Picture it: You’ve found the perfect property. Perhaps it has beautiful views or a forest backdrop. Or maybe it’s walking distance into town. Unfortunately, this perfect parcel comes with an imperfect house, one that’s too dated or completely unfit for today’s lifestyles. What do you do? Should you undergo an extensive remodel? Or is it smarter to tear down and rebuild?
The decision whether to buy a home only to tear it down isn’t always easy. There are a number of factors to consider.
When Does It Make Sense to Tear Down and Rebuild?
Unfortunately, there’s not always a cut-and-dried answer when it comes to whether or not to tear down an existing home on your property, unless the house is condemned or otherwise in complete disrepair. But here are a few common reasons why tear-down simply makes more sense:
- Chance-of-a-lifetime property: There are many beautiful parcels of land in the Pacific Northwest, but empty lots also carry a lot of restrictions on buildable area, such as how close the house can be to the water. Properties with existing houses, however, are often grandfathered in, provided the rebuilt house is within the same footprint. This provides an opportunity to build the home of your dreams in a spot that perhaps you couldn’t elsewhere.
- A remodel is too expensive: Of course, many homes can be remodeled. But many others are too far gone, whether from deterioration or simply because someone else’s must-haves may be hard to make work for you. If converting the house to the home of your dreams is going to cost nearly as much as a new build, tearing down and starting from scratch may be the ideal path to take.
- Costs and inefficiencies: Older homes tend to be poorly insulated and lack energy and electrical upgrades. Consider those long-term operational costs, as well as the cost of retrofitting new equipment and a more robust building envelope, as part of your investment calculations.
- Health issues: Similarly, if the existing home is plagued by asbestos, lead paint, mold, or other hazards, the cost of remediation might prove to be too much.
How to Plan for a Tear-Down
Just like when you’re scouting vacant properties, planning ahead and working with your builder before you buy land with an existing property is important to ensuring a smooth process.
- Have your builder evaluate the land: Even if a house is already on the property, it’s critical to have your builder investigate the property before you commit. They can help you evaluate potential land restrictions ( including shorelines, wetlands, and streams), calculate cost of needed land upgrades and land hazard remediation, and determine if your dream rebuild is even possible. (Read more about working with a builder before buying property here.)
- Have your builder evaluate the existing house: Even if you know you’re going to tear down the home on the property, include it as part of your research. For example, the foundation of a home destroyed may be able to be reused to save money—but what if that foundation has damage you cannot see? You’ll end up adding unplanned expenses from your budget. This also includes systems like septic—what can be reused and what will need to be replaced?
- Don’t start too soon: If you’re tearing down a house that is grandfathered into previous land use, timing is critical—regulations on rebuilding often require replacement within a certain time frame (usually a year) before permits permanently expire. It’s crucial to plan the timing with your builder to ensure the new house can be built within that timeframe.
- Conduct a survey before tear-down: If you’re rebuilding on restricted land and within an existing footprint, be sure to survey the home before you tear it down. This way you can prove where the house was and that the new home meets the buildable area requirements.
- Determine your budget before starting a tear-down: It may be tempting to start some light demo on the existing house. But before you strip the home of its value, wait until you’ve worked with a builder to design and budget for your new house—including the cost of demolishing the existing home and prepping the land below and around it—to make sure you can afford it.
Existing home tear-downs can be a great way to build the custom home you’ve always imagined on a property that provides just as much wow factor. Just be sure to plan ahead and work with an experienced custom home builder—as far in advance as possible—to ensure the process goes smoothly and your budget stays intact.
Estes Builders’ Guaranteed Fixed Price can give you peace of mind when tearing down and rebuilding. Contact us today for a free Custom Home Investment Study and let us help you discover the possibilities for your own dream home.