Instead of remodel bathroom - did you consider moving?

EngineerChicDecember 12, 2011

I'm asking because I'm trying to figure out what is the right choice for us.

We are contemplating a second floor remodel that would include taking 1 tiny bathroom & making it 2 small bathrooms (1 for kid bedrooms & 1 for master).

I've posted about it on the remodeling forum b/c our choice is remodel or move. The advice there is that moving makes more sense & there's a lot of doubt expressed about the prices I have for the work. Everyone seems to think it should cost $100k to $150k to add a dormer & porch to our Cape. We've contacted 4 (reputable, licensed) contractors and have estimates that are $72k to $87k for the work. And we've stipulated a lot of details in the bids - like spray foam insulation & cast iron tubs & copper supply lines.

If we moved, we'd be looking to buy a house that is $150k to $200k more than the house we have today. So remodeling is cheaper, and we don't have the expense of moving (6% sales commission plus new mortgage costs, etc). But we probably won't get a return on our investment (we do NOT plan to move if we do this, I really like the rest of the house).

I was just wondering - did anyone here go through the same decision? How did you decide which way to go?

I really want to do the smart thing for us financially AND in terms of mental health. The housing inventory in our area is low and most of it is the same age as our house (1960 - 1970). And a lot of it doesn't have much curb appeal or is in a tough location (next to wetlands, so you can't put up a fence for the dog; or close to the highway).

Here's what we are planning to do - the link below has pics of the front of a house that we're going to pretty much copy. The back of our house already has the large dormer, so we're changing the front roofline & keeping the back the same. And we're doing the porch as well. We can pay cash for the remodel, buying a different house would involve a larger mortgage with higher payments than we have today.

Thanks in advance for any advice - the other forum has a smaller pool of participants and I could use a fresh perspective.

Here is a link that might be useful: Inspiration Pictures - Click images to enlarge

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I've been following your remodel post also. And, I think you should just do the remodel. You've done your due diligence. You know what you are getting into. You've got multiple good bids (maybe now you need to contact references and ask how close their original bids were to the final cost), but really, you like what you have with a modification that also adds floor space, you like your area, you can do this without being house poor... just do it.

Maybe I'm "biased" since we sort of did this 1.5 yrs ago. Inventory was low, we loved our Cape (which isn't a common house plan in our area). We liked our location. Moving costs money--brokerage fees, taxes, bank fees, etc. For us, we spent twice as much as what we would have had to pay in RE closing and added on a lot of square footage (we added on to the back of our cape, rather than redoing the front roof). But, for us, that was the much better decision. We are very happy with what we did. Adding square footage adds to the value of the house as RE goes, but also added to the value of our happiness being here.

Count in that there will be some nuisances of living while remodeling. Ask your contractor if they think you will need to be out of the house, and for how long, for certain things (for us, it was just a day or 2 while they removed the one formerly exterior wall and connected the addition to the house proper, but we planned a vacation and so we were gone for the week).

But, you can do this. You are no stranger to remodeling (you describe other remodels/additions in your other post). If you are happy where you are, and you can't wait for more inventory (I couldn't), do it.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 1:10PM
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Wow that's a big renovation for under $100K. I'd guesstimate that you'll need to have available funds for overages, like in the range of 10 - 15%, cause you never know what happens once walls are opened and things that you were not aware of need to be upgraded or fixed.

If you have a good location, cash on hand, like your house, and are not concerned about recouping your costs with a sale I don't see why you should consider moving. We just moved (relocated for job) and it is a big hassle in addition to the costs. Plus you just don't know what you'll get in the new place that needs to be taken care of.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 1:10PM
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Since you are adding usable sq. ft., I would evaluate things based on the difference between the cost of the reno minus the added value versus all the costs of moving.

I never considered moving, but a couple of years ago I wanted to remove an in ground swimming pool. The overwhelming advice was to just move. I never understood the logic. It cost 5K to remove the pool and would cost 12K in just closing costs to buy another house. When you live in an expensive area the transaction costs can be huge. The bathroom remodel is the same for me. It costs too much to move.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 2:24PM
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Really need to look at it from a pure business standpoint as well. Putting that much money into your house is only worth it if you are going to see a real rate of return on it, not just how much you like it. Where will the addition put your house in line with other recent sales in your neighborhood? Another factor to consider is would similar amount of money put you close to buying a much nicer house in a better neighborhood that has a greater chance of making more money when the market eventually begins a solid rebound? Is your current house paid off and/or are you in the black on it?

I have been in my current house for 20 years (when I had it built) and have spent about 100 grand over the last year updating HVAC/Roof/2 bathrooms major remodel etc. The way I looked at it is that my house was paid off 10 years ago and even with deflated prices over the last couple of years it is still triple the value of money I have into it. I could afford to throw the investment into this house and still have no problem even if my ROI was only 50 percent or less. I could not buy a nicer home in this area for 200 thousand more, let alone 100,000, so I had no interest in moving.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 3:05PM
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Looking at your other post, I have to be among those that think that your prices are too good to be true unless you are contracting for a shell only and you will complete the finish work. Is there no electrical work being planned? You will have to make the "new" bedroom space comply with the new arc fault requirement, and this new bath (and the old) will need GFCI breakers installed. What is your panel's ampacity? Will it have enough room to be able to deal with this? Are you on city sewer and not a septic system? Are the pipes going to be able to handle the additional waste flow from another bath? Will you be able to get in the now required R value into the ceiling and maintain the minimum head height without completely popping off and rebuilding the whole roof? Will the joists support all of this as a live load? Have you talked with a structural engineer to be sure? Will the old stairs be allowed to be grandfathered in under the past code if you create new bedroom space above or will you completely need to rework the access to the second floor? Will the windows meet emergency egress codes? There are a lot of questions that only a structural engineer and your local building codes office can really answer.

Add on 25K to be able to split this bath and create a new one to the 90-120K of the other reno and you may start changing your mind about the cost benefit ratio.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 3:08PM
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I think we are going to just do it. Thanks for all the advice here. We have a contingency budget of another $40k we could tap if we had to - it's the long term emergency fund that we planned to rely on if we were both ever out of work at the same time.

Yes - new windows are larger & meet egress codes.
Electrical work is planned, and this includes upgrading our circuit panel. That is roughly $3k of the cost.
We are on city sewer and city water. Waste stack is sized appropriately.
We are using spray foam insulation (as mentioned in the other post) for exterior walls and the ceiling so that we can vault the ceiling to the roofline.
Joists are sized correctly currently - a cape has a central load bearing wall. The bedrooms today are on the back half of the upstairs. The floor joists are the same size and same span on the front side of the house.
The old stairs are not being altered & the number of bedrooms is not changing, we are only changing the size of them.

I have to say, I'm a little disheartened to hear so many people say it's impossible to add a shed dormer & porch to a cape for under $100k - when we have multiple bids at that price. If I hadn't talked to 5 contractors and gotten 4 bids I could see the skepticism. But with the work we've done to get the information we have ... it just feels patronizing. Or like people think I'm some troll or sock-puppet stirring up questions and impossible scenarios for fun.

Maybe a crappy day at work is spilling over to the rest of life, though, and maybe the questions and doubt aren't meant the way they are coming across.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 8:57PM
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Location is a big part of cost estimating, so perhaps you are in a low labor area. Or perhaps you are in an area that was harder hit from the building recession and consequently have hungrier contractors. You seem to have done all of the recommended preparations and you have reserve funding, so yeah, I can understand you going forth with the project. :)

Please do keep us updated as to the progress of the project and how on track with your budget it goes. A lot of people lurk and learn, so the more shared information there is in the archives about people's projects, the better they will be able to learn about how to manage their own projects. Everyone can benefit!

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 11:45PM
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Try not to be too disheartened by the pointed remarks. I see you're new in these parts, so you'll soon learn that GW-ers have a tendency to be blunt, and much of it is drawn from experience giving advice to people who haven't done their homework as thoroughly as you have, or who appear to be naively venturing into shark-infested waters. And they tend to give advice beyond what you've asked for. Everyone is trying to be helpful, really, they're just not always tactful and don't always fully read your post.

Heck, I posted a few weeks ago asking for advice on calculating an appraisal on a house we're selling. I got suggestions for lists of things I should change about it (most not feasible), assumptions that the mechanicals had major problems (not true), and comments that warned me that I'd have to take 15% less than a house half the size had recently sold for (non-sensical). My initial reaction was to respond and correct everyone's erroneous statements, but in the end I found it more useful to pull out the wheat and leave the chaff behind. There were some valuable suggestions that helped me do my math and come up with a listing price.

So people have pointed out things to consider. My advice is to make sure you have considered all those things and make an educated decision. And then come back and close the loop with everyone on how it went. Those are some of the most valuable posts: people worrying about something and then either finding out the worst happened, or finding out that everything was fine. Browse through old posts and you'll learn a lot of great stuff from people's real life experiences.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 1:33PM
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Thanks everyone - I'd just had a truly craptastic day yesterday (hours spent prepping for a meeting so we could finally make a decision ... and yet no one could actually commit to doing anything but thinking about it some more). Oy Vey!

Good news - I stopped by our town's building department to ask if they had any suggestions for drafters or architects & casually mentioned the name of the contractor we want to use. The inspector said, "He did some work here on the Town Hall, I can't reccomend anyone but we hired him." Based on the rave reviews his previous customers have given him, I can only assume that means, "I inspected lots of his jobs before he did the work for the town, he did a good enough job that we hired him."

And I have a drafter coming out Saturday to review the plans & get official drawings. I'm not an architect (or even a mechanical engineer) so although I have drawings that look good, it doesn't mean they're right. The drafter is someone who's in the building department of a town close to us, which means he knows what level of detail these guys need to sign off on the plans.

Fingers crossed for smooth-ish sailing ;)

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 8:20PM
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laura mcleod

hi there - I so feel your pain! We faced this same decision 3 years ago. We live in a neighborhood with most homes from the 1920's - many have been redone - but even if we moved and bought one of those, there would be a lot of aesthetics we would want to change. :) We too factored in all of the costs associated with selling, moving, etc.. it is an expensive process (never mind also ending up with the more expensive house)

We needed a master bed and bath (tiny bedrooms and one upstairs bath does not work with 2 growing boys!), and a larger more functional kitchen. We elected to add on and remodel and every day I am thankful we did. One, we got to keep our great location and our awesome neighbors (having had not great neighbors in the past, this was important to me) and two, I got to remodel exactly how I wanted things - which meant we spent money on what was important to us, and did not spend money on what was not. (I have seen a lot of expensive kitchens in our neighborhood that I would not have wanted to pay for)

We had an architect draft our plans first then we bid out the work. Times were a little tough for contractors in our area, so we got some competitive bids - we ended up with a gem of a contractor and that made the decision easy at that point. We did things to save money like staying in the house during construction, buying our own tile (from Overstock) and other little things like that. And then we splurged on what was important to us.

I would do it again in a heart beat - there are so many unknowns with moving (traffic noise, unknown neighbors...) so I say if you are happy with where you are - change the house since you cannot change location. Most importantly, you will get to make the house exactly how you want it to be.

Good luck with the process - keep GW posted - it is exciting!!


Here is a link to my photobucket account which has some of our remodel noted -

    Bookmark   December 14, 2011 at 12:41PM
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