10:34PM | 09/10/04
Member Since: 09/10/04
1 lifetime posts
Norwegian girl has a house similar to ours. I'll share my dilemma here. We've owned our 1959 split-level home in lower Westchester County (steps from the Hudson River) since 1999. We bought the house for $320K in a lovely village. Everything around us is great. Great village, great school system, short commute to NYC. We even opened a new business in town that has been a huge success. The part of the village we live in is considered wealthy. In our neighborhood, no home sells below $650K and 90% of the homes are in pristine condition. And the homes sell fast, often at or above asking price.

Someone once told me to buy the worst house on the best block. I'm not sure we should have listened to that advice, but we did. Excluding our home, our immediate neighbor's homes would sell for about $750K, $900K, and $1.2 million. We all have seen an incredible surge in the values of our real estate; especially post 9/11. Despite my challenge, I really do like where we live.

But at the end of the day, my house is not my home. The land, while beautiful, is on a slope (I see most people refer to it as "difficult.") The house itself is bland and was minimally maintained by the original owners. The house has no architectural interest whatsoever and is minimally functional by my humble estimation. I have wrestled with the idea of a complete rebuild versus a gut renovation. The house is 2400 square feet and has 3BRs, 2 1/2 BA, a narrow kitchen, a large but narrow LR, no dining room, a 2-car garage, and a large play room. The basement is crawl space and there is an attic currently used only for storage. Oh yes, there is a small greenhouse addition on one side of the house that my husband can't even stand in because he's too tall at 6'2".

I might have been able to live with all this if not for the infrastructure of the house. No insulation to speak of. The bathrooms are original and in decay. We renovated the master bathroom and it is quite nice but still very small. The kitchen is a hazard and is extremely inefficient. If I were to renovate the kitchen it would be gutted to the studs (and even those would probably have to replaced). The doors throughout the house are cheap. The windows are inefficient. There is a constant mold/mildew problem in the summer. All of the moldings were removed (I'm not sure what the original owners were trying to do.). The gas heater is almost 50 years old (but amazingly works well). No CAC (but would be nice to have). I'm scared of the electrical system (original fuses and several cases of bad original homeowner rewiring) and the plumbing is old and unreliable. I could go on...

When we bought the house we immediately replaced the roof. So far so good. The walkway to the house was concrete slabs that over time had raised up and were sloping in toward the building. We replaced the entire perimeter of the house with a brick walkway that came out quite nice. Did I mention that the gutters are beginning to rip off?

As I mentioned above we renovated the small master Bathroom and even added French doors to a balcony in the master BR overlooking our garden. We made these renovations because we wanted to gain experience with contractors and also get a feel for the land and how much things cost. In general, we have what we laughingly call the Westchester $5,000 rule. If you want any one thing done to your home (take your pick: replace the gutters, fix the plumbing, replace the windows, etc., etc.), it will cost you at least $5,000.

So, sorry for the long rant but are we better off rebuilding or renovating? Despite the slope, I like our property. My neighbors are very nice and the kids really enjoy living here. If we were to renovate, I would replace everything, starting with the entire infrastructure (HVAC, plumbing, electrical), renovate the kitchen, add a second floor, create a laundry area, etc., etc.. The wish list is actually much longer, but I think you get the idea.

Your help is greatly appreciated in giving me perspective on which way to go. Oh yes, if we sold and bought in the same neighborhood (provided there is one to buy as inventory here is very low), a 4 BR, 3 BA home would run around $800K. I won't even scare you about the property taxes...

Thanks in advance for your patience and your sage advice.


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