Whether you want to renovate or detonate your forever home? Here’s what you need to know weigh up.
This very question comes up a lot during site consultations with clients. Some people buy an old home, maybe inherit an old home, or are just tired of living in an old home and aren’t sure of the best course of action. Which one is more efficient in Vancouver, to build a new home or renovate an existing one? We don’t believe that either option is more popular, it all depends on your budget, time you can dedicate, and the resources you have at hand. If you like the area that you are currently living in, you might also like the answer.
You could renovate the home by extending and adding bedrooms, living spaces and changing kitchen and bathrooms to meet current trends. This can get costly. At times renovating seems the best bet rather than building an entire home from scratch, but is it? This is something that many people are asking today.
So why not just knock the whole place down and build a completely new property on the existing site? You already have a great block of land, why not utilise it? Re-building on your existing property could be beneficial in the long run, financially and logistically – short term pain, for long term gain. There are several key reasons to consider when comparing these two options.
In a gut, the house is stripped to the outside walls. Even the most complete gut retains some element of the existing side walls and the foundation walls are maintained like this bungalow gutted to the bones. Often, some percentage of the existing walls are maintained. What stays and what goes depends on the exact nature of the renovation.
Even knowing this information, many homeowners are still unsure which route is best for them. Unfortunately, there is no single right or wrong answer to this question. Reasons to follow one route over the other will depend on each particular situation.
While there is no straightforward way to say one route is better than the other, we can explore some of the thinking that goes into making the decision or needs of the homeowners. Here are a few:
How does the cost compare between building new against a major renovation?
Our experience is that to end up with similar square footage and finish materials it typically is around $300,000 to $500,000 less to do a major renovation. There are exceptions of course and an expert builder should be consulted. The main reason is that usually, we re-use the foundation and much of the existing framing. Typically, all the mechanical systems, electrical and plumbing is upgraded.
This is the unfortunate truth of renovating homes. It relates largely to renovation be a bespoke, unique-to-the-individual-home activity that is time consuming and labour intensive. Brand new homes like this one, can be built quickly, using systems and modern materials that maximise efficiency and save time.
There are of course, ways to capitalise on this to create benefit in your renovation. However, this basic truth can undo a lot of home-owners and renovation is a mental game as much as anything else!
Location can really be a big factor in your decision.
Sometimes, if your current house is close to the ocean, lake or creek, it’s very likely you can not build that close again if you were to tear down and build new. So an addition renovation may be your only option to keep that coveted position on your lot. Is your house getting too small but you love the area, what are your choices? It’s a common problem facing growing families: what to do when they outgrow the home? If you choose to move, you will be faced with all those associated costs such as stamp duty, solicitor’s fees and moving expenses, not to mention possible renovations on your new home.
If a new build is the only real option.
This could be the only option for two reasons: One is that the current house is in such poor shape that it is not worth renovating. Or secondly, that a new home from the ground up is just your preference!
Your neighborhood and quality of life might be the deciding factor.
A home is not just defined as a structure that works and is energy-efficient; you need to consider your own quality of life, and think about the type of space you want to inhabit. If it’s a space that will not lend itself to happy living long into the future, you may already be leaning towards starting over whether you realize it or not. Neighbours often find complete tear downs to be more disruptive than complete guts. Most large scale renovations or re-builds require committee approval.
At times, in can be easier to get neighbours on your side when the house is not getting completely torn down. The perception is that building a new home will be more disruptive. An option that many home shoppers overlook is building a brand-new home in an existing neighborhood that offers key features they want: good schools, a short commute to work, a well-developed sense of community and close proximity to cultural and entertainment options.
Some homeowners want to maintain the original architecture of a home. They want a house that will fit in within the neighbourhood like this Vancouver Special. In these cases, a gut would be the better route. New homes do tend to stand out amongst a street lined with older homes. If maintaining harmony is important, the gut would be the better option.
If I have a choice between both renovation or new build, what do I decide?
Older homes can have severe problems that make them financially unfeasible to repair, such as heavy infestations of mold or pests, extensive water damage undermining the foundation or footings or roof damage from wind or rot. They often have interior layouts that are difficult to rearrange for modern uses and outmoded components that all need to be replaced — at significant cost — whether you tear the house down or try to renovate it.
Ask yourself: Do I want a home that is energy efficient, from windows to doors to kitchen appliances? Wired for all the sophisticated electronics we use today? With room layouts that make sense for the style of living you want for you and your family? If you can’t get what you want at a reasonable cost by renovating, then demolition and new construction may be your inevitable answer.
What are other possible barriers to build?
You can count on it! Many older, desirable close-in communities have land-use rules and codes that are intended to protect heritage status or the existing character of the town or neighborhood. Others have historic preservation districts that ban most teardowns or require replacement structures to strictly adhere to the predominant architectural size and standards of the neighborhood.
Which method is faster?
Time is always a major consideration as well. Tearing down a building can be completed typically within hours. Renovations can be almost twice the amount of work. Demolition and prep work inside the home during a renovation can add considerable time to the completion of the project, as well as the cost. Unforeseen issues within the plumbing, electrical and structural systems of the home can take time in plan adjustments, re-engineering, and approvals from the local municipality.
An expert builder or house designer should be familiar with your municipality
They should be involved because the current zoning, various bylaws, right of ways and encroachments may have changed from the time of the original build. That means you may not be able to build a new house on the lot as you are envisioning. So this is step one. Know the guidelines.
What kind of home-lover are you?
In my experience, there are generally two types of home-lovers out there. Home-lover one loves the character of their home, the history and quirks of it, and the story that it tells of its past owners. They love the idea of adding another chapter to that story with an addition renovation, and reinvigorating the home to live on. They also love the idea that they can reshape and reinvent something and breathe new life into it. These home-lovers are renovators.
The second type of home-lover is really attracted to the idea of living in a home that no one else has lived in before. They love the idea of ‘brand-new’, and they love the idea that they can shape something to be exactly how they want it to be. Whilst council rules, budget and building legislation mean this statement isn’t really the case, they see an existing home as a handicap, they struggle to see its merits, and it’s the chain around their neck in creating a home that they can truly love. These home-lovers are the new-home-builders.
This may seem like a dramatic statement, and of course we’re exaggerating. You can have a foot in both camps, and you can like both types based on where you live and what stage of your life you’re at. But deep down, we think you’ll know which one you predominantly identify with, and which approach will make you happiest in creating the perfect home for you.
Here are some questions to ask yourself.
- In your gut, do you dread more the idea of keeping it, or the idea of tearing it down?
- Is the layout something you can see yourself being happy in?
- Can the layout be easily modified to meet your current and future needs?
- Do you plan to live in the home long term or do you just plan to sell it?
- Is it a design that would be valued in a resale market if you decide to sell?
To tear down and re-build or renovate your forever home? Call us today for a consultation to discuss all your options as a homeowner.