This can be an easy question, or a very hard one. Hate your dated bathroom? Remodel! The foundation is buckling, the roof bowing, and the plumbing and electrical are constant problems? Probably time to rebuild. But there are plenty of situations that are not nearly as simple to resolve. If you’re struggling to decide on a remodel or a rebuild, some of the suggestions here might help.
Think about your house, and how you and your family live in it right now. What works, and what doesn’t? Consider your future: how long do you plan to stay in the house (or at least that location)? What are your needs going to look like ten years down the road, or twenty, or whatever timeframe matches your plans?
If something about your house isn’t working for you and your family, but you’re willing to move, then that’s probably the easiest solution. If nothing else, it’s the option that involves the least amount of dust!
If there are several things you want to change about your home, rebuilding might seem like the way to build exactly the house you want. However, if the things you don’t like are relatively discrete (like that dated bathroom or a cramped kitchen), then a slower, ongoing remodel can be a way to manage that transformation without having to pay for it all at once.
If you want to make structural changes to your house—adding a master suite, for instance—or other alterations that impact the foundation or roofline, the decision-making process can be trickier.
Now is the time to consult with experts. Talk to a builder or remodeler and explain what you want to change. They can help you ballpark a price range for the work. Then talk to a realtor. Would the amount of money the remodel cost push your home’s value out of the price range of other houses in your neighborhood? This isn’t necessarily a deal-killer, or a sign that a rebuild is the only way. If you’re planning to stay in your home for a long time, neighborhood home prices might well catch up to yours. Maybe it’s simply worth it to you to have the house you want in the location you love.
With a home, it’s almost never purely about dollars and cents (although it probably is a mix of dollars and sense, but that’s another story). An expert who knows your real estate market well can perform a market analysis and offer some guidance about whether the cost of a remodel makes sense over a certain length of time.
The current state of your home matters, too. If it is still structurally sound, and there’s no need to make repairs to the foundation, exterior walls, or roof, then a remodel might be the solution.
It’s also important to think of the total cost when you’re weighing a remodel versus a rebuild. There’s the price of each, of course, but you also need a place to live. A total rebuild means you’ll have to find a “home away from home” during the demolition and construction. (Speaking of demolition, that’s an additional cost.) There’s a real advantage to not living on a jobsite. It’s much less intrusive on your daily life. Whereas if you remodel, for instance, a kitchen, are you eating takeout every night? Can you set up a temporary kitchen and make do?
New construction basically guarantees no surprise expenses. Everything is modern, new, and is built or installed according to code, in a very well-defined order. With a remodel? Not so much. You might rip open the walls and ceiling of your kitchen to discover that the wall you want to remove is a “wet” or plumbing wall. That is, water supply and drain lines have been installed inside the stud cavities of the wall. Now your kitchen remodel includes plumbing work in the upstairs bathrooms, too.
In the same way, it’s hard to know if there are electrical wires running through a kitchen bulkhead until it’s been removed. You could discover old repairs that need to be brought up to code. There’s also the challenge of retrofitting and matching up the remodel with the rest of the house where they come together. There are almost always some surprises in a remodel.
This isn’t about how long the process takes, but rather about the passing of time. Remodeling a few of the rooms in your 60-year-old house can be extremely rewarding and cost less than a rebuild, but now you have a nicely remodeled 60-year-old house. Every single part of a house is subject to time. Shingles, paint, siding, concrete—they only last so long. The same goes for appliances and fixtures.
Rebuilding gives you a chance to set the odometer on your house to zero. You can also gain a lot of energy efficiency, the very latest amenities and home luxuries, and pick maintenance free materials, all of which are brand-new, and mostly under warranty. Newer homes typically have fewer structural issues than older homes, too.
In the end, choosing between a remodel and a rebuild is going to include a wide range of factors. Money, timing, your family’s needs—these and many other variables are in play. But if you focus on what you need and want from the project, and consult with local experts, you can figure out what works best for your home and your family.