Reno vs a New Build: 10 Things to Consider

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People usually consider moving or thinking about a large renovation when there is a significant change in their lives: the addition of more children, when their children move out, when their aging parents move in or out. Sometimes it can be a change in mobility and the need to make it easier to move around in their home. 

A change in function could also be a reason to renovate. For example, if the owner needs a home office that can be accessed directly from outside instead of the room’s former use as a third bedroom.

In this blog we will discuss major renovations and ideas to consider.  

Smaller renovations are usually aesthetic, where the home just needs an update. If the function has stayed relatively the same, a small reno can make a big difference and be an easy decision. 

Are you considering doing renovations to your home? Or would it be better for you and your family to build an entirely new home? This is not a simple question to answer because there are many things to consider that could influence your decision.

Location 

Location is fundamental to every homeowner when it comes to renovating vs a new build. You could be convinced either way. Are you happy with your current location or would you prefer to be in a different area? For example, a downtown location close to work that has easy access to culture, shopping, and essentials like dentists and doctors with little or no parking vs a new neighbourhood that has current amenities, better schools, and ample parking.

Those who are looking to renovate are attached to their mature neighbourhood, they most likely have a larger lot than those purchasing a new home and are willing to work within the limitations of renovating an existing residence.  

If you like your current location, then a reno is the safe choice. Although, if the grass looks greener somewhere else, you might lean toward building a new home.

Size of the Lot

With building a new home, keep in mind that new lot sizes are usually smaller than lots in mature neighbourhoods.  

However, a smaller lot size may not matter. What matters is the fact that you are able to choose everything, and everything will be brand new. Not just the home, but the roads, the landscaping, the schools–the whole neighbourhood! 

Integrity of the Existing Structure 

If you love your home’s location and are leaning toward a renovation, before you begin, you need to ensure that the structure is sound. Is the foundation in good condition? Are the services (septic, water, electricity) up to date?  

For the house itself, if you are making rooms larger or reconfiguring the layout, will it satisfy your current and future needs? Are you able to make those changes within the local permit restrictions? Think about your “must have” list; does the existing structure have enough storage? Bathrooms? 

If you are making major changes such as adding a second floor, adding beams for an open concept space, or moving rooms that involve plumbing, heating and electrical, do your homework. If it is too costly to renovate, then it’s time to consider moving and starting over.

Scope of the Renovation: How Many Rooms? 

A renovation can have a “snowball effect” where a one room update can snowball into the next. For example, once you update your master suite bathroom, then all the other bathrooms which looked “fine” before, start to look their age. This leads to wanting to update all the bathrooms and since the trades, such as plumbers, are completing the bathrooms, suddenly the kitchen is next on the list.  

If you choose to renovate, plan to do everything at once. It makes sense for many reasons:

  • You only deal with the mess and upheaval once.
  • You bring in the trades people once, saving you time and money.
  • If you have issues with plumbing (for example) and fix the problem in one area, you will have to come back and finish the job some time down the road.
  • Your style and finishes stay consistent. For example, If your bathrooms are renovated now and your kitchen in five years, the style and finishes would have changed making your bathroom renovation look outdated.

Timeline of a Reno vs a New Build

With renovations, the time it takes to complete is dependent on the scope of work. If you’re “gutting everything,” the renos can take as long as a new build, which is a year. If you’re only doing the kitchen or something small, it could be just a few months.

How Often to Renovate?

Most people update every 7 – 10 years; however, this timeframe will depend on a number of items. Have the trends changed dramatically since the home was built? For example, interior colour schemes were in a warm, brown phase for a very long time, then we moved to a cooler, grey phase. If your home had a brown colour scheme, you may upgrade quicker than the 7 – 10 year timeframe depending how “on trend” you would like to be. 

The frequency of your updates will always depend on how much time and money you are willing to invest in your home.

How Renovations Affect your Daily Routine

If possible, moving out while the renovation is underway is ideal. If that is not an option, create a game plan with your contractor. There are many details to be discussed, such as the start and completion date, demolition date, and which areas will be affected. 

It is important to collaborate with your contractor to ensure everyone is on board with which spaces are being worked on (scope of work). Discuss which areas need to be avoided (for safety and to ensure the quality of work), which areas need to be cleared of personal items, and how the adjoining areas can be protected from dust and damage. 

A weekly schedule will allow you to plan around the work being done and avoid unnecessary issues. 

Expense

While the cost of a new home can be a large ticket item, renovations per square foot can be more costly because it is a two or three part process:  

  1. Demolition
  2. Possibly upgrading the home to the current Building Code
  3. Building the new upgrade

Keep in mind that renovating is like peeling back the layers of an onion. You don’t know what’s on the inside until you start removing the layers. You might take up the floor to redo the flooring and find rot or mold underneath or discover something that needs to be brought up to code. This can add to the cost of the renovation. 

However, reno can be less expensive, depending on how much you want to do. For example, if the plumbing and electrical can remain in their original locations, that will save you money. If you have expensive taste, that will up the budget, and with all the choices you’ll be making, it can be easy to go over budget. 

Having a solid plan will help keep your costs in line. Start by prioritizing spaces and finishings.  

For example, some homeowners prioritize high-end cabinetry. They can offset this expense by lowering their lighting budget by using more LED pot lights and fewer expensive pendant light fixtures.

Renovations that are high-quality in Sherwood Park or Edmonton can be a good investment and can increase the value of your home. Many people who live in these areas see their home’s resale value go up when they choose wisely in areas such as the kitchen, bathroom, or garage renovations. 

There are exceptions. Not all renovations will add value to your home. Doing a renovation that makes your home the most expensive one on the block could be a deterrent to future buyers. Be sure to consider the value of the neighbourhood. 

Spending too much on a renovation does not ensure you will receive a good return on your investment because value is subjective.  Do your research.

Necessary Upgrades 

Are you thinking of moving because your home needs too many upgrades? Many people are looking at lessening their home’s eco footprint or updating their home’s functionality. 

Simple upgrades like low-flow plumbing fixtures (shower, toilet, faucets) are straightforward renos to do, while upgrading systems (plumbing, new wiring, technology) will require a professional to do the work.

Landscaping and Exterior

A new home will require landscaping, while an existing home will already have the landscape completed. However, if you are looking to renovate your landscaping or the home’s exterior, keep in mind that these types of renos can be expensive, messy and weather dependent. The timeline will be dependant on dry weather. The benefit is that you don’t need to change your entire landscape, you can pick and choose which areas you would like to customize for your current needs.

With a new build, make sure to budget for landscaping when working on your initial budget. Working out the cost as an afterthought is a mistake. With a new build, you can choose plant materials, zones to accommodate play, meals, shade, etc. Items that offer that extra level of custom design to your home.

Sentimental Value

The final, and arguably the most important thing to consider when choosing between a reno and a new build is the sentimental value of the home. Does your nostalgia and your memories outweigh the benefits of building your own home? 

Do you have an attachment to your existing home? What would it take to help you decide if you should fix up the existing home or sell and move on to something new? Perhaps a pro and con list with items such as budget, location, and your neighbours (are they like family or just people you wave as you pull into your driveway after the work day is over?) could help you make a decision.

What Will Make You Happy?

Whether you’re renovating or building a new home, you’ll want your home to be done on time and on budget. With good communication and collaboration with your contractor, both of you can plan for the least disruption to your day-to-day life.  

There are many important factors to consider; take your time and ask the professionals. At the end of the day, you want a home and neighbourhood you are proud of. One that meets your needs and is a place where you and your family feel safe and happy for years to come.