With the housing market still technically in the doldrums, it is nice to hear some positive housing news. It has been recently reported by BuildFax.com that home remodeling hit its highest level since May 2004, the year the tracking service started monitoring this portion of the construction market.

Remodeling on the rise 2Remodelin gon the rise

Specifically, home remodeling was up 22 percent in May as compared to the same month a year ago. Two aspects of the housing market explain this trend:

First, the thousands of foreclosed homes that sit abandoned are becoming a sea of fixer-uppers. Buyers who snag up these properties are renovating them to live in, rent out or resell.

Second, while it may be a good time to buy in most markets because of the decreased residential appraisal values, this also means it is not a great time to sell a home. Many homeowners who decide to stay put choose to take the money they would have used to move to remodel instead.

If you are in the position to buy a fixer-upper, it will be advantageous to consult with an architect before you purchase a house to discuss the home’s potential and develop a preliminary design. If you have a remodeling plan and a budget, some lenders may consider rolling the remodeling costs into the mortgage when you purchase the house.

If you are in the second situation and have decided to stay in your current house to avoid the inevitable loss you will incur by selling right now, a residential architect can help with seeing the possibilities in your current home, creating solutions to make your home more functional and more visually appealing both inside and out.

With the creation of a master plan, you can move forward implementing the entire scope of work, or by phasing your project you can reduce the immediate investment in your property. Phasing a project can be a great way to stay within a budget. Phasing means separating your overall project into two or more smaller projects that will be done over a longer period of time than it would take to do the whole thing at once. With the help of a master plan, you can determine the proper sequence of construction and separate the work into sensible phases. Failure to plan carefully may result in your having to backtrack and undo some previous work as you continue on the next phase.

For instance, by having a master plan, you may discover that finishing a family room in the basement this year is not wise if you are going to move a bathroom on the main floor next year. Moving or replacing that plumbing above may require that you will have to tear out the beautiful, new family-room ceiling you just finished paying for. Another example is that with a master plan, you can see you will need to add on to create a master suite, so you will only replace windows now that will not be demolished during that master suite addition two years in the future.

Although smart phasing may help you stay within your budget right now, your project will actually be slightly more expensive overall. Contractors and subcontractors have set-up/take-down charges each time they start and finish a job. By separating a project into phases, you will have to pay these fees multiple times. This means the smaller the job, the higher the square-foot cost becomes. Nevertheless, it still may work better for your budget to phase the project, even if the overall cost is slightly more.

In any case, it always pays to have a master plan — especially if you are among the next group of homeowners set to increase the remodeling statistics for 2012.

Architects Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the founders of Renovation Design Group, www.renovationdesigngroup.com, a local firm specializing in home remodels.

Renovation Solutions: Remodeling on the rise