In these days of ever-increasing Bay Area real estate prices, homeowners ask me this question on a weekly basis: Should I move, remodel or build a new home?
Finding a new home for a reasonable price in Silicon Valley is extremely difficult, especially if you don’t want a lengthy commute to work. To be near high-paying tech jobs means you will be paying a fortune for a home - even if that home needs to be rebuilt.
If you are weighing your options on whether to move, remodel or build, the following are some points to consider.
• Do I like my neighbors? It’s hard to predict how your new neighbors will be, and having a bad neighbor can really make you miserable.
• Can I find a new home that I will like? Finding a home that has all of the features you want and custom designed for you is nearly impossible. If you can find one that meets all of your needs and you can afford it, then buy it and avoid the challenges of building or remodeling.
• If I buy a not-so-perfect house, can I afford the improvements I will want to make? As a design-build contractor, I am usually called in after the clients have purchased their new home. When they find out how much their rebuild or remodel will cost, they are often shocked and experience serious buyers’ remorse. I always encourage people to consult a design-build expert for accurate advice before they purchase their home.
• Can I afford to build or remodel? Building a new custom home can cost from $350 to $600 or more per square foot, plus another 15-20 percent for design and permitting fees. Remodeling can cost $300 to $500 or more per square foot, plus design and permitting fees. This includes all affected remodeling areas. Often clients figure they are adding 500 square feet and guess at $400 per square foot for a total of $200,000. They will ignore the rest of the 1,500 square feet they are remodeling and be off by a factor of 4.
• Is my personality compatible with the design and construction process? Building a home is a frustrating experience even for the flexible and lighthearted. Many of our clients are in high-tech and product development. It’s their job to "work out all of the bugs" before a product goes to market. They build prototypes, test and then release. When building a house, the process works differently. Those bugs get worked out during the build (even on a very well-designed home).
• How long does it take to get a permit? This is a tough question. There are a lot of regulations that affect building - especially if you want to build a two-story house where neighbor notifications are required. There is the architectural design, where you work with your architect to come up with a floor plan and architecture that you like. Then, you have structural engineers, soils engineers, civil engineers, arborists and landscape architects, all of whom contribute to your plan development. Once they are all done, then you have the government agencies to get through. The bottom line is that permitting can take several months.
• How long does it take to build? Building a custom home takes nine to 18 months on average. If you are building a simple, small home without a basement, you can build pretty quickly.
Moving, remodeling and building all require your time and energy, but all major milestones in life do. Just remember, whatever path you take to reach your dream home, the work you put in is very rewarding and will all be worth it.
Janet Guerriero is director of marketing for Timeline Design+Build, a home remodeling and building firm in the South Bay. For more information, visit tldesign.net.