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When would you remodel?

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  • When would you remodel?

    We just had our offered accepted on our first home. Being built in 1889, there are a number of things that will need to be updated eventually, but the house has been well taken care of and is completely livable/functional right now.

     

    The things that need updating include the kitchen, 2nd floor bathroom (which we will use on a regular basis), 3rd floor bathroom (which will rarely be used when we move in), and converting an "ornamental" (supposedly coal-burning) fireplace in the living room into a wood-burning or gas unit. Additionally, the basement is completely non-functional, and while it will never be considered livable space because of the lack of ceiling height, I'd like to eventually make it more practical as a storage area.

     

    My initial thought is to tackle the fireplace prior to moving in since it will not be a huge job and I don't feel like living there a few months would really change my few of wanting a functioning fireplace. After that, I want to (in order) go after the 1) 2nd floor bathroom, 2) kitchen, 3) 3rd floor bathroom, and 4) basement, but only after we've lived there for at least 6 months.

     

    If you had $100k to renovate and closed 5 weeks before you planned to move in, what would you renovate prior to living in the house and what would you wait on (and for how long)?

     

  • #2
    Unless it was really bad (and it sounds like nothing in your house is), I would wait a year or so. You want to figure out how you live in the space and what you want to get out of it (how you want it to function). You'll have a much better idea if you give it some time. But if you really don't want to live through any remodeling, you could do it before the move in.

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    • #3




      Unless it was really bad (and it sounds like nothing in your house is), I would wait a year or so. You want to figure out how you live in the space and what you want to get out of it (how you want it to function). You’ll have a much better idea if you give it some time. But if you really don’t want to live through any remodeling, you could do it before the move in.
      Click to expand...


      That's correct that nothing is really bad, just a bit dated. Am I getting ahead of myself by wanting the fireplace functional right away?

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      • #4
        Do you live somewhere cold? We live in Utah and our fireplace is also non functional. It is very well maintained and has a very pretty antique heater in it. We've had the house 14 months (it's 100 years old) and I haven't had the heart to tear it out and put in a gas fireplace yet. But I LOVE having a fireplace. So I think I'm going to re-do ours this year, before next winter. I think (or at least I'm hoping) that spring is coming soon. But if you live further north, you might still get a month or two of use out of it this season after it is done, thus making more sense to do it now.

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        • #5
          I'll be living in Minnesota, but won't be moving there until summer time. I'd also like to ideally get it done before next winter, which in Minnesota is late-October  :?

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          • #6
            Beware of project creep.   Once you start remodeling, you may find that the process gets larger and larger as you discover more and more things that need replacing, things like all the plumbing, all the wiring, poor insulation, windows, etc.  It wouldn't surprise me if you end up tearing the whole house down to the foundation before you're done, and at that point you'll be sorry that you didn't just tear the whole thing down and replace it with a complete new building, which would have been cheaper.  I've seen it happen more than once.  I lived it, too.  It worked out well for me financially, but it's a long, slow process that takes twice as long and costs three times as much as I had planned.  Once that happens, you have the choice of either living in the house during the remodel or staying married. Few couples can do both.

            If I were to buy a house now, I would buy a tear-down and start from scratch.

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            • #7
              Remodel while you can still enjoy the improvements because you'll probably have to make them before you can sell anyway. Of course, if you're there a long time that might mean remodeling twice.
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              • #8
                Remodeling a fireplace is an easy project to do and will only disrupt your life to a modest degree. So you can likely easily tackle that one either before or while living in the house. The bathroom remodel will be more disruptive, but perhaps you can move to the third floor while the second floor bathroom work is being done. A kitchen remodel is generally very challenging. It throws most families' lives upside down because the kitchen is the center of daily life at home.

                You mention this is your first home and that everything is functional. When we bought our first home, we moved in and took some time to adjust to the house. We didn't do much other than settle in and buy some furniture.  We were relatively frugal to start, which I think was wise. I cut my own grass, shoveled the snow, and did many of the household projects myself. We went to some estate sales and bought some beautiful furniture at a very reasonable cost.  Paying the mortgage and the taxes after moving in was a big adjustment in itself. And saving up an emergency and investment fund, along with accelerating paying off the student loans was much wiser for us than dumping a bunch of money into the house right away.  We did multiple bathroom renovations and other major projects over the years, but not until we had paid off the student loans.

                As I look back, our decisions to live well within our means and to invest the balance when we were in our 30's means that we now have the choice to work or not in our 50's. It is all a matter of balance. We did well by spending some money and enjoing it, but we balanced that with careful saving and investing.

                You are correct that it is much more convenient to do major work on a house when you are not living in it. So in my view your best answer may depend more on where you are with your financial goals than on what is most convenient at this moment.

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                • #9
                  Is this a "forever" home or a "for now" home?  If it's "for now", I'd probably want to renovate sooner than later since you're unlikely to recoup the entire investment in a sale, so you may as well get the most enjoyment out of the renovation by having it done sooner.

                   

                  But if it's a "forever" home, I think there's a lot to be said about waiting and really figuring out what you want the space to be like before diving in if you're going to be spending big bucks.  We did surface items (paint, replacing fans, etc) and structural/maintenance items (roof, siding, A/C) within the first year. A few years after that we re-did the garage, and then only after being in our house for 5 years did we feel like we knew enough about what we wanted to make firm plans on how we wanted to change our kitchen.  Maybe that's a slow timeline to some, but I know if we had started the kitchen project sooner, we wouldn't have been as ambitious in what we wanted to accomplish and might have regretted it for decades.  (After living through one kitchen remodel, living through another in this lifetime seems like it'd be too soon...)

                   

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                  • #10




                    Is this a “forever” home or a “for now” home?  If it’s “for now”, I’d probably want to renovate sooner than later since you’re unlikely to recoup the entire investment in a sale, so you may as well get the most enjoyment out of the renovation by having it done sooner.

                     

                    But if it’s a “forever” home, I think there’s a lot to be said about waiting and really figuring out what you want the space to be like before diving in if you’re going to be spending big bucks.  We did surface items (paint, replacing fans, etc) and structural/maintenance items (roof, siding, A/C) within the first year. A few years after that we re-did the garage, and then only after being in our house for 5 years did we feel like we knew enough about what we wanted to make firm plans on how we wanted to change our kitchen.  Maybe that’s a slow timeline to some, but I know if we had started the kitchen project sooner, we wouldn’t have been as ambitious in what we wanted to accomplish and might have regretted it for decades.  (After living through one kitchen remodel, living through another in this lifetime seems like it’d be too soon…)

                     
                    Click to expand...


                    This is our "forever" home. We just had the inspection done and we'll have a few small things (gutters, windows, minor grading of the yard) to fix before tackling something as big as the kitchen or bathrooms. I like the idea of waiting at least a year before we start anything major. Not sure I could wait for 5 years thought...  

                     

                    Also, just to give everyone a little more context, we've paid off my med school loans and the money for renovations is essentially a gift from a deceased relative.

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                    • #11
                      If I were moving to Minnesota, I'd do that fireplace STAT :-) You might also want to do an energy audit to see if you need to do anything to prepare for the winter. Older homes tend to be less well insulated and it's easier to fix that stuff in the summertime.

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