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Old house remodeling: Is it worth it?

By: Allison Millar, Contributing Writer
In: Necessary home improvements
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Old houses often come with plenty of charm–detailed woodwork, interesting architecture and plenty of cozy nooks and crannies. They can be expensive to remodel and maintain, however. Before buying one or jumping into a major old house remodeling, think about your return on investment. Will you get it all back? Does it matter to you?

Old house remodeling 101

Most of us buy old houses for the charm and character, not the potential to remodel them and make a profit. (Not in this real estate market, anyway). Here are 5 things that can help you decide if it’s worth the remodeling expense:

  1. Check the structure. Some quaint old houses have foundation issues that make remodeling too expensive, particularly basement remodeling.
  2. How’s the floor plan? If you can live with the basic floor plan and don’t need to reconfigure several rooms, you’re in luck. Reconfiguring rooms costs money and often leads to the loss of some character.
  3. How large is the lot? Is there room to do an addition later if needed? You may never do it, but it’s a great buffer against future growth needs.
  4. Remodeling all that character. Fancy molding is terrific, but can be costly to replace or repair. Imagine hiring a contractor to redo the molding.
  5. How’s the basement? No old house discussion is complete without talk of the basement. Consider the ceiling height, the condition of the plumbing and electrical systems and any water issues you need to fix. Basement remodeling can be tricky in an old house.

If you’re the type of person who puts charm and character first, then all the warnings won’t matter. You’ll plan, save and sell your family jewelry to help pay the contractor. If you prefer a more modern home or don’t have the time and patience for remodeling, it’s time to shift to a 1960s split level and call it a day.

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  1. 3 Responses to “Old house remodeling: Is it worth it?”

  2. jamie
    Mar 3, 2011

    I’m a real estate broker, and I hear people all the time say that they want a charming old house, but with all the latest conveniences and design. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find that kind of property.

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