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Love it or leave it
Is your ideal home new, or new to you?


April 2014

In the pursuit to own a dream home, families must determine if their current house can be remodeled or if new construction is a better route. Both options require careful consideration. To help you decide when to build or remodel, here is expert advice from members of the Metropolitan Builders Association and insight from homeowners who have already gone through the process.

A Fresh Face

Jessica and Ryan Stamm bought their first home in 2001, a four-bedroom Colonial in New Berlin. They decided never to move and to remake it their own. Nearly the entire first floor has been remodeled, all by Callen Construction. A 2009 family room upgrade featured a tiled fireplace surround and patio doors to replace a bow window. In 2013, they renovated the kitchen, living room and powder room. The space was gutted and rebuilt, including removing walls and relocating a window. "Our house is a transformation," Jessica Stamm says. "It is possible to freshen up your home and stay in the area."

Factors to Consider Before Remodeling

Budget. First, explore the scope of creating your perfect home and play with the budget. "A whole-house renovation is close to the cost of building a new home, but the plumbing and foundation are already in place," notes Matt Retzak, a project designer with Bartelt. The Remodeling Resource. Your dollar can stretch further for higher quality products. If your master plan will be completed in phases, debate the cost of each project, he notes.

Value. The real estate market is recovering, but it’s not necessarily back yet. Is the potential resale value worth your initial investment? Redesigning your basement, bathroom or kitchen might be more cost-effective than starting over in a new house. Paulette Sodemann, a designer at Callen Construction, suggests putting more into your remodel and later increasing the asking price.

Feasibility. Before committing to a project, determine if your vision is even possible — based on the house and the property. New construction starts with a clean slate. An existing structure has to be unmade and re-created. "A remodel is a work-around to get where you want to go," Sodemann says.

Location. When you love where you currently live for the school district, your neighbors or the life you built there, the choice to renovate allows you to stay and improve your situation. As Tim O’Brien, president of Tim O’Brien Homes, puts it, "Remodeling can take away the pain of living in that same old house."

Duration. "How long do you plan to stay in your home?" asks Sodemann. "Five years? Twenty? Indefinitely?" Even a small change can make a big difference. Adding recessed or under-cabinet LED lights improves energy efficiency and reduces utility costs.

New Home Heaven

"A house is the biggest investment you’ll make. Why not meet your wish list as much as you can?" asks Sua Wolter. She and husband Justin are building in the town of Lisbon with Kings Way Homes. New construction was the goal, but first they researched building firms and explored models. The Wolters desired an open floor plan, four bedrooms, a nice kitchen and contemporary style. Their best fit was a two-story Kings Way design they customized with personal touches like a sunroom instead of a formal dining room. "We had a lot of fun," Sua Wolter says.

Benefits of Building

Complete customization. In a remodel, the focus is limited to a specific area, but a new home has a more holistic approach. "Building allows you to improve every aspect of your living experience," says O’Brien, of Tim O’Brien Homes.

Everything is new. All elements are a reflection of you, from flooring to cabinets, wall color and countertops. The "nuts and bolts" products are new too, like the furnace, water heater and roof, notes Paul Bielinski, chief operating officer of Bielinski Homes. Manufacturer, structural and one-year builder warranties provide additional peace of mind.

Design for modern living. "We all have busy lifestyles, with less time for families to spend together," Bielinski says. With an open-concept floor plan, the kitchen, dining and great rooms become one large space for everyone to gather. If more privacy is desired, a split bedroom layout separates the master suite from other bedrooms.

Quality construction. "People say we don’t build homes the way they used to, and I say, you’re right. We’ve learned to build better," O’Brien says. Today’s contractors meet eco-friendly and energy efficiency standards, and use the latest technology and techniques for increased safety and durability. 



This story ran in the April 2014 issue of: