Many homeowners contemplate moving into a newer, larger home. Their existing home looks tired or crowded. They feel they’ve outgrown it. Yet frequently, a new home can be found inside your existing one.
However, you may still have to go through the legwork of looking at what is currently on the market. “I would say about 80 to 90 per cent of my clients come to me because they have outgrown their current home,” explains Robert Alan Wolf, a Berkeley architect. “They look at the real estate market, and after looking around at what is for sale, realize the home they really want is way out of their price range.”
Wolf says this happens largely thanks to ever-increasing real estate values. “They bought their home at $250,000. The home is now worth $500,000, but the better home they are looking at is $800,000,” Wolf notes. “The reality is, if they like their current neighborhood, and get along with their neighbors, then they can frequently make changes to their current home and be very happy.”
“Generally, a homeowner wants to expand, because their home is too small,” Wolf explains. “So, they might add a bedroom, a bathroom, and remodel the kitchen. But it’s hard to say what a typical remodel really is, as my designs try to fit the needs of that particular client.”
Remodeling projects are notorious, however, for their cost overruns, and the consummate amount of frustration and stress they can bring to a household. “I try to remind my clients regularly to, as I say, keep their pencil sharp on all sides,” Wolf explains. “They need to maintain a balance between value and quality. That can be a difficult balance to maintain.”
That “pencil sharpening” can truly make or break the project’s financial viability. “A client will see more expensive fixtures for the bathroom. The difference in price might not be very big, but if they have more than one bathroom, or want to add similar fixtures in the kitchen, the cost can add up quickly.”
Wolf also advises that additional costs can crop up, either because of deferred maintenance or what he refers to as “might as wells”. “The homeowner will say, Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½Since we’re remodeling this bathroom, we might as well remodel the other bathroom, too. Since we’re adding on new, we might as well upgrade the existing electrical, too.’ Those kinds of things can add to the price.”
Wolf estimates that additions which add to the back of a home start at around $150,000 and go up, while the cost of adding a second story to a single story home begins at around $250,000 to $350,000.
For some homeowners, the solution may be simpler, and involve hiring a home stager or professional organizer. Annie Calvas-Blanchon, owner of Une Belle Maison, stages homes for sale and also helps individual clients brighten up their homes. “The first thing I have to find out,” Calvas-Blanchon explains, “is why isn’t the home working?”
Calvas-Blanchon says that a home that is too small, particularly with a growing family, is probably better left to an architect for expansion. “However, there are things that can be done if a room feels too small. I can change the feeling of the room by rearranging the furniture they have. They may be trying to use a room, such as a dining room, for its original purpose, but they really need an office. Changes can be made in color, lighting, and how things are placed which can make a room more welcoming. I really believe a lot of it is how and where you place your things.”
Calvas-Blanchon says she also encounters rooms that are, “too cluttered to really be used.” At that point, she might refer clients to a professional organizer.
Claire Tompkins, who runs Clutter Coach, is a professional organizer in the San Francisco Bay Area. She helps people find space in their homes they didn’t really realize they had. “People hate to go through what they have, and dispose of what they don’t need,” she explains. “The process can even be painful, particularly if the items in question relate to a hobby, job, or business they used to have. There can be a real emotional charge, for example, when they look at the items remaining from a failed business. So, the person doesn’t want to go through what they have.”
Tompkins also says homeowners can also be, “seduced by consumer-it is. It is quite a hard sell, but I try to convince them that not buying without careful thought is really important.”
Tompkins uses an analogy which shows the wasted value of clutter: “I tell my clients that all of the stuff in their home is like a bunch of sub-tenants who aren’t paying the rent. Think about it – part of why you are paying the rent or the mortgage is so the exercise machine you never use has a place to sit.”
Often, Tompkins can convince a homeowner that moving is not really necessary. “When we first start out, they may think moving is their best option. When we finish, they stay in the home they have.”