Thursday, 29 September 2011

What to Do When You Outgrow Your House? Move or Be Moved?

Collage: Relax during a renovation? This could be you!
Image Credit: MS Office ClipArt: home, living room, couple, relaxing
2011 @

What to do when your family, tastes, and or other needs outgrow your current home: buy a new home, build a new home, or remodel your home. Explore different options to create your family dream home.
Many people believe there is only one way to "trade up" in the world of real-estate: to move. Fair enough: there’s an entire industry — and a very vocal one at that — focused on gearing us to think in terms of selling our home, finding a new home, getting a new mortgage, moving, etc. The fact that there are middle-men (i.e. from real estate agents to mortgage brokers) at every stage of this process all "taking their cut" is a little factoid of information rarely mentioned. Still, it’s an understandable approach to the dilemma of what to do when your family, tastes, and or other needs outgrow your current home. And certainly, one need only look around the Greater Toronto Area to see the real estate sales cycle in full swing.

Another popular route is to build a new home from scratch. In the contemporary scenario, this usually means a move to the suburbs (or "suburban hell" as I like to call it), where "reasonably-priced" lots are still available. Of course, from a GTA perspective, this means going to areas west of the city like Mississauga, Oakville, and Milton. Or, perhaps north to Brampton, Vaughan, Markham, or Newmarket. Possibly east to Scarborough, Oshawa, Peterborough. If you’ve ever wondered why all the houses in any particular subdivision in any of these cities all look the same (including older areas in Toronto, from downtown to Etobicoke to North York), it’s likely because all the designs came from one builder’s binder of cookie-cutter plans. If you ask me, cookies belong in lunch boxes, not neighborhoods. Besides, visit any decent bakery (i.e. in the city) and you’ll see how appealing a spread can be when there’s a good mix of decorative cookies on offer — a selection that’s a bit more creative than "chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin or peanut butter."

So what about the least well-known yet possibly most economical route? That is, of course, to build a dream home on the lot that’s available already underneath your existing home. The advantages are numerous. For starters, you don’t have to move to a different location. If you like your neighborhood, neighbors, location, etc. why pick up and transplant your family to a completely new one? Many people living in Toronto near the lake — East York and the Beaches, for example — want to stay in the area, what with the proximity of the Danforth, subway, etc. — and only need to upgrade their older house. Secondly, you already own the lot beneath your home (at least partially, if you still have some mortgage left to pay on it). At the very least, you will be able to leverage its current market value without having to go through the hassle of selling and the expense of paying an agent.

Presumably, you picked the property you live in for a number of good reasons. If some of your needs have changed over time, a simple addition might be just the thing. Of course, if your home choice was limited by your economic status at the time, perhaps you could consider something a little more involved than a simple addition: a complete re-design. It is a little-known fact that you can tear-down the vast majority of an existing home and build something almost completely from scratch in its place (maintain a few basic elements) and have it qualify as a renovation. This has significant benefits over building a house entirely from scratch. Plus, as already mentioned, your new dream home is built in the neighborhood you know and love. This option is especially attractive to anyone living in an older bungalow in East York, The Beaches, along the Danforth, Etobicoke, even Oakville. Lakeside properties that have houses which were designed to be "cottage-like" are now prime candidates to be transformed into lakeside dream homes — close enough to downtown Toronto, preserving the cottage feel, but with all the benefits of a brand new home.

The point is this: in today’s real estate market, you may be able to sell high, but that means you also have to buy high. Alternatively, you have to go where you can buy cheaper and be stuck in suburban hell in a home that looks like everyone else’s, while adding some extra time into your morning commute. Or, you can take advantage of low interest rates and rising property values to make an investment into your lifestyle and the property value of your existing home. We’re not talking about a "lipstick and rouge" job, either. With some professional design consultation and creative use of space, you might be amazed at the value a "complete renovation" can add to your quality of life — house and home.

In other words, why just move when you can be moved?

Attila Lendvai
VP of Strategic Development
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

links: MoneySense Magazine: Homes: Renovate or relocate
If you’ve run out of space at home, you have a big decision to make. Should you move? Build an addition? Raze and rebuild from scratch? MoneySense costs out the options.
By Bryan Borzykowski Is it time to remodel -- or buy a new house?
Keeping up a home for 30 years may cost you up to four times its purchase price. Is it smarter just to buy another home every 10 years? Here's how to decide.
By Liz Pulliam Weston Why build? Move an older house instead
Moving and fixing up a reclaimed home sounds like a real bargain. But it's not a simple job. Here's how two friends did it and came out ahead.
By Marilyn Lewis of MSN Real Estate Renovation and Home Purchase Report - Major Market Highlights
"Forty-two per cent of households in ten Canadian markets renovated their home in 2010."
This publication highlights the key trends, analyses and statistics from CMHC's Renovation and Home Purchase Survey, conducted in ten major Canadian centres. The survey provides information on prior year's renovations in all ten centres. Intentions to buy or renovate a home are highlighted in five of the centres, so you can learn more about Tomorrow's Customers Today. Can I Afford to Buy a Bigger House for My Growing Family?

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