Should You Take on the Job of Renovating An Old Home?

Residential Investment Property

The TV shows make it look so easy, showing how a dilapidated, outdated or hideously ugly house undergoes a magical Cinderella transformation within 30 minutes. Well, not really 30 minutes but that’s how long it takes to show the viewers the process of converting the home into a beautiful abode. And, we, the viewers know it takes longer than 30 minutes, but we walk away thinking maybe whole house renovations aren’t so hard.

Do your homework

They don’t have to be, but you should do your homework before deciding to take on the job of renovating an old home.

First of all, you should carefully assess the home to determine what is salvageable. Figure out whether the home has any architectural or historical details that should be preserved, such as moldings, railings or hardwood floors. These are the kind of features that could affect the value of your home and set your home apart from others. During your assessment, you should also figure out what features you would like to keep, either because they are in good condition or simply because you like them.

Decide what you would like to tear down

Make two lists: “tear down” and “maybe tear down” or something similar that you can refer to when getting estimates later from a contractor or builder.  You can request two different estimates:

1. For a heavy remodel (tearing down walls, getting new roofing, kitchen, bath, etc.) and
2. For a near teardown of the house that preserves the main structural elements. Make sure the budget includes any fees for building permits.

If the house is structurally solid, you should consider saving your money for remodeling in the kitchen and bathrooms, which are the rooms where updates usually pay off the most and where you will most notice the upgrades.

Older homes tend to have nasty surprises

Keep in mind that there may be surprises as you go along. Older homes have a tendency to hide some nasty secrets (ie. mold problems, electrical wiring, plumbing, etc.) that don’t get discovered until far into the renovation process. These fixes could turn out to be costly and you need to set aside some of your budget for these possibilities.

From the outset, it’s helpful if you keep your ultimate goal in mind. You want your home to be aesthetically pleasing, but you also want to make sure you are modernizing the home to adapt to the way you live. This will nearly always ensure a successful renovation. Surely, you will have more than 30 minutes worth of stories to tell but you will get years of enjoyment out of your newly renovated home.

Photo credit: grongar

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