Friday, February 08, 2008
Remodeling offers practical, emotional benefits
By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
Whether we love our homes or hate them, there is always something we dream of changing about them.
As residential architects, we naturally question what triggers someone to turn those remodeling dreams into reality.
There are three areas that motivate people to get the ball rolling. The first is the tangible need for a different physical arrangement. Things such as the anticipated birth of another child, a change in jobs with a plan to work from home or the need to bring a parent or relative into your home on a permanent basis are examples.
The second driving force is more emotional or psychological. This impetus stems from a desire to upgrade our current situation to make our homes more functional, livable and/or attractive.
While a new mudroom may not be critical to the family's survival, the increased control of clutter and the ability to find coats and backpacks easily on a school morning will contribute to your family's quality of life on a daily basis.
As we have stated previously, architecture is more than looking pretty. It has real and tangible effects on how a person or family functions.
Our physical surroundings affect us psychologically and can either add to — or detract from — our emotional and mental health. People need some beauty and inspiration in their surroundings, and if this can be obtained from our everyday environment, all the better.
Progress is also important to mental health: While we may look back fondly on the early days of marriage with its hodgepodge of hand-me-down furniture in a basement apartment, as the years go by we expect our situation to improve. The home we live in is one measure of this expectation to progress in life.
The third incentive to plunge into remodeling is money. A sudden windfall (winning the lottery, etc.) would make the decision to remodel much easier. However, we don't recommend waiting for this option.
It is difficult to save up for a major remodel, because the bill always runs quickly from the thousands of dollars into the tens of thousands, and very often into the hundreds of thousands. Like anything worthwhile, remodeling doesn't come cheap. Deciding to incur debt is serious business and requires a thoughtful analysis of benefits vs. cost.
Current economic conditions also play a part in this decision. We have all heard about the crisis in the mortgage industry and the downturn in housing starts in our country. Fortunately, we in Utah have been somewhat insulated from the national problems. Still, we currently have what is commonly termed a "buyer's market" in the housing industry. This means that you can get a good deal on another house, but you will get less when you sell the house you own.
There are some real benefits of the current situation that favor remodeling. The downturn in new construction has left general contractors — and particularly subcontractors — looking for work. A year ago, you couldn't hire a good framer to save your life, but they are now out there ready and willing to work for about half of what they were charging last year.
Materials, such as lumber, are also cheaper today, thanks to the decrease in demand. And, while it may be harder to qualify for a loan these days, if you do you can take advantage of the lowest interest rates seen in years.
Take some time to review your physical and emotional needs and the current market conditions to see if now is the time to turn your remodeling dreams into reality. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.