Renovate an Old House vs Building a New One

Renovate an Old House vs Building a New One

Sometimes we may be faced with deciding to keep an existing home or tearing it down and starting over. Is it worth keeping an old house and remodelling or renovating it or should you tear it down and start over?

How do you assess whether or not to renovate/remodel or tear down and build new?

It is important to get your architect, designer or engineer involved right at the beginning, even your realtor if you are considering purchasing an older house. You also need to find out what your local municipality requires when it comes to heritage houses.

If you already own the house and want to renovate, you may have an idea of what will need to be replaced and any restrictions that the City and/or the historical society has. However, if you are looking to buy an older house, you should be very thorough in the assessment of it.

Those who are thinking about acquiring an older house should enlist the help of their realtor to assist in finding out if the house has been registered with the local heritage society and what their requirements or restrictions are for remodeling and renovating. You don’t want to purchase an older house only to find out that you cannot put in a stand-up shower with modern fixtures next to the claw foot bathtub.

Other things to consider when thinking about purchasing an older house are: how old is the house? When was the electrical wiring last updated; has it ever been updated? How current is the existing plumbing? If you upgrade the plumbing (not just the fixtures), will the City require you to upgrade your sewer and water connections at street level? How much will that cost? What about insulation, windows, the roof and the foundation? When you purchase the house, these last items should be given first priority before anything else.

Remember, in the city of Vancouver there would be necessary to apply for permit for any upgrade in the house. If the house has older wiring and plumbing it is highly recommended to have it upgraded. Usually during the upgrade, the trades need to open the drywalls and run the new lines. Most important of all, you have to make sure the old house does not contain any asbestos. That can be determined by a certified contractor.

I had a client who was planing to do a minor renovation in their new bought home and after the asbestos test result came positive, they end up to remove the drywall from the entire house and upgrade their insulation as well.

I had another client who couldn’t make up her mind if it’s benificial for her to renovate or re-built.

Renovating might cost over $200,000 less (it depends on the each house and extend of renovation) compare to re-building, but if you ever thinking of re-selling the house, the title on the house will never changes as the date is built. It will consider an old house with a major renovation which might effect on your asking price determination.

Concrete meant to serve 100 years and if you buy a 50 year old house, it’s foundation passed it’s half of it’s lifetime. Spending $400K to $600K to renovate an existing house might be good for environment to re-use some of existing material and the style of the house, but at the same time you have check the economic feasibility of new built vs. renovation.

In summary, some things to consider if renovating are:

  • When was the house built?
  • Is your house designated heritage?
  • What is your budget and are you prepared to go over budget if needed to meet industry standards, municipal and heritage requirements?
  • Is there any asbestos in the house and how much does it cost to remove it if there is any
  • Will the electrical wiring need to be upgraded?
  • Will the plumbing need to be upgraded? Will that require new sewer/water connections?
  • Do the windows need to be replaced to get a better insulation value and how much that would cost?
  • Will the walls need to be deepened to accommodate thicker insulation?
  • Where will you stay; in the house or somewhere else? What is the cost of staying somewhere else?
  • Do you have children and/or animals that will be affected by being in the house or displaced during renovation?
modern bathroom designer

modern bathroom designer

And some things to consider if building new:

  • What is your budget? Is your budget flexible?
  • What are the building requirements for your local municipality?
  • How long is it going to take?
  • Where are you going to live while the house if being built? How much will that cost?
  • Are you going to use the house as an income property (rent it out) or live in it?
  • How long do you expect to live in the house when you are finished?

Check out the following blog posts on about renovations in Vancouver:

What You Should Know and Do Before Renovating Your House In Vancouver and

What You Should Know and Do Before Renovating Your House In Vancouver – Part 2

Here are some documents you can download to help with your decision-making process:

Design Team Meeting – Renovations

Design Team Meeting – New Home

Deciding whether to renovate an existing house or to tear it down and start over is when you definitely should seek the advice of experts. Ltd. is experienced in dealing with both renovations as well as new or re-built homes and has extensive experience in investment in real estate which can help you to make an inform decision. We are ready to answer your questions; contact us by filling out the form on our website or call 604-929-6696.

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