Are Home Renovations Necessary?

The glut of home renovation and house flipping shows on HGTV and other channels have people hankering for an "updated" home. One reason is for resale value- any changes should make the home easier to sell in the future. Another reason is to stay current with architectural trends.    

Remodeling and other house-fussery has become a national pastime. In 2015 alone, Americans spent $326.1 billion on renovating. Previously contained to affluent households and the glossy pages of architecture magazines, remodeling has been transformed by 24/7 media like HGTV and websites like Houzz, Pinterest, and Dezeen. While older media, like early issues of House Beautiful, discusses the process as mastering the careful art of interior design, newer media is more neurotic and self-loathing, describing houses in need of renovation with words like “dated”, “immature,” or “wrong.” Whether presented as a self-improvement project (update your house lest you be judged for owning a dated one) or a form of self-care (renovate because it will make you feel better), the home remodel is presented as both remedy and requirement.

Instead of falling prey to this thinking, take a moment to consider this simple idea: There is nothing wrong with your house.

Let's be honest. If your roof or your pipes are leaking, there is something wrong with your house. The argument here, from Kate Wagner of McMansion Hell, is that you shouldn't go into debt just to make your home conform to current house trends, especially since those trends will change before you can pay off the project. Unless you are deep into the house flipping business, remodels should be approached with the idea of making your home a place you'll be happy to live in for the price of the changes. Read more about the fad of trendy remodeling at Curbed. -via Metafilter, where you'll find plenty of house stories.


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From what I've seen, the best case for remodeling outside of repairs is for changing the functionality of the house, e.g. where layout causes a fundamental problem, and opening up or adding rooms could fix that. Otherwise, most of what I've people complain about being dated is something superficial and not too hard to change (even cabinets have some cheaper options than replacing everything). In those cases, changes can made gradually, and the costs small enough to not be a big deal if they don't add to the house's price.

People without experience lack imagination, in terms of what can be done, but also in terms of how little it sometimes takes to improve a look. If lucky, you can sometimes find a cheap house because not one wants to buy it for superficial reasons. But that really depends on the market too. I saw places like that where I used to live. Now o live some place where properties cost seven figures, but we'll maintained homes are valued at less than a new car as houses are expected to be torn down when purchased.
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I did a remodel because it was hard to put six people in a two-bedroom house. The price of the expansion was almost as much as the house price, but added exactly $0 to the appraised value. That's because I bought the house in 2008, and the post-renovation appraisal was in 2012. I can't let that bother me, because I have an awesome place to live in for the rest of my life.
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Not long ago there was a chart of home improvement projects, and how much they increase the resale value. The upshot is: you're lucky to get 75% of what you spent, back. Homes go up in value because the property has value as long as there is demand, NOT because there's some bigger idiot out there, who wants a certain style of home, and keeps buying more houses trying to get it...
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