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penguinone 11-17-2008 09:03 AM

Tear down, remodel, leave it alone?
I am looking for advice here.

6 years ago, we took the sage advice to "buy the rundown house on the block and fix it". Except we never started fixing it. Now I need to do *something* with it.

We want to have more space, and the layout is weird (bathroom is just off living room so everyone hear tinkling while you do your business), so if money were no object we'd add a new master suite, take out the old bathroom, expand the kitchen, etc. The house is old (late 30's in Burbank, CA), and there are quite a few issues that are either caused by age or bad DIY'ers in the past*. Stuff like old plumbing, old wiring, etc.

Question is: Especially with the housing market today, what's the best thing to do? I'm afraid to add on if the value I get for it is going to plummet, but without some sort of change, I won't even be able to sell it let along be happy here. And everytime I talk to a contractor, the first question is "Why don't you tear down and start over?" which seems like a bad idea- the house may be old but its still worth something that just won't be replaced by a new house.

Any thoughts?

* Most notably the fact that to put in the tub in the errant bathroom, someone cut a 1" or 1 1/2" notch in the joist. =/

penguinone 11-17-2008 10:00 AM

By the way, some numbers
Purchased house in 2001 for $330K.
House currently is 1100 sq ft
Median price in Burbank is around $400 a sqft according to Data Quick
Lot size is 8800 sq ft
Average sq footage in the neighborhood seems to be 1500

glennjanie 11-17-2008 03:14 PM

Welcome Penguinone:
You have at least 30% of a house there if it is 'dried in'. It would be a bit foolish to demo it and start over, you'd be 30% behind right off. Contractors like to work with all new materials and plans. But there are some out there who know they can remodel houses to beat the band, even when new houses are not being built. Contact your local chapter of National Association of Home Builders , (yellow pages) they can recommend a contractor that is certified for remodeling.
From an appraiser's point of view; you have a small house for the neighborhood, so the others will not drag your price down except when you build a new one. Then you are going to loose 15% because it would be out of place.
I would request a certified contractor to design and bid on the new work, then see how much he will allow you to do yourself and see how much you can save.
Please keep us posted on your progress. And, we love pictures.

ramcharger 02-13-2009 01:02 AM

Along with what glennjanie said get at least 3 contractors to give you bids on the project.

jdougn 02-13-2009 06:57 AM

Hey Penguine,

You say, "there are quite a few issues that are either caused by age or bad DIY'ers in the past". You may want to carefully inspect the foundation and basic structure of the home, or pay a home inspector for a professional report.

If there are major problems there that are going to be expensive to fix then the home may not be worth remodeling. However, if your foundation is good and the basic wood structure of the house is sound then follow the advice given by others above.

If you decide to remodel you may also consider sketching out some ideal floor plans. Ignore all existing interior walls and plumbing. Draw out exactly what you and your family would like. This may not be possible to build but a good contractor will identify what cannot be changed and guide you from there.
hth, Doug

nickroqs 02-17-2009 09:06 PM

As the poster about mentioned, first thing is get the home inspected. Especially the foundation and all that other good stuff that is very costly to repair, then go from there. Also keep in mind the home prices in the area. If they're not the best right now, there is no harm in fixing it up and then living in it for a while, then hop off it when the market returns if you're not looking to stay in the house.

Househunter 03-09-2009 08:54 PM

Hey all,

I am also wondering what to do in a similar situation. I found an amazing property but am not sure what to do with it currently. It is livable but has so much potential.

My biggest concern is that the property was built in 1935. I am thinking that there is a good chance that IF I choose to remodel (versus Tear down)there might by foundation/inspection codes that will hamper the whole project.

Like will I be able to build a three story house on a one story foundation?????

Should I just plan to tear down and start over?


When remodeling a property that has some serious age are there other obstacles I need to consider before beginning?

Thank you!

I am just starting this process- thank you for your patience.

jdougn 03-10-2009 07:13 AM

Welcome Househunter,

Well this may be a good time to buy a house if one has cash. On a house built in 1935 I doubt if your builder would be willing to build anything on the foundation buy I may be wrong. What kind of condition is the house in right now?

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