What are the Costs vs Value of Remodeling?

Every year, Remodeling Magazine publishes a Cost vs. Value report and tries to estimate the return on investment to different home projects so consumers will have an idea of what the total investment is.  While I am obviously not going to look like an objective source in these matters, I would like to point out a few flaws with the report, as well as provide you with what I know makes our clients glad they renovated.

The primary factual concerns I have with the report are that the cost is averaged out in very different geographic and economic areas. Our higher end projects are typically a bit more expensive, and if you live in a community where custom fixtures are not part of the spec., you get lumped into the “New England” market anyway. I have done $25k bath renovations in Holliston and $150k master baths in Chestnut Hill. I have installed $10k tubs in Holliston, and $500 tubs in Newton…. you get the idea.

Next, the source of the report is a survey of realtors. Nothing against the Real Estate Community; however, about 10 years ago a very distinguished realtor in my area told a prospective buyer her master bath renovation in Wellesley would probably cost $25k. We ended up helping the buyer with the project they wanted for $59k, and needless to say they had to shop around a bit to get to the bottom of the discrepancy.  Additionally, the Realtors Association is large, and the average experience delta from new agent to seasoned pro is pretty big.

Wellesley Bath Remodel

Here is the other part of the cost/value equation.  Imagine you live in a house and the bath is about 60-70 years old and has to be renovated due to “catastrophic delayed maintenance”.  You have a few choices:

  1. Patch the leak and sell low!
  2. Do a substandard renovation and sell with a bit of guilt, or re-do the bath again in 5 years.
  3. Repair it properly, enjoy the new space the way you want it.

The other major value changer is in the savings of staying where you are. Homes need maintenance, and eventually renovation. If you like your neighborhood and lot, and you can have a space tailored to your family; you will save the realty commission and the moving expense and get to live where you love. As an added bonus, the longer you stay in your home (I recommend a 5 year minimum) the monetary cost/value delta shrinks. The actual ROI, not the hypothetical return as if you would sell your home the day after completing a renovation, is the appreciation of the real estate at the new home value.

The real danger is for the serial career movers out there.  If you change states often for greener job pastures, perhaps buying a new house in each place is a better idea. Happy Remodeling!

boston bath remodel

What Types of Technology Should you Incorporate into your Remodel?

It was only 8 years ago that I did a very major renovation/addition for a client in the financial field. We wired the home for everything from a network to entertainment, at a hefty cost :). We had CAT5 wiring for secure network connections in every room, coaxial cable in a dozen locations, pre-wiring for a future home automation system, and more questions about what to do “while we had the walls open”.

Not long after we completed the project, everything began going wireless. Since then I have witnessed change in home technology products happening just as fast as any other tech market.  My opinion is that you should try a bit at a time instead of overinvesting in what is the next obsolete gadget.

I believe when it comes to home technology, less is more because the new product list is not about to slow down. There are a ton of scalable products available you can add to your home one at a time. My garage door opener and home alarm system have apps that tell me when the doors open, or if there is an ajar door, and also let me control and interface with these items while away from home. The Ring Doorbell Company just released an added item to their product list with a camera on a floodlight that spawns the next question….. what about the rest of my house for cameras?  The first Nest thermostat we installed a few years ago worked great for the tech savvy client who introduced me to it, but would have been a disaster for someone like me to get it working well and get the value out of the products ability to “learn you”. The Nest Company has made improvements in their interface, and is now trying to get a share of the camera and alarm market to provide a one company purchase and give Ring a run for their money.

tv in kitchen

Today; Google, Apple, and Microsoft are very interested in the home automation technology market, and are trying to figure out how to bundle devices and control systems so they can manage the software platforms. It isn’t surprising with the growth in the industry that the common complaint I hear from folks is that they want to control everything from one interface. The down side of any single source is that no company does everything well (currently) so you may have great security, and awful Audio/Video control with one provider. I recommend buying the piece of tech you want and using that company’s app on your phone. The Sonos music in our showroom is easy to use, and so what if I have to open another app next to the garage door and home alarm, my single interface still fits in my pocket and doubles as a phone.

 Happy shopping! Ray

Design Information at the Speed of Light

When I opened the doors of The Wiese Company 25 years ago, the way people communicated about their needs was very different.  I would visit with potential clients and be greeted with a binder full of inspiration photos cut from the pages of Better Homes and Gardens or kitchen idea books. I think the fact that we had to spend more time together to communicate the need and look benefitted the prospective client.  It gave them the opportunity to understand more about the person they were talking with, and gave me more time to understand the full desires of the client. We would then spend even more time confirming we were making deliberate changes because it isn’t easy to erase 6 hours of work that was hand drawn to move something 6 inches. :)

Today when I show up, most people have done a lot more research.  With Pinterest and Houzz , everyone can collect a file of ideas and solutions to see if they will work in their design, making it easier to convey their desired look without having to spend as much time communicating with their prospective contractor. Another change in technology is that we don’t have to wait for a cocktail party to find out who’s renovating. Your friends are on Instagram and you know who is doing a project like the one you want, or you can ask for referrals on the local neighborhood sites like Nextdoor.

Design Instagram

With all the great new ways to obtain information about what we want and where to find it, I still believe that the best projects begin when we have a chance to talk with our clients after looking through their inspiration pictures.  Post-conversation we can create a design that is cohesive to their lifestyle and taste.  And while CAD software expedites the speed of the drawing, we end up with better results when we take the time to think through the unique space that is your future home.

Happy online shopping! We hope to have a chance to talk, Ray

Aging in Place; Renovating as we get “wiser”

I serve on the editorial Board for Kitchen and Bath Business Magazine, and often get questions for various design and trend information. Today I received a list of 5 questions about demand and designing for aging in place. The questions varied from how often our clients bring it up, how we handle this, and what recommendations we make. I am a “baby boomer” myself- on the end of the run born in 1964, so I just made it! I remember going to aging in place seminars as long as 20 years ago. The theory or prediction based on that large demographic population was that aging in place was going to be the next big thing for the remodeling industry.

A couple of things have disproved this theory. I will start with the unexpected improved health and vitality of my generation. It’s not just me planning adventure vacations and training for the next peak I am going to climb, it is a large group of folks over 65.  The other market share issue that remains true is that the majority of renovating is still a result of growing families that love their neighborhood, but need more room and updates to their home. This is especially true in the North East because of the aging housing stock-not the people inside?. That said, we are seeing an uptick in renovating for empty nesters. They don’t want to “age in place” (that sounds like giving up)… they want to “live in place”, and be mindful of what they can do later in life if they decide to stay in the current home.

Wellesley Kitchen Remodel

Wellesley Kitchen Remodel with Oven/Microwave Combo

Here are few things we do in kitchen and baths regardless of health or age that make living in place easier.

 

  1.  Leave room around the island so that everyone can enjoy hanging out with each other, and anyone that needs a wheelchair or crutches can get a drink.  
  2.  We love wall ovens because it is always easier and safer to remove a 25lb bird that is already 18” closer to the counter top.
  3. We always suggest a non -skid tile in the bath and mudroom. Rushing out the door and being on time for a pickup or drop off is hard enough without slipping on top of that.
  4. Install a shaving stoop in the shower to allow leg shaving without falling.

Wellesley Master Bath

Shaving Stoop in Shower

There are a few other incremental changes that make it easier to use your space a day after that ½ marathon.

  1.  Make a spot to slide in a stool where you prep in the kitchen. This is where I catch the news while I am cooking dinner for the family; I’ll need this in the next renovation for sure.
  2.  In the bath, instead of a freestanding tub for all the living in placers, install a deck mounted tub that is easy to sit on the edge and swing your legs around.
  3.  Maybe that shaving stoop is a bench.  A current design we are working on the client told me she would prefer to have a bench big enough to sit and swing her legs up to make shaving easier- ingenious (I will be stealing that one).
  4.  Add blocking in the walls of your bath and shower now so that if you decide to add some grab bars later- no problem.
  5.  Ask your designer for a list of Accessible kitchen and bath requirements and use that as a guide for where you want to end up.

Lastly, many of us may be far from needing to think about the need, but perhaps we can make our own place easier for mom and dad when they visit- or prepare for our future so our own kids do not have to.  Don’t forget to put something fun and adventurous on your list too!

Happy remodeling,

Ray

Developer Vs. Custom Kitchen

Wellesley Kitchen Remodel

Wellesley Kitchen Remodel

It seems that the West coast method of determining home value (by the square foot) is reaching the East coast. I hear it referred to more and more lately without regard to location or land, and even more important; quality. I am often asked what I would charge for new home construction and typically get immediate feedback…..”that it seems high”. Below we will show you kitchen examples, but I would like to note that I have re-sided, retrofitted and replaced windows on many homes only a decade old because of poor material selections.

Featured below is a fine home in Wellesley that had the original kitchen as provided by the developer. The home was about a decade old and the cabinets were not in bad shape, but the design forced appliances that were oversized for the space. That translated to too many appliances and not enough room to cook, gather or move around the house. The original builder did what they thought was required to be competitively priced in the higher end market, and many buyers won’t know whether the design will work until they move in and start using the space. Call me silly, but when you are building homes in the $1m-$3m market, discount cabinets and marginal design shouldn’t be part of the value proposition.

Our first challenge was figuring out how to make the kitchen work well with the rest of the house. After a few discussions with the owners, one of the concepts we provided (and went with!) meant moving the kitchen to the family room, the family room to the dining room and the dining room to the kitchen. Yes, really.

A few custom touches meant actually lowering the vaulted ceiling to have a more purposeful and beautiful oak coffer (suggested by the client). We eliminated the gas fireplace to create an anchor and focal point with the range. And more important than giving this family the quality their home deserved, we made the space work better for their everyday life!

Kitchen Remodel

Before

Wellesley Kitchen Remodel

After