Moving and Livability
I have a lot of friends who really hate their houses. Well, hate is too strong of a word. Maybe I should say they’re ‘over’ their houses. They have a house that wasn’t in their five-year plan one or two years ago. But the past two years have changed everything for a lot of people. So I’ve been getting a lot of calls for projects that people really want to do just to make their houses “liveable” for a couple of years.
My typical first word of advice is actually contrary to what people would think: I think you should move. Interest rates are so low and houses are so much cheaper now that unless you’re really upside down, in my opinion, it makes much more sense to move than to be in a house you don’t like.
If moving’s not an option, the top three projects we’re doing are space reconfigurations, bathroom remodels and kitchen remodels. That’s in order of cost, assuming we’re not adding any extra square feet.
We’ve had a couple of jobs recently where in order to make a home more livable for a family with young children, we needed to take an older house and make it more functional. With their house plans it was fairly easy - we took out two walls, one between the kitchen and family room and the other between the family room and a formal dining room. This created a much larger living space that didn’t feel closed off. They kept the dining room as a family eating area, but it was much less formal. Since both of the children are under six, it worked great.
In this case, it worked out great because we didn’t have to do any plumbing or remove cabinetry from the wall, which saved us the cost of remodeling the kitchen. Once we had the other wall out, the biggest problem was patching the hardwood floors. To save some money, we left the existing hardwoods and installed carpet, knowing that in a couple of years they could remove the carpet and patch and finish the hardwoods if they wanted. The whole project took about three weeks from start to finish, and turned out to be very budget friendly.
We’ve always been doing bathrooms, but lately it seems like we’re getting more calls for just a single, small bathroom remodel. Most of the time we’re not even changing the layout, just removing a 30-year-old cabinet and replacing all the tile with new stuff. Sometimes the only thing that a tired bathroom needs is a tile cleaning, a new cabinet and fixtures, and a new paint job. Bathrooms always tend to get the most use and sometimes changing your bathroom can make your house livable for that much longer.
Kitchens are a totally different animal. On one end you can go all out - I’ve seen kitchen remodels that cost well north of $250k. But the types of projects that I’m talking about are much simpler. At the high end, we’re replacing cabinets and doing some slight modifications, probably adding a larger window above the kitchen sink, but really not changing the layout too drastically. By keeping things more or less the same, we can save on all the trades and there’s no need to move plumbing, rewire for a new oven location or move ducts for the HVAC. In a lot of cases, painting the cabinets, installing new countertops and adding a backsplash can be enough to make a huge difference. Sometimes removing a couple of cabinets and adding a dedicated pantry can open up a kitchen and make it feel a lot less cramped.
I hope these tips help you think about your project, either in the short-term or when you’re out looking at those new houses.