind how much you’re putting into the remodel and make sure it doesn’t outpace the home’s resale value. If it does, a remodel won’t be the most cost-efficient option and a new home build is best.

Your Home is Structurally Unsound

Depending on the age and condition of your home, there’s a chance you could be dealing with foundation, plumbing, or electrical issues that can quickly add up. If you are aware of an excessive number of any of these issues, it might be more cost-efficient to knock down the existing structure and start over.

Legal Considerations

Along with cost, timing, and emotional factors, your local municipality will likely have a say in your project. Cities and towns each have their own rules surrounding residential construction projects. It is your responsibility to follow these rules at the risk of incurring a fine later on.

Are There Local Zoning Laws that will Impact Your Project?

Before beginning any project, you will want to check with your local government to ensure that any renovations you’re hoping to make are allowed in your area. 

Even if you are only making interior alterations to your home, there are likely still regulations you need to be aware of. 

Hiring a knowledgeable professional can be invaluable at this stage. Working with someone who has experience designing and building in your area is a good way to ensure you aren’t skirting any legal requirements.

Your local zoning laws should contain all of the information relevant to your project. There you will find rules related to setbacks, lot and house sizes, and much more.

Be sure to read these laws first. After all, there’s nothing worse than getting started and having to halt and pivot mid-project.

Conclusion

Making the decision between remodeling and building new is no small feat. This choice depends heavily on factors unique to your situation. But the tips above should get you started on the right track. With foresight, funds, and a bit of luck, you may soon be living in the home of your dreams.

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