Room Addition TIPS
- Usually cheaper to add on than buy a new home
- Get prequalified by bank
- Check zoning laws
- Create great plans and get FREE & FAST BIDS - see below
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DEAR TIM: I'm pregnant with my third child. My husband and I know we need more room. We're thinking about adding two rooms to our 1,100 square foot home but don't have a clue where to start the process.
We're afraid of getting ripped-off by contractors and have no clue how much this might cost. What should we do? Judith S., Boise, ID
DEAR JUDITH: Congratulations on your expanding family!
Make More Space
Doing the math, I agree that you are a prime candidate for a room addition project. I can sympathize with you as the house I grew up in was small. It had a total of 980 square feet that four of us shared. But I survived and must say that as a child I didn't feel cramped for space. If you have to put the project off for any reason, I don't think your kids will mind one bit.
Small But Complex
Although a room addition project may seem somewhat insignificant than building a new home, they are nearly identical in complexity. In many respects, building a room addition requires far greater skill.
Not only do you have to make sure the room addition matches the existing home that may be out of square and not level, but the workers must work around you and your family. This takes extra time and all sorts of extra work needs to happen to control dust and other disruptions
Bathrobes and Bad Hair
When building a new home, the workers don't have to deal with you wandering around in your bathrobe, fuzzy slippers and your bad hair each morning. It's hard for both you and the workers who are invading your space and privacy.
Creating A Budget
You must determine what you can afford. When interest rates are low you can borrow more money for a given monthly payment. It may make sense to refinance your entire home at this time and get a lower overall rate for both your current mortgage and the money you'll need for the room addition.
Visit with your banker, savings and loan or credit union and get prequalified. The banker will look at your existing finances and tell you how much you can borrow. This is a very important step.
I can't tell you how many past customers of mine went to all the trouble to get bids for their projects only to discover later they couldn't borrow the money.
After you leave the bank, visit your local zoning office. Take with you several photos of your house taken from all angles. In addition, make a quick sketch showing your lot and where your house sits on your lot.
Use a tape measure to determine how far away the front, side and rear walls of your home are away from the respective property lines. With your photos and sketch, the local zoning officials should be able to tell you the maximum-sized room addition you can build within the current zoning laws.
Variances - Prove Hardship
If you need to build a larger addition, you can sometimes file an appeal with the zoning board. If you can prove practical difficulty or a significant hardship, you may be granted a variance.
I was a volunteer planning board and zoning commissioner in my own town for eight years. The law required us to only grant variances to homeowners after they proved a hardship. You need to craft your application in such a way as to show exactly what the hardship is.
An example of a hardship is having to move a garden shed closer to a property line so you don't have to cut down a giant tree that provides shade and value to the property. I had to get a variance myself for just this reason and it was a valid hardship.
Talk With Top Realtors
A visit with several top real estate agents may be in order. Ask them if houses with room additions in your neighborhood are attractive to buyers. Ask what amenities within the room additions seem to appeal to the current buyers.
The real estate agent may be able to point you to homes in your area that have room additions. Driving by these places may stimulate ideas in your own mind. Most importantly, ask what things turn buyers off. The advice you receive may be very helpful years from now.
Create Basic Plan
Try to envision what space you really need. Draw a basic floor plan with actual dimensions. Use your existing room sizes to guide you. Soon you will know if you need 250 or 600 extra square feet.
Get FREE & FAST BIDS!
Once you have a simple plan, call several remodeling contractors. Many good ones have a feel for pricing.
In other words, they know that certain room additions cost so many dollars per square foot. It is not uncommon for a room addition to cost more per square foot than building a new home.
The cost multiplier can be as much as 1.4 to 1.8 times the cost of building new. Get a minimum of three bids and compare prices. They'll be higher than you might be expecting in most cases. If the room addition has a new kitchen or bathroom, add even more money.
Complete Plans & Specifications
To get accurate bids from qualified contractors, be sure they fill out a detailed checklist. These forms ask pointed questions and force the bidding contractors to fill out a detailed cost breakdown. This cost breakdown allows you to see if each contractor has included all cost items.
The Checklist also puts each contractor on a level playing field. Believe me, non-professional contractors run from these forms like vampires from sunlight. Be sure to use a Checklist!