The unchartered territory of renovation

karen-8-8-post.jpg You may have seen an earlier post from me about “right sizing” real estate in retirement, and the process my husband and I went through to reach a decision about where to live when we relocated to Charlotte last year. After contemplating apartments, condominiums and final retirement home options, we decided we still wanted to be in a house – and proceeded to purchase a 75 year old house with some renovation required.

This was uncharted territory for us, despite having built four houses together over the years. But still, we felt like we knew about construction and thus what we were in for – and opted to stay in our apartment until everything was ready.

Well, just as in life, things don’t always go as you plan, even when you plan! Rather than having the property inspected by one individual, we opted for nine different specialty inspectors (even an arborist given the very large trees in the yard!) to be sure we knew what we were in for – and thus felt pretty confident about our project.

As our builder has since explained to us, you don’t know what you will find sometimes when you tear out an old wall or floor – and yes, we did find some things that had to be repaired, beyond our original budget. And of course, once the wall is torn up, “wouldn’t this be a good time to enlarge those windows looking out over the back yard”? Long story short, we have pretty well blown through our original budget and are now more invested in real estate than we planned – and I am definitely having some angst about the impact on our retirement goals.

That said, many of the changes and improvements we decided upon were more about making this house livable for us for the long term, rather than renovating with resale values in mind. The days of expecting to see your real estate investment grow have been gone for five years, and the housing industry is still weak. According to a recent article in Builder magazine, the amount spent on remodeling of houses occupied by owners exceeded new single family construction last year, the third straight year of this trend. So many of us are choosing to remodel to enhance our homes for our own use, rather than for the expectation of making a profit from a future sale.

We plan to follow the recommendation of our advisor to pay off our mortgage before retiring, so we’ll just have to rearrange our budget to make sure we are still on track to meet that goal. And that will mean some changes. But I have to say that we’re excited to be close to finishing this project, and moving from an apartment back to a house. And for me, one of the best parts will be finishing with the unanticipated expenses of this renovation journey, and getting back to a life with fewer surprises under the floor!

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