Ann McClure Ask McEnearney 1.14.21

According to Merriam-Webster, "remodel" is "to alter the structure of; to remake.” Whereas "renovate" is “to restore to a former better state (as by cleaning, repairing or rebuilding).”

So, I hear they aren’t making any more land. Maybe that’s why it’s so expensive. It must also be why some people find themselves looking to remodel or renovate an “improvement.” Did you know that’s what a building structure, like a house, is? If you look at your tax record, there is a reference for tax on the land and one for tax on the improvement. That improvement is your house. And, let’s face it, some “improvements” are in serious need of a remodel or renovation!

Not sure you want to buy, or can’t afford to buy the kind of home you want now? Consider remodeling or renovating. It can be a good strategy and longer-term plan particularly well suited if you love where you currently live or if there is a particular area you like but you can’t find a home that meets your needs. Buy one that COULD suit your needs later – and plan to remodel or renovate. Create the home you want – tailor it to fit your needs. Buy the rambler and in five years “pop the top” to create a colonial! Add a new roofline to that Cape Cod making true, usable rooms in the attic… You get the idea.

I recently visited a client named Jill and was reminded what a great strategy this can be. Jill and her husband love their neighborhood and don’t want to leave but are out of space and tired of the style of their home with its dated features and what seems to be an unusable hillside yard. Moving to a bigger and more contemporary home is cost-prohibitive. So, we strategized and discussed staying and remodeling, adding, and maximizing that hillside. If this sounds familiar, you’re probably wondering, what should I consider?

First, make sure you really like what the home could be and the overall location. 

Second, make sure that the neighborhood can support a big remodel or renovation (as Realtors always think future resale! Will your planned updates make sense?). 

Third, if there is a homeowners association, will the project you’re considering be allowed? You’ll need to check the community by-laws carefully.

Fourth, set a budget. While often not as expensive as buying, renovating is not cheap – especially since the recent pandemic has disrupted supply chains.

Fifth, consult smart, experienced professionals. Do you need an architect? Builder? Class A contractor? Landscape architect? Interior designer / space planner? Yes, you will spend some money, but I have learned, first-hand, that you will make up for it in errors you would have made without the assistance of these qualified professionals. They can save you costly mistakes and time, not to mention stress! Another bonus is they often get discounts on materials, furniture, finishes, or services that you would not get as a member of the general public. Professionals can help you realize goals that are important to you. Do you want to build green or use recycled or reclaimed material? Carry along a certain style or theme throughout? Maybe you want designated spaces for your hobbies? They can help you achieve all of this. As a Realtor, I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard, “I wish I would have consulted with someone…” about some perceived mistake. You will have a better product and more enjoyable space in the end, if you consult with quality professionals.

Sixth, come up with a game plan and be specific and realistic – what can you do when? How long will it take? 

Seventh, consider unforeseen costs. Will you have to move out of the house for a while and will you need movers to help? What about storage costs for your belongings? 

Eighth, make sure you have the appropriate insurance on your property if you will have people there working. 

Ninth, don’t spend all of your money on the inside and leave no funds for the outside. We have all seen the giant castle on a barren piece of land! Landscaping sets the stage, frames the home, invites and welcomes, and softens hard edges… These days, our outside spaces have proven to be more important than ever. They are our escape from home school, Zoom meetings, and a safer space to visit with friends. 

Tenth, when it is done… ENJOY your improved “improvement”. As we have learned this year – there may come a time when you spend more time in your home than you would have ever imagined!

Ann McClure is a licensed real estate agent in Virginia and Maryland with McEnearney Associates, Inc. in McLean, VA. If you would like more information on selling or buying in today’s complex market, contact Ann at 301-367-5098 or visit her website AnnMcClure.com.

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: InsideNoVa@mcenearney.com or call 703.549.9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreMcEnearney

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