Ask an Architect: The Story on Second Stories — How to Decide Between Building on or Moving Off?

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Two families in my neighborhood, Casa View Haven, recently announced that they’d be selling their modest post war-traditional homes and heading for the ‘burbs. Sure, that’s an option, but sometimes families choose to invest in an addition to accommodate growing families rather than packing up and moving.

Of course, there are pros and cons for both choices. Sometimes the investment in building onto a home isn’t recouped. And sometimes you can’t sell your existing home in time and end up carrying two mortgage payments. And sometimes, too, Homeowners Associations and deed restrictions can keep you from adding more space.

Michael Staten, a Dallas architect and senior project manager at CBRE, considered adding on to his Lake Highlands home. Instead, Staten and his family of four moved to Richardson. Why?

“The price per square foot ended up being more than we thought the neighborhood supported,” Staten said, adding that he and his wife realized the size of the yard, which was petite for a family with two active children, “was not something that we could fix.”

Of course, adding on to a home presents other unique challenges, Staten said. Temporary housing is one. While some families choose to live in a construction zone, others decide to find short-term digs.

“This was also a problem for us since we would have been displaced for 3 months or more,” State said. “This added a significant dollar amount to the project.”

Budgets will also dictate other issues, such as size and finish-out, Staten offered, but will you be able to sell your home after you finish the remodel? “It is easy to create your dream house and then realize no one else will buy it,” he said.

Thinking of building an addition, Staten offered homeowners these tips to make sure they don’t make a big mistake:

1. Hire an architect.  There are too many contractors who offer design services who are only recreating the last project and not helping you to create what you want.

2. Try to reign in emotions.  Remodels become like children and homeowners will make emotional decisions and not think of about the long-term impact of the decisions.  That could be layout, cost, or resale.

3. Stay away from trendy.  Think about the home and how you will need it in the future, not just today.  Ask the hard questions now. In 15 years will I be able to use the 2nd floor? How long will my kids be able to share a room? How long until I want my kids far away from me and not in the next room? Etc.

Do you agree? What are some other tips homeowners should consider before building an addition?


Joanna England

If Executive Editor Joanna England could house hunt forever, she absolutely would. Instead she covers the North Texas housing market and the economy for While she started out with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, Joanna's work has appeared in The Dallas Morning News as well as several local media outlets. When she's not knitting or hooping, or enjoying White Rock Lake, she's behind the lens of her camera. She lives in East Dallas with her husband, son, and their furry and feathered menagerie.

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