Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wagmore Farm: The House Part 2 - What to Do?

In a previous blog post, I shared a bit about the current state of the house.  When we bought the property our intention was to spruce things up.  Then we started to think about living in the house, and the changes we might make to tailor it more to our taste.  The more we thought about it, we realized we have 3 options:
  1. Spruce it up 
  2. Whole house remodel
  3. Scrap it and start over

Spruce It Up

This was our first thought.  New paint, new floors, voila!

Then we started to understand what sprucing up really meant for this house:
  • New roof
  • New windows (some optional, some mandatory)
  • New paint
  • New flooring
  • Update (aka gut) all bathrooms
  • Update electrical
  • Add HVAC system (has baseboard heat now)
  • Update kitchen cabinets (optional - cabinets in ok shape, but not aesthetically pleasing)
All of that and we'd still be left with a wonky floor plan:

The addition of the master bedroom, and the conversion of the garage 
mean pretty bad flow and a house that feels much smaller than it is.

Whole House Remodel

When the "spruce up" option started to look less appealing (why dump that much money in a house and still live with a weird layout?) we decided to get an idea of what it would cost to do a more drastic remodel.

First, we met with a builder who came highly recommended.  He also does design along with build, so we had him sketch out a plan - mainly using the existing footprint, that took our wants into consideration.

Here's the getting-closer plan.  
Not bad but still a few tweaks we wanted to make.

The designs were headed in a direction that The Husband and I liked, so we asked him for a realistic (though not final) estimate of what things might cost.  When we looked at the spreadsheet we almost fell over.  To get all of our "wants" into the existing house, along with having the "needs" (like the roof & HVAC) taken care of, things were going to be very expensive.

So we decided to get a second opinion.  I found an architect in Portland who has done some really nice remodels.  For a flat fee, he did a site visit to give us some idea of possibilities.

After listening to what we were looking for, and walking around the house, he said, "There's really not much here worth saving is there?"   He pointed out that the house was dark and not connected to the outside, which is a shame given the lovely views of the property (he loved the property, and said his dog-agility-loving wife would love it, too).

He went on to say that, given the condition of the house, we would at least be talking about taking it down to the studs (remember that wood paneling?), and if we were going that far, we might as well re-do the walls as well, to allow for better insulation and better placement of doors & windows.  At that point, we would just be keeping the foundation, which is weirdly T-shaped.

Sigh.  On to option 3.

Scrap It and Start Over

Now that we had an understanding of our remodel options, and approximate costs, I decided to ask around about the cost to demolish the house and build new on the site.

We visited a couple new home builders in the area to find out what a "customized" home might cost.  This would involve choosing and building from an existing plan that the builder has built many times over, and customizing the finishes to our taste.  We had already ruled out the totally custom home option, as this would be more expensive than a remodel.

The challenge with the builders was to find which of their many plans we liked.  We narrowed it down to a couple of plan options (one with each builder). As an added bonus, we were able to walk through an already-built home with each of these plans.  This allowed us to get a good idea of the the how the homes would feel.

We finally narrowed it down to one plan and got an estimate of what the plan would cost to build on our site.  This cost was quite a bit less than the whole house remodel, but quite a bit more than the spruce up.

Now we had a decision to make.

I'll post what we decided in the next couple of days.


  1. Reading through all this (and not knowing what your budget will allow), I would have to opt for the tear-down/new house option. That way you get all new everything, plus the latest in insulation/modern windows/electrical/etc.....
    If this is truly meant to be your home that you plan to live in through retirement, it is best to have it be the house you really want and not a compromise.

  2. I don't think it's possible to spruce up and be done with it -- sprucing up is ongoing. There is always something else that needs to be fixed. The remodel doesn't sound too promising either because the footprint is odd. So, go for a new house with lots of views of the outside, excellent insulation, and a flowing floor plan with the means to close off parts of the house -- for dogs, because you aren't using a couple of rooms, etc.

    It sounds like great fun. I look forward to getting up to that neck of the woods someday to visit and see the end result.

  3. Many thanks for talking about the three options available to anyone moving into a new house. HVAC San Francisco.


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