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What is Best? Remodeling Before or After Moving In?

Updated on February 13, 2015

A Nice Little Old Fixer Upper

A Plain Little Old House with a lot of Potential
A Plain Little Old House with a lot of Potential | Source

Before is Beautiful, After is Livable

Hands down, remodel before moving in. And yet, we didn't. It wasn't within our budget. We were happy to be moving into a gently lived in 40+ year old house, and we figured we could live in it two years and see what we really want to do. We had a plan all ready, but we didn't use it. We decided to wait, and I'm so glad we did.

If we would have remodeled before we moved in, we would have missed exploiting the unique advantages our house and yard. Nature has provided us cool breeze on hot summer days for air-conditioning, and a warm south eastern sun right outside our laundry room for the lining drying we love.

On the downside, we became so enchanted with our retro décor that we didn't update our plumbing before we had a major water leak. If we would have stayed to our remodel schedule though, we would have had not problem.


 
Advantages
Disadvantages
Remodel Before
convenient, easy access to matching styles and colors
May not fully utilize the assets of your house and lot
Remodel After--move out in order to do the work all at once
convenient, easy access to matching styles and colors, able to fully build upon the house's assets
Costly
Remodel After--slowly over time
fully able to capitalize on your home's assets
not convenient, may not be able to get matching styles and colors

Our Best Case Senerio

Move in our gently lived in un-updated home with ideas of remodeling written out and remain flexible with them.

Over a period of two to four years, write out the qualities we want to exploit and revise our remodeling plan. When we have the plan everyone is happy with move out. Then implement the change in a one time mass project updating all plumbing and electrical systems including re-landscaping, adding a pool, koi pond, or both.

Two Practical Problems with the Best Case Senario

Another Problem: Money

It's costly to rent a second home while remodeling the first. The cost of completely moving out, paying for living expenses in a place close enough to our house to supervise the remodel and keep the rest of our routines going in addition to the remodel costs was more than we wanted to pay.


One Problem: Time

Families grow and perhaps become attached to the retro home they have created four years of memories in. The upheaval of remodeling becomes unappealing.

This was a problem for us because even though four years seem like a long time, at our four year mark, we felt that we were finally settling in, the kids especially. We all liked recounting memories of exploits around the house. Although we speculated of how wonderful our proposed changes would be, at the same time, we had grown accustom to and love our house as it is.

We also didn't want to spend the time it would take to remodel.

Back to Where We Started: Slowly Remodeling After Moving In

So we're back to either remodeling before moving in in which case we wouldn't have had utilized our particular home's advantages as fully as we could have.

So for us, the only practical way was to remodel slowly.

After our water leak and realizing the importance of a manifold plumbing system that we can re-plumb area by area instead of all at once.

So this works for us and we can choose which areas to remodel first.

Generations to Remodel For

Time is at issue once again. Our slow process will take a period of years to complete. We joke that the kids will be out of college and have their own kids by the time we finish. In that case we'll have to change the plans to be grandkid friendly which will probably take another generation.

Perhaps planning the remodel as part of the cost of buying and moving into a newly purchased fixer upper is the perfect plan.

For Many Remodeling Before is Best; But Not for Us

For many families, moving into a completely updated home is the ideal solution and eliminates later upheaval. For us it would have been a disappointment, and I'll tell you why.


First Remodel Plan

We would have been miserable with enlarging the house like this before we moved in.
We would have been miserable with enlarging the house like this before we moved in. | Source

Second Plan

Our long term plan that we'll be much happier with.
Our long term plan that we'll be much happier with. | Source

Remodeling too Soon, We would Have Destroyed Our Home' s Assets

This cool summer breeze I referred to earlier would have completely gone to waste in our original plan. We would have unknowingly prevented the breeze flowing through our house. We would have sat around our backyard pool constantly freezing from the breeze. Our lovely pool would have been worthless.

Our new long range plans enlarge the house to make full use of nature's air-conditioning.

Enlarging the house out into the backyard in the new plan also provides a wind shelter for a pool should we decide we still want one.

The sun outside the laundry-room door won't have a porch roof over it as a shelter from the sun as in the first plan. Instead we'll make this area a secluded little warm spot for line drying.

Oh if we would have spent the thousands of dollars it would have cost us in the original plan only to discover we had worked against mother nature. as a result we would have roasted in our house, froze by our pool, and had moldy laundry on the line. I would have been livid. I would never have been comfortable in my own home. What a torture knowing the money we had paid to be miserable.

Short Term Buyers Disregard

Having wasted so much money, it would have been difficult to call home our original remodel plan for at least twenty years.

For people who move every five years, these issues may not even be considered, and I assume there buyers would be looking for walk-in ready homes rather than fixer uppers such as ours.

A Home for the Long Term

If you want a home to raise your family in and are thinking of buying a fixer upper, I'd suggest leaving the major revisions until you've lived in the house some time.

If living in the house first is impracticable for you, at least consider wind or breeze patterns, where shadows from the trees fall on the house, where the sun shines on the house, and where where puddles forms when it rains.

These are just a few of the many considerations needed that lead to a remodel and updating that fully utilizes all your newly purchased home's unique advantages.

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