Stay in current newer home or remodel cute older house?

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Posted 11/23/2012 by lattemomof3 in NSBR Board


PeaNut 252,825
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Posted: 11/23/2012 7:47:21 PM
We built our current home 10 years ago, it is at the point where it needs a little tlc, new paint, organizing & de-cluttering, and a new refrigerator. If we stay here I'd really like to pull up the cream colored carpets & put in hardwood floors, & although my kitchen is fine, I'd love new countertops & white cupboards (I could re-paint). Our home is your typical ranch built 10 years ago, all wood trim & doors, while I'd prefer white. It fits us well, space-wise. It's 1800 sf on the main level and almost that in the basement. Each of the 3 kids has their own bedroom & DH has a nice office in our walk-out basement (where he works full time). So what's the problem?

Well, the house just isn't "me". I love older homes with character, and we live on a golf course, which is soooooo not me- I'd love to live IN our small town so I can ride bikes with the kids & walk the dog. Our golf course road is sand/gravel & too busy/curvy/dangerous to do those things. Dh likes it fine here, but he doesn't mind moving & is a gem of a guy & will do whatever keeps me happy.

There is a house in town for sale that I've always loved, a built-in-1910 cottage-craftsman style. We looked at it, it would need a lot of work. It's half the size of our current home & would need to be added onto to work for us, there's just no room for the office, & the old super small cement basement isn't able to be remodeled. So it would be tons of work, & we'd probably have almost as much $ into the house as we do here in our current home. The older home also doesn't have an attached garage or an open floor plan, which we have now. It's not really practical to move, but, I keep thinking about it. So I'm looking for some new perspective- what would you do?

Thrift Ninja

PeaNut 226,011
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Posted: 11/23/2012 7:48:38 PM
I would get the craftsman in a hearbeat. We love older houses too. So much charm!

Our current house was built in 1928. The layout isn't perfect, but we're comfortable here.

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PeaNut 178,445
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Posted: 11/23/2012 8:36:53 PM
We'd stay on the golf course.


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PeaNut 287,526
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Posted: 11/23/2012 8:40:35 PM
I think you should stay where you're at and do what you can to make it "you". Frankly, it sounds like the house in town would be way too small for your family. You'd also have a lot of renovating to do and who knows what you'll find wrong with a 100 year old house. There's wiring and plumbing and the foundation to think of. Once the kids are grown and your house is too big, then get your cute little fixer-upper.

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PeaNut 292,577
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Posted: 11/23/2012 8:42:22 PM
How much longer would your kids be living at home? If they are teens, or close to leaving the nest, then the downsize may not be that painful in the long run.

Happiness looks good on everyone!


PeaNut 202,096
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Posted: 11/23/2012 8:43:20 PM
I would move in a heartbeat. I love older houses. The house my husband and I bought 10 years ago was so incredibly small but it had such character. It was a 60 year old Georgian with awesome hardwood flooring, but not much else to speak of. We fixed it up and then added on 3 years ago and it's the absolute perfect house for us now. Good luck with your decision!


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Posted: 11/23/2012 8:51:57 PM
Craftsman. No doubt~! Best wishes either way.


PeaNut 9,640
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Posted: 11/23/2012 8:56:51 PM
I would also get the older home, if I thought the renovations would be reasonable and we could afford it. I love the craftsman style. It would be very hard for me to pass up too.

I understand where you're coming from. DH and I have fallen in love with a 100 year-old farm house on two acres near us. It's already had most of the needed renovations, and is very affordable. It looks like DH will be getting a job in Arizona, though, and the typical home styles there are nice, but just aren't my style. I doubt we'll purchase a home there, and I hope we can come back here after a couple of years to buy our dream home.

Good luck with your decision .

Kristen, lucky mom and proud retired Army wife!

Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 497,090
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Posted: 11/23/2012 8:57:00 PM
Are you in the drought zone? then no

the foundations on those older homes are breaking apart because the surrounding soil is drying out so bad that it can no longer support any weight.

As for remodeling an older expect to spend double to triple then what is budgeted for. You will find wiring that goes nowhere, and why the heck did they plumb it that way. oh the best one.....yes that plumber did cut through a support beam to lay pipe.


PeaNut 252,825
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Posted: 11/23/2012 8:58:29 PM
Our kids are 13, 10 & 6 s we'd have a lot of kid years left. The house has 3 small bedrooms upstairs & 1 small bedroom downstairs. We'd probably hire a contractor to attach a garage & add on an office, family room, laundry room & a bedroom/bath for dd13, then re-do the kitchen & knock down a wall to open it up to the dining/living room. Whew! But our own home would need several changes too, to make me like it better.

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PeaNut 164,125
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Posted: 11/23/2012 9:16:43 PM
I'd stay put and touch up what you can to make it more 'you'....that other house sounds like a huge money pit.

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PeaNut 99,963
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Posted: 11/23/2012 9:40:03 PM
We built a nice home 13 years ago. It's well built with a great yard, lots of space. We're not crazy about the town it's in. We looked into some really nice older homes in a town less than 10 miles away. My husband works in this town and my daughters go to school here, so it would make sense for us to live there. We opted to stay put because we would have to pay a lot to get comparable to what we have. So now a couple years later we bought a second home on a popular lake about 35 minutes from our place. We decided we'd do it while the kids are young enough to spend some summers there. We also think when they are older that they'll be more inclined to want to visit us at the lake than in town. When we retire we'll probably live there 7 months out of the year. Had we bought one of the older homes and fixed it up, we wouldn't have been able to buy the second home. It's very easy for me to like my house in town when I know I have my little house on a beautiful lake.



PeaNut 525,528
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Posted: 11/23/2012 10:12:28 PM
I live in a house built in 1908. I love its charm and character, but I wouldn't buy an older house again. An earlier pea summed it up with "why did they do it this way?" And in 100+ years, there have been a lot of "theys"!

There was no code back then, just a loose collection of best practices. Some things are similar, like most wall studs are around 16" oc, but not all. Everything was added after the house was built, and it shows.

Old plaster is lovely to look at, but once it cracks...oy. And it will crack, and bulge, and you end up replacing it with drywall anyway. Plus, hanging pictures in it makes you feel guilty.

Nothing is level after that much time settling. Most of the walls aren't plumb or true, so adding crown molding is a nightmare.

If I could do it over, I'd have bought a big newer home and I'd add on architectural details to make it charming. It's simpler and cheaper to do that when things were done according to code.

Either way you go will be fine! But much as I love my home, I still daydream of the day bf says we're getting hitched and moving someplace new.
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PeaNut 15,878
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Posted: 11/23/2012 10:22:59 PM
I live in an old house. I would love to buy the new house around the corner. That is my ultimate dream.

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PeaNut 27,168
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Posted: 11/23/2012 10:31:56 PM
Stay in your current place and make it "you". It sounds like this other home has only a light coat of charm that is drawing you in and many serious flaws that don't suit your family.

Living in and remodeling an older home is seldom the romantic dream people think it will be. In fact I've known two marriages that were pretty much ruined by the constant stress and strain of it. It's expensive, time consuming and for the average person simply overwhelming.


PeaNut 31,018
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Posted: 11/23/2012 10:46:13 PM
We moved from a ranch house into an old house. It's definitely not for everyone. We moved from a very small house to a much larger house. I am not sure I could have dealt with downsizing in to an old house. First of all, there are usually very few closets and not much storage. Even going from small to big on the house, we don't have anywhere to store things.

When we made the decision to buy the old house that needs a lot of TLC, it was done eyes wide open, knowing it would need about $100K in work to make it shine again. So you need to really look at the real dollars and cents of what a project like this will entail. The contractors estimated that it would take about $50K, so we doubled that to give ourselves a worst case scenario dollar amount...and it was still within what we were willing to spend. And, we are doing this over time. That means there are many quirks of the house that we just have to live with until we have the cash and city approval to do them. For what we paid for the house, even if we put in $100K in to it, we will still come out ahead of what similar homes are selling for NOW in this neighborhood. It made sense as a long term investment.

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PeaNut 367,913
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Posted: 11/23/2012 11:14:38 PM

I think you should stay in your current home and personalize it more. The older home doesn't sound like it would fit your family or lifestyle.

As your children get older and start to leave home you could look into buying a house with more charm and character. I think this would be a more practical route to go.

Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 39,386
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Posted: 11/24/2012 7:21:32 AM

As for remodeling an older expect to spend double to triple then what is budgeted for. You will find wiring that goes nowhere, and why the heck did they plumb it that way. oh the best one.....yes that plumber did cut through a support beam to lay pipe.

An older home can be cute but they'd suck up a lot of money. Is the charm worth the wiring that blows when you use the toaster or the plumbing that backs up when it rains?


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PeaNut 114,407
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Posted: 11/24/2012 7:23:22 AM
I'm an old house lover so my vote is always older. In your case however Id have to be moving to larger unless my budget comfortably allowed a professional addition before we moved in.

There is a lot of ignorance that goes with discussions of an old house. They don't all have ancient wiring installed by Edison himself anymore than all new homes are trouble free. Friends had a nightmare new home - like nearly condemned due to faulty ground prep and construction.

A thorough unbiased home inspection is a must regardless of age of the structure.

Finally, I am finding that with our children active teens we have less time we are willing to spend on renovation. When they were babies and toddlers I would set them in a swing or they would play nearby while we worked. It's tougher when they have activities and events as teens so please keep that in mind. I wouldn't be giving you good advice not to point that out.

On the flip side my kids are picking up some valuable skills. I may have the rare 13 yo girl who can break up a wall with a Maddox and DS, 15, can chase plumbing runs.

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PeaNut 21,268
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Posted: 11/24/2012 7:31:30 AM
How wealthy are you? If you have unlimited funds - do what makes you happy. Looking at the age of your children, you are looking at some huge college expenses coming up.


PeaNut 184,384
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Posted: 11/24/2012 8:06:29 AM
I loved older homes until I lived in one! We bought one that has built in 1912. We lived there 6 years, and then we couldn't take it anymore. We sold it and bought a house that was built in 2002.

There were so many issues with the older home that weren't really fixable without taking it down to the studs and starting over. Plumbing, wiring, duct work. You name it, there were issues with it.

It cost a fortune to heat in the winter and cool in the summer. All the bedrooms were upstairs, and even with the air conditioner on, we would sweat in the summer. In the winter we had to put space heaters up there so we didn't freeze.

The people who owned it before us were very handy and had done A TON of work on it, so we thought that all the major issues had been taken care of. I quickly learned that in those older homes that all the major issues are NEVER taken care of. Every time we turned around there was something else we were having to repair/replace.

Occasionally I still miss the charm of our old house, but I would never go back. I like my creature comforts too much. Like knowing there will be enough hot water for my kids bath without me having to boil it for them.


PeaNut 252,825
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Posted: 11/24/2012 8:27:11 AM
After thinking through the actual realities of all the things we'd need to do to make the old house livable for us, I think I'll let some other smaller family have it who can love it as is, and not have to add on a lot of living space. Sigh, it really is a lovely home, but just not practical for us at all. My main objective is to move into town so we can enjoy walks, bike rides, being closer to school etc. I don't dislike our current home, but I LOATHE living at the golf course. Probably a wiser choice would be to declutter & do some painting & minor fix-ups to our home, so that if something in town comes up for sale in the next year we would be ready to move.
As much as I love old homes w/ character, we are a super busy family w/ activies almost every evening, and while I think I'd like to do some remodeling and cosmetic things to a house in town to make it more me, the old house plumbing, foundation & electric problem aren't something we feel ready to tackle. Thanks peas! I always get some great perspective asking questions on here.

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Posted: 11/24/2012 8:46:05 AM
Would a home like that be considered historic?
If it were then adding onto it may be prohibited.
There are rules about what you can do to a historic home.
I think you're making the right choice.

We had a chance to buy the original Oceanside one room school house.
It had been converted to a little home.
I loved it. Really loved it.
But, I'm so glad we didn't buy it.
It was too small and I can see now that we wouldn't have been happy in something that little.
There would have been nowhere to go to get away from each other.

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PeaNut 409,844
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Posted: 11/24/2012 8:51:35 AM
I would not move to the other house. Right now it is a "cute older house" but with all the alterations you would need to make, it would totally change it and take away the cuteness. Maybe there is another older house out there that would be closer to your needs if an older house is what you really want.


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PeaNut 96,783
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Posted: 11/24/2012 8:58:26 AM
You've probably made the best decision for now. Fix your golf course home up and watch for something in town that won't have to be added onto.

I'm renovating a 1903 building and love doing so, but you never know when you scratch the surface what will be turned up. The only functioning bath had a 'bouncy' floor. It felt like we were walking on a layer of toast! When the pergo was pulled up there was a layer of vinyl flooring. Under that was rotten wood. Another layer of linoleum, 2 layers of wood, more linoleum, then 1 more layer of wood before we reached the beams. Holy cow! Nobody ever made repairs, they just covered up what was damaged by a slow leak. Each layer of wood is pulverized. It can be picked up by the handful!

We will have to pull the fixtures, which are actually quite new, and take up all the floor layers. We knew that particular floor was bad but had no idea just HOW bad. $$$

Other than that the building is coming along quite well.


PeaNut 439,654
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Posted: 11/24/2012 7:26:34 PM
Neither. I'd keep an eye out for a newer home with character that was more the right size for you. A home that old is going to need a lot of work and continue to need more care. Adding on to an old house is very tricky. While it can be done so that the style is preserved, I've also seen additions that just destroyed the character of the of original house. Do the things to your home that you would need to do anyway if you had to put it on the market and keep looking for something that fits your heart as well as your lifestyle.

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PeaNut 224,352
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Posted: 11/24/2012 7:44:23 PM
I think you are kidding yourself if you think you can do an addition and bring the home in town up to current spec for even close to what the facelift you are talking about doing in your current home. And are you sure that you will be able to add the space you want in that home?

I have a home in a country club and live right on the golf course, I also have a home in a town about an hour away and live in the old town, downtown. LOVE the smaller home, but if I still had a number of children at home, no way would I have moved into downtown. Downsizing once birds have flown the nest is one thing, I think that it would be a huge upset to the lives of your children/family dynamic.

Why not buy the house in town and work on it over time and then when your kids move out, you move there?

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Ancient Ancestor of Pea

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Posted: 11/24/2012 7:53:44 PM
Oh, I love an old home. And I like a smaller home. And I prefer not to live in a ranch home. And I love living right in town. So, yeah, the 1910 cottage would be calling my name quite loudly.

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PeaNut 82,319
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Posted: 11/24/2012 7:54:48 PM
I would stay put. I do love an older charming house, but it just sounds like too much work. And the fact that there's no room for an office for your husband, who works from home, wouldn't fly for me. I would not want my husbands work stuff scattered all over my house during the time it took to build the addition for his office. That would drive me (and him) insane. But, that is us.

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PeaNut 44,870
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Posted: 11/24/2012 8:22:52 PM
If you have a substantial amount of money to put into the house, aside from the costs associated with buying and selling a home, then it could be something to consider if it would really make you happy. To take on that kind of project, I'd expect to spend anywhere from $200-400k, maybe $500k especially if you are considering additions, moving walls/supporting walls, and renovating rooms like bathrooms and the kitchen. It totally depends on the current condition of the older home.

Is it still knob and tube wiring? has the plumbing been updated? Is it city or septic? Have things like windows, insulation, roof ever been updated? Air conditioning? Heat? So much to consider. Projects like that sound like no big deal at first, but then can quickly become overwhelming. Go in with both eyes open and a realistic plan and budget to keep you this side of sane.

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PeaNut 61,691
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Posted: 11/24/2012 8:42:30 PM
I'd stay put, or look for a house that suits your wants that doesn't require such extensive work. I've been through the addition/remodeling thing, and it is a royal PITA. It was more expensive and took more time than anticipated, and frankly, it was rough on our marriage.


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Posted: 11/24/2012 11:11:12 PM
Stay where you are. Are you and your husband extremely handy? Do you love to DIY? Do you have an extensive reno budget? Of the answer to any of these is no, I would never consider it. Our first home was built in 1928 and was a super "charming" fixer upper that turned into an absolute nightmare. Everything takes 3 times as long and twice as much money as you plan - not an exaggeration. We gutted that house and hated every second of it. We'll never own a fixer upper again.


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PeaNut 83,119
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Posted: 11/24/2012 11:19:14 PM
If it were an even swap, size-wise, I'd say go for it since I have a truly handy husband. But living with 5 people in 900 square feet? Yikes. I know it can be done. I live in 1000sf with three people and five cats and we are squashed in. Our garage is full of DH's hobby stuff and holiday decorations, and my costumes. Plus, DH has a hobby shed (8x10) for HIS costumes.

I am a huge fan of the Craftsman era- I even wrote my sr. honors thesis on California Craftsman bungalows. But 900sf? Too small for me.

(eta- I grew up in a 700sf 1911 Craftsman bungalow that my mom expanded to 2200sf after I grew up. I slept in the gardening shed in back. Now it's gorgeous.)


PeaNut 80,720
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Posted: 11/25/2012 6:00:29 AM

DH and I built in 1994. We stayed there 7 years and I never felt like it was me. We bought an 1840 Gothic Revival farm house and I LOVE it. This house is my home and I am very thankful to come home every day. So you can guess what I would tell you to do



PeaNut 252,825
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Posted: 11/25/2012 9:33:15 AM
The advice about looking for something that fits my heart as well as our lifestyle is good advice. The old house has 1770 sq feet, not sure if they are counting the unusable basement. Our current home has twice that, counting the main level & finished basement, in case I wasn't clear on that for a pp.

Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 199,413
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Posted: 11/25/2012 9:41:44 AM
What is the market like in your area? Could you easily sell your current style home on the golf course you live with getting some appreciation on it?

Would you be able to find someone to reasonably remodel the house you are looking to purchase in a timely manner?

In our area we can hardly find anyone free and interested to remodel and if we can the prices are out of sight more often than not.

Simple Crafter

PeaNut 220,574
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Posted: 11/25/2012 11:51:24 AM
We did the whole debate on remodel or buy new and ended up making the same decision as UpNorthScrapper - buy a second home. Only instead of on a lake, at the beach! Then we have the best of both worlds!


PeaNut 51,706
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Posted: 11/25/2012 12:24:31 PM

Older home for sure. Ours was built in 1870 and I love it!


Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 39,057
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Posted: 11/26/2012 9:23:13 AM
This sums it up for me:

[I'd stay put and touch up what you can to make it more 'you'....that other house sounds like a huge money pit.]


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