Eight Key Questions Before Expanding Your House
Adding to your home can be a great way to get the space and functionality your home needs without moving, but it may not automatically add value.
“The value of a home extension depends on each particular case,” emphasizes Kevin Lawton, a real estate agent. The return on investment depends on how well the new extension blends into its surroundings, as well as the quality of the workmanship. “More square footage doesn’t [automatically] mean more money, especially if a renovation makes your home the biggest house in the neighborhood.”
Do not plan to expand your house if you plan to move in the near future. If you plan to stay in your home for at least five years, however, an extension may make sense. Instead, consider a renovation “if you need more space but love your home and its location,” says Lawton.
Does Your Expansion Match the Style of the Neighborhood?
Adding to your home can provide the space your family needs now, but it can also end up being a “hyper-upgrade” to the neighborhood, Lawton warns. Rather than building an addition in a first-time, renter-friendly neighborhood, buying a larger home elsewhere may be a better investment. Those who build too much can find it difficult to sell later.
Adding spaces that meet very specific needs can also make it more difficult to sell. For example, one of the Lawton houses, in a large housing area, has a huge add-on suite for the mother-in-law. “A lot of [potential buyers] who toured the house weren’t quite sure what to do with that extra space,” she recalls. The owners ultimately lowered their prices and did not get back what they expected from the expansion.
While it’s important to treat yourself, you should consider resale value even if you don’t plan on ever moving in again. A well-planned home addition may not turn a profit, but if it brings you up to neighborhood standards it can be beneficial when you refinance a mortgage or apply for a home equity loan later.
Before planning an addition to your home that is unique to the neighborhood, consult a real estate agent or home appraiser. Their perspective will help ensure that your plans match the style of your neighborhood, and can guide you in managing your construction budget. “Limit your search to the last six months,” Lawton advises, to keep the values relatively up to date. Look beyond your immediate neighborhood, if necessary, to determine the median cost per square foot of recently sold homes. Use that value as a rough estimate of what you should allocate to the expansion and how much you can expect to get back.
Does Your Extension Match the Rest of the House?
Making an addition perfectly match the existing structure of the house is difficult. The style of the siding, stonework, or windows may be difficult to match, and the roof may need to be modified to accommodate the new space.
“Rather than trying to match the new addition to the older structure, consider innovating by using a new and complementary material,” advises Lawton. Contrasting stone or siding are two possibilities that can help make the addition look like it’s always been there. The same recommendation is valid for ceilings. “Increasingly, houses are mixing tile and metal roofs,” he says. Steel or copper laminate on a clapboard house annex is an example.
Making the enlargement look harmonious is a fundamental part of your aesthetics. For example, making a stylish glass and steel addition to a Cape Cod bungalow neighborhood can be visually striking. However, in neighborhoods with a wide variety of custom homes, uniformity is not as important.
However, you do need to pay attention to neighborhood standards when it comes to square footage and interior and exterior finishes. That will help you get the best value for adding to your home without building more. To find the right match, consider hiring an architect to visually harmonize the new addition with the current structure.
Have You Planned Enough for the New Extension of Your Home?
When designing your expansion, don’t limit yourself to what you have and what you think is possible. Instead, determine what you really want. There are solutions to just about every construction challenge, and what you really want may be doable.
“Plan, plan, plan” is the catchphrase for remodelers, just as “location, location, location” is for buyers. Prepare construction plans several months before the date you would like to start work; This will give you and your family plenty of time to make changes.
Before finalizing, check with your local planning department to make sure your plans meet the zoning requirements of your city or county. Buildings may be restricted by their height, distance from property lines, streams, and wetlands, and the percentage of land that can be covered with hard surfaces such as buildings, driveways, patios, or sidewalks. The homeowners association will also need to approve your plans.
When you’re ready to apply for building permits, turn your sketches into plans that will be drawn to scale and indicate floor plans, elevations, footings, cross sections, and other relevant details as required by your local planning department. Consider consulting an architect or builder to make sure you’ve considered details such as wiring, outlet and switch locations, plumbing, ventilation, and structural issues that may affect the form or function of your new home. space. Also, think about how to structurally integrate the new and old sections of your house.
While you’re in renovation mode, think about whether other aspects of your home need upgrading. For example, if you’re adding a new electrical panel to your addition, it probably makes sense to upgrade your circuit breakers to meet the latest building codes. Or, if you’re remodeling the kitchen, it might be a good time to add a prep sink to the old part of the kitchen. Also, consider whether your old air handling system is sufficient for the load that the new expansion could place.
Have you considered making an ecological extension?
“Green homes are becoming popular,” says Than Merrill, CEO and founder of real estate investment education company FortuneBuilders and former host of A&E’s “Flip this House.” “Now more than ever is the time to choose greener materials and items when we remodel homes.”
“Everything from power generation to home appliances can be greener,” adds Merrill. “Sustainable materials can reduce operating costs while helping to provide a healthier quality of life and taking care of the environment.”
Have you thought of other ways to gain space besides adding a room?
Building a new room is not the only way to gain space. Often an annex can provide the space you need at a fraction of the cost of adding an entire room. An annex is a good solution to add a dressing room, install a bathtub in a tiny bathroom or gain space in a small kitchen. Cantilever construction installs the addition on one side of the home, typically without disturbing the roof or foundation. Therefore, installing an annex can be a cost-effective way to increase functional space.
As an alternative, “finishing the basement or building in the attic (even if it means raising the roof) may be smarter options than taking space out of your yard,” Lawton says. These options even allow townhome owners to expand their living space.
Does your contractor have experience building the type of addition you want to do?
Just because a contractor has an excellent reputation doesn’t mean he or she is a good fit for your project. Choose a contractor who has experience in the type of expansion you want to do. That person will be more likely to be aware of potential problems hidden within your walls (asbestos insulation or inadequate structures, for example). “Choosing the contractor that’s best for your project is the most important decision you’ll make when it comes to adding to your home,” says Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal.
- When interviewing contractors, Clayton advises asking them to:
- Recommend a local designer or architect for the project
- They tell you if the extension must be approved by the planning commission
- They inform you if it will be necessary to hire a structural engineer
- They confirm if the septic or drainage system will be sufficient for the new expansion
- Tell you how the expansion will affect the existing air handling system
- Tell you the approximate duration of the project
- They inform you of the estimated cost
Sign a written contract before beginning work. Read the document word for word (including repeated text) and understand the details of change orders, additional fees, payments, and contractor responsibilities. Clarify all the terms you don’t know.
Have you reserved part of the budget for possible additional costs?
Invariably, all construction costs more and takes longer than anticipated. Plan for this, and manage your time and money accordingly. It is advisable to reserve a contingency budget of between 15% and 20% of the estimated costs.
The actual cost of a home addition is not made up solely of construction costs. For example, new additions add square footage that increases property taxes. Adding amenities like fireplaces or spas can also increase taxes, along with utility and maintenance bills.
Plan to upgrade your insurance, and additional premiums, as a result of your home’s increased size and replacement value.
Have you considered the possibility of financing your home extensions with a home equity loan?
A Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) is a great way to help finance those long-awaited renovations. A HELOC is a home improvement line of credit that is granted to you, in part, based on the value of your home and offers you flexible payment options.
Home extensions can be of all sizes, from simple annexes to complete rooms. Only you can decide if an extension will truly meet your needs, and if so, which option is right for you. With smarts and careful planning, you can turn your house into the home of your dreams.