The current state of the housing market has left many to think seriously about their next step. For those who know they need additional space, the question is whether to build an addition or to move. It appears that most are staying put. “Many families like their neighborhood and their location, and perhaps don’t want the hassle of starting over in a new house, so they add-on instead,” reports John Gemmi, owner, Gemmi Construction, Inc., and a member of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). “A lot of our remodeling work comes from homeowners who are interested in staying in their home for the long haul.”
Another reason more homeowners are staying put these days is the cost of moving, adds Dennis Gavin, CR, CKBR, owner, Gavin Design-Build, Inc. “It usually costs about 10 percent of the total value of real estate involved,” he says.
According to Gavin, that means if you sell your home for $350,000 and buy one for $500,000, you have $850,000 in the real estate market. After all of the fees involved plus moving expenses, you’ll have accumulated around $85,000 in dead money. Alternatively, you could have invested that money into a remodel of your home and seen a return.
Interior of this addition by Nuss Construction, show how much extra space was given to the family.
After making the decision to build an addition, the next step is to determine what your township regulations are, explains Larry R. Giannone, CR, owner, Meridian Construction, Inc. Before beginning the process, it’s crucial to know where you are permitted to build and how large your addition can be. “These regulations have to do with building setbacks from property lines, easements and many other conditions that could restrict or at least impact your plans to build an addition,” he explains.
Once you’re certain that you can afford an add-on to your home, it’s also important that your family discusses budget. “A remodeling professional can help you establish a realistic budget upfront,” says Trevor Heydon, project coordinator, Nuss Construction Company, Inc. “But before meeting with a remodeling professional, you need to have a firm feel about what you want to spend. Then the remodeler can help you determine if the budget is realistic and workable for what you want.”
After determining what you plan to spend, it’s time to find the remodeler for the job. “The homeowner should meet with a select few remodeling professionals and find the one that he/she feels is the right fit,” says Heydon. “That means you should have the ability to create a working relationship with this remodeling professional in designing the project and seeing it through to the final stage.”
While searching for and interviewing prospective remodeling companies, Gemmi says it’s important to find one that’s reputable and has done good work in the past. “You can figure this out by seeking referrals,” he suggests. “Then go look at some of the work they’ve done. Talk to the homeowners and find out if the remodeler started on time or had any hidden costs. And find out if the homeowner felt his/her expectations were met.”
It’s also important to find someone who will listen to you, and take your concerns seriously, adds Roy Bryhn, CR, president, Bryhn Construction, Inc. And make sure you trust the person, too. “The remodeler and his employees could be working on your house for many months, depending on the size of the job,” he says. “By the end of it, you might know them better than some of your relatives!”
There are many choices, but design-build firms are popular because you’ll work with the same company from start to finish. “A design-build construction company has the unique capability to prepare detailed building plans while also considering your needs and budget,” adds Giannone
Design and Beyond
The interior of this Meridian addition shows an expanded eating area for the homeowners.
When coming up with your own ideas for what you are imagining your addition will look like, it can help to write a list of your wants and needs, suggests Bryhn. “Write them in prioritized order,” he says. “Then share them with your family to see if you are on the same page. These initial steps are usually all it takes to start dreaming and to get the creative genes going.”
It comes down to personal preference for what each client wants and needs, but there are several key features that many homeowners are requesting, says Alex Hall, CKD, owner, Creative Nook. “On first- floor additions, these include items like vaulted ceilings, skylights, a lot of windows and generally upgraded flooring, like ceramic tile or hardwood,” he says. “As far as second-story additions, it’s often the expansion of a master bedroom and master bath, as well as the walk-in closet area. That’s probably the wisest way to invest your money on a second-floor addition because you’ll see the most return.”
Adding a mudroom area to the first floor is very popular. “We work with a lot of families who have children coming home with backpacks, hockey sticks, soccer bags and all kinds of other supplies and equipment,” adds Hall. “The family needs a landing area before entering the kitchen where the kids can store their belongings. So we’re doing a lot of large, rear mudrooms with attractive lockers, cubbies and built-in sections for the kids to store their stuff.”
Another view of this Meridian addition from the exterior.
Once the process begins, one of the most important aspects of an addition is having a good design, says Gavin. “A design-build firm can provide that for the homeowner,” he explains. “When building an addition, or even just reworking some of the existing space in the house, you want to make sure it’s large enough and designed correctly to do what you need. A poorly designed space that is not very functional will give you the worst return, even if it’s loaded with high-end products.”
Another crucial aspect of an addition is making it look like it belongs, says Giannone. In fact, a well-designed addition shouldn’t even look like an addition. To a visitor who has never seen your house before, it should look like part of the original home. “There are a lot of additions out there that look like they were just thrown on—they don’t look like they were meant to be part of the house,” adds Giannone. A good design-build firm can make sure that all of the architectural details match up. The final product won’t look like an addition, but will look like just another part of the house.
“You definitely want to find a remodeler that has the ability to design something beyond your typical cookie-cutter solutions,” agrees Heydon. “Your renovations should flow seamlessly with the existing home.”
Homeowners should also be prepared for the process involved in an addition. Keep in mind that an addition takes time and can be somewhat disruptive to your normal routine. It can also require some changes to your yard. “An addition does require getting large equipment to the site, which could mean that trees will be removed,” says Gemmi. The homeowner should be ready for that. Gemmi points out that there is a good chance things will need to be moved around and the remodeler should be clear with the homeowner about this if physical changes are needed.
The payoff of having an addition built is certainly worth it in the long-run. The value of your home will increase, making it worth the expense. Plus, whatever your needs were for an addition, you’ll ultimately wind up with your dream home—without the hassle of moving.
Bryhn Construction, Inc.
Gavin Design-Build, Inc.
Gemmi Construction, Inc.
Meridian Construction, Inc.
National Association of Remodeling Industry
Nuss Construction Company, Inc.