I’ve been following Crystal’s new house saga with interest; she and her husband just had a new house built, and while they’re finally moving in and getting settled, it’s been a long, bumpy ride. Several times as I read her posts, I was reminded of two experiences in my own life – the construction of my parents’ house and remodeling the one I live in now.
When my parents announced that they had purchased a lot and would be building a (gasp!) brand new house, I was one excited kid. We would get to pick out everything ourselves! Everything would be new and shiny! Except the construction took about three times longer than expected and cost probably twice what my parents budgeted. Mostly because my dad and my uncle (a contractor) built the house themselves while my dad worked 50+ hours a week at his full-time job. Yeah, great planning, guys!
When I got divorced in 2009, the hunt for a place to live proved to be a difficult one. With the housing market in trouble and people snatching up all the rentals due to foreclosures, my parents decided it would make more sense to buy a house and let me rent from them. The problem? Anything in a decent neighborhood either cost too much or needed some serious renovations. We ended up doing a total overhaul of my house, which was built in the 1950s and hadn’t been updated since. And, much like my parents’ house, the work took longer and cost more than expected.
Thinking about those situations led me to wonder, What would I do if I had to choose between another remodel or building a new home? While I’m not planning any new construction projects in the near future, things could change at the drop of a hat, especially now that I’m self-employed and can work from anywhere. Both options, building new and remodeling, have benefits as well as drawbacks.
The Pros of Building New
This should be pretty obvious. Building a new house means the sky (and your budget!) is the limit. You can choose the number, size, and configuration of rooms, the layout, the type of windows… Everything can be customized to your needs and tastes. You get to move into a fresh, empty house that already looks exactly the way you want it to. And you don’t have to wait for someone else to get all their stuff moved out! A new house is one of the only ways to get absolutely everything you want in a home, assuming you can afford the things you want.
The Cons of Building New
As I mentioned, my parents’ house took ages to build and there were a ton of unexpected costs. Both of these issues seem to be pretty common with new construction, as evidenced by Crystal’s posts on the subject. Materials cost a lot more than they did when older homes were built as well – $100k will buy a LOT of house in my area if you’re buying an existing home, but not so much if you’re building a new one.
The Pros of Remodeling
Remodeling my house was kind of fun, now that I’ve been here a few years and blocked out most of the memories of how awful it was. My house was very reasonably priced to make up for all the “features,” like mauve carpet, the blue bathtub and toilet, and 60s pine cabinets. I got to go through the house and determine what should stay (the walls were okay, and there were hardwood floors under the carpet) and what needed to go (basically everything else). Overall I ended up with a house I love but without the massive price tag of a new home.
The Cons of Remodeling
I can’t lie – remodeling is hard work! I personally painted every single wall and piece of trim in the house (thank goodness my dad painted the cabinets for me), as well as removing wallpaper, refinishing the hardwood floors, and all kinds of exciting tasks. Sidebar: Who the heck wallpapers the inside of a bathroom closet? And for the record, when you remove said wallpaper, 60 years of disgusting bathroom smells will rise to the surface. Gross. Anyway, remodeling also comes with unexpected costs, because you never know what people have done that isn’t readily visible. I’m looking at you, Previous Owner Who Apparently Let a Cat Pee All Over the Hardwood Floors for 40 Years.
So What Would You Choose?
If you had to choose between building a new home or remodeling an existing one, what would you pick? Keep in mind the financial AND practical considerations that come along with both.