2024-06-18 5:37 PM

The Pros and Cons of Remodeling Vs. Building From Scratch

An outdoor porch completed by Foxcraft Design Group Inc. (Photo: FOXCRAFT Design Group Inc.)

Is it better to remodel or rebuild? There are many factors to consider when looking into these projects. From upgrading appliances to building a new home from the ground up, different projects will work better for different people.


Falls Church City is home to almost 15,000 people according to the 2020 census with an average of three people per household. The area is popular due to its proximity to the Washington D.C. area, public school systems and sense of community. However, living in this area means you sacrifice the size of your home for the other benefits that come with living in the area.


According to Chandler Fox of Foxcraft Design Group and a real estate agent for Sotheby’s Realty, there are two types of builds — spec and custom. Spec building means that a builder will buy a lot without yet having a buyer, “speculating” that they will be able to sell the house for a profit when the build is complete. Custom building involves building what a customer wants using their money and budget for a home built to their specifications.


When the pandemic hit in early 2020, many people found themselves at home and realized they were unhappy with their surroundings or wanted changes. In some cases these were smaller DIY projects done by the homeowners themselves but often times the projects were too large and they needed to outsource.


“The older ramblers you see around town are too small for most modern families and they want to expand and have more space. Especially in this Covid world where ‘space’ at home as taken on a whole new meaning and having one if not two home offices in addition to a screened porch has become more of the norm,” said Rob Zimmermann of Zimmermann Homes. “A renovation can be less expensive, however, in comparison with new construction you would additionally get a new foundation and water management system, taller ceilings, taller windows and more natural light, more flexibility on the floor plan, and you gain a garage which often can not be added to a rambler due to setbacks. On top of all of these benefits, a new construction home when completed is worth significantly more then the extra $75k you spent to put it there. So from an investment standpoint, you get a great return on the extra money spent to build new vs. a renovation.”


Fox stated that the most important thing to consider is cost versus value— what renovations are you looking to make in your home versus how much you are looking to spend.


With renovations, projects can be spaced out over a larger period of time and changes can be made as the homeowners have the budget in place. A new build requires more money up front but allows for more to be done at once.

“In my experience larger renovations have been happening less over the last ten years as more people are demolishing old smaller homes and building new bigger ones,” said Mark Coupard from Coupard Architects and Builders. “You reach a point where working with an existing structure is more difficult and expensive than building new. People sometimes push those limits and add on if they really like the home they have and just want more of it, or the house is a special place to them and they don’t want to see it destroyed. Clients often decide to build new if the practical renovation options won’t provide them with the space, aesthetics or efficiencies they desire. Some houses are begging to be knocked down but if that’s not the case it is worth a look. We try to understand what our clients really need in their home and if they value the structure and prioritize quality over quantity, a major renovation can still make sense.”


As reported in the News-Press last week, real estate assessments have gone up by 11.42 percent in the City. Higher real estate numbers means more equity in the home and more opportunity to borrow against that and renovate.


“If prices have gone up as much as they have, it’s comforting as a homeowner to know that your house has increased in value. It’s frustrating for people who want to buy an existing house because they’ve gone up 10 to 20 percent. It’s frustrating for people who want to build a new house because lot prices and the construction have both gone up. I would say it’s good news to existing homeowners and people in the real estate market and it’s bad news to everybody that’s on the outside looking in.”


Overall, the most important factors to consider when deciding whether to renovate or build are budget— how much money you’re looking to spend, and time— how long are you willing to spend waiting for the project to be completed.

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