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Which Remodeling To Do?

6 years ago

We are thinking about what remodeling to do over the next year or so. We bought our current house 5 years ago. It is about 12 years old.

We will almost certainly sell it within 12 years. There is a good chance we will want to sell it in 4 to 5 years and possibly as yearly as 3 years. We like our house overall. However, it is larger than we will need going forward (kids out of the nest now). Also, we are about 20 minutes away from shopping, etc. Driving that distance is fine now...DH and I are both in good health. But, we are in our 60s and there will come a time when we won't want to have to drive so far. We can wait until then to move (so maybe 10 years). Or, we could move sooner and buy something smaller with less upkeep that was closer to amenities, perhaps in a different area (or state). We won't move any sooner, though, because we bought this house because of having dogs (we have an acre). However, we are not replacing the dogs as they age and pass on. In a few years, we won't need to have the acre.

The subdivision itself is beautiful, with all custom homes. Currently the price range is from around $290k to just over $900k. Average is in the mid $500s. At an acre, we have the minimum lot size. Our house would probably sell for around $400k. In our area, these prices are fairly high (median home price is in the low $200s).

Our house overall has fairly nice finishes. If you divide the subdivision into quartiles I would put us in the second quartile. We don't have the finishes of the higher quartile (mostly houses in the high $500s and above). We don't have the builders grade of the bottom quartile (the few sub $300k houses). But, overall our house is better than the next quartile as well.

The people who owned this house before us did some remodeling and we did some minor stuff when we bought it. But, there are a few areas that I think are subpar compared to the rest of the house. We noticed most of these when we bought the house but we got the house at a good price (bottom of the market) and planned to remodel. Then, I didn't think we would move, but now know we will eventually. There are some major remodels I would do if I planned to stay here forever. I won't do them. I know we could do nothing. But, if we are going to be here at least 5 years, I might do some anyway. I don't expect to get back what we pay for the remodeling. I am willing to take some loss on it, but would hope to get back a fair amount of what we put in or, at least, for it to help us sell the house. There are some things I am not sure about though. If I knew we would sell in 3 years there are things I wouldn't do. I know if I was staying 10 years I would just do what suits me. But with a possible sale in, say, 3 to 7 years (maybe 10) it is more difficult.

Things we will do:

1. We replaced most of the flooring already. We put in wood floors except for putting in tile in bathrooms and utilities room. Carpet is in the secondary bedrooms. It is in bad shape and we will probably replace it early next year. This should not cost much (3 bedrooms only).

2. Master Bath - We had originally planned a major remodel. Room is good sized with a separate shower with seat, jetted tub, double vanity and separate toilet room. We originally were going to reconfigure the room because we don't use the tub and wanted a larger shower (they are on opposite walls so this would mean changing floor plan). I know I don't want to go to that expense. But, the master bath is not of the same quality of finishes as the rest of the house. Things I am thinking about doing:

a. The double vanity does not have a kneespace which I would very much like to have. There are two large linen cabinets at the end of the vanity. That is along the wall from left to right it is: tub, tall linen cabinet which shelves and drawers, then counter with two sinks, then another linen cabinet. There are no drawers in the counter. There are only cabinets below the counter. The only drawers are in the linen cabinets. I think it looks sort of weird to have this tall linen cabinet between the vanity and the tub.

The vanity is cultured marble which is not typical of houses with the overall finishes that our house has. It really sticks out like a sore thumb for this subdivision (except in the cheapest houses). We could just replace the counters and put in new sinks and fixtures. That would not give me a knee space.

I could replace the counters and the cabinets, possibly getting rid of one of the linen cabinets to make the vanity counter longer and have room for drawers and a knee space. I am inclined to do this and don't think it would be hugely expensive. I don't like the cabinets (will talk more about those when I discuss the kitchen).

b. Replace tub surround - Tub surround is cultured marble. Replace with tile. I would rather not have the tub but since I don't want to reconfigure the whole room we might as well keep it.

c. Upgrade shower to tile. Shower is one of the those preformed showers. It is an OK size with a seat but looks cheap. Would replace with tile and a new door and new fixture. Nothing ostentatious but more modern and higher quality.

I am inclined to do all of the above. I really dislike the master bath and it was the biggest negative when we bought the house. It is not of the same quality as the rest of the house and was a real letdown when we walked in there. But, the overall size and footprint is fine. Given that we won't be here forever I don't think it is worthwhile to reconfigure to get rid of the tub and have a huge shower (would mean moving the toilet room to where the shower is now and moving everything in the bathroom). When we moved in I got a quote of about $12k to do what I wanted to do in the bathroom but I am sure it is more now.

3. Kitchen - The kitchen is sort of a mishmash. Overall, the kitchen is very attractive. It was a major selling point to the house when we bought it. It is large and open with a large island. Countertops are blue pearl granite. The counters have a raised bar area. The raised bar was non-functional when we bought (did not overhang where someone could sit at the counter). We replaced the bars with the same granite but wider so now there is seating.

The counter tops and slate backsplash are fine and I don't want to spend the money to replace. The main sink is just basic stainless steel but it is undermount so as a practical matter I think it needs to stay. The main problems:

a. The cabinets are stained, but not of the quality that I would expect compared to the rest of the house. The same cabinets are in the master bath, the secondary bathrooms and the utility room. They just look lower quality to me to be blunt. They aren't the lowest but just not commensurate with the subdivision overall. But, I don't want to spend the money to replace them if we aren't staying here at least 10 years and I don't know that we will be. Options I see are to either keep them as is, paint them white, or possible reface them (not sure what that would cost).

The reason I think of painting white is that a prior owner but in a lot of white built ins throughout the house. One of bedrooms and the main hall have white built in shelving and lower cabs. The main living area has built in entertainment center. The dining room has a built in floor to ceiling cabinet. And, in the kitchen to the left of the refrigerator, they put in a built in white bookcase (which doesn't match the stained wood in the rest of the kitchen). So, maybe painting the cabinets white would look better. I am just not sure if that would be considered an upgrade. There are some white cabinets in the subdivision but it isn't common. But, what we have now is not as high a quality as what you would expect from other things in our house.

b. There is a large island. It is very functional and we use it everyday. However, the sink is misplaced in it. It is in the lower right corner and would be better in the upper right corner. I am annoyed by its placement every time I use the island. There is also a built in wine rack in the island. This is useless to us because we don't drink. We talked to a contractor who said it could not be removed. The only real solution would be to take out the island and rebuild it with the sink in the location we want. I am not sure if this is worth it or not. A few years ago I had an island with granite built in another house and that was about $3k. This island is twice that size and has a sink while the other one didn't.

Any thoughts about any of this? If I knew we were selling in 3 years I would do the carpet and maybe the counter and tub and shower surround in the masterbath. I would forget redoing the cabinets to suit me. But, if we stay 10 years I will be sorry I didn't do them. If we stay 5 years, I'm not sure.

In the kitchen if we were leaving in 3 years I would do nothing except possibly repaint the cabinets if painting them white would help. If staying 10 years, I would do all of it. (If staying forever, I would replace the cabinets). If staying 5 years, not sure.

I don't expect to get all the money back on any of this. But I don't want to throw it away either. I would like to get back some of it or at least have it help us sell more quickly when it gets to that point.

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