• To Remodel or Not to Remodel?, by Carrie Benuska


    The Greater Pasadena area isresplendent with fantastic architectural homes of all styles and sizes. As a Realtor, it is such a pleasure tohave the opportunity to tour many of these homes. I marvel at the original design, the moldings and the arrayof other design details originating from the minds of such geniuses as PaulWilliams, Greene and Greene, and Roland Coate (just to name a few). We are blessed to have such richarchitectural history in our own communities and have an inherentresponsibility to make sure that the alterations that we make to these homes isan improvement to the Architect’s original design, not a detraction.

    One of the most striking changes thatmany families are choosing to make to these older homes is the expansion of thekitchen area and the addition of an attached family room. Many of these early 1900’s homes wereequipped with small kitchens, which often had a nearby maid’s room, bath andlaundry room. Back when thesehomes were built, the kitchen was not a place of opulence or indulgence but aplace that the everyday work of meal preparation happened. Today, even those who have help in thehome desire their kitchen to be one of the best rooms in the house, an invitinggathering place for family and friends.

    According to area contractor, LeeHaslam, if you had to choose one item to improve in your home, he would suggestdoing the kitchen/family room remodel. Beyond the enjoyment that it will bring to your own family, thisconfiguration has universal appeal to home buyers. Haslam contends that as long as you spend your money wisely,improvements to this area of your home will go straight to your bottom line duringthe selling process. He suggestsusing high quality materials and contractors but warns against the tendency toover-spend. According to Haslam,“Every decision should be a business decision first and a design decisionsecond.” Assuming that you workwithin the original footprint of the home and are not adding square footage, hebelieves that you can complete a very beautiful kitchen/family room for amaximum of $100,000.

    Another very important and worthwhileupgrade is the bathrooms of the home. The addition of double sinks, water closets and larger and moreelaborate showers and bathtubs are all a bonus for home buyers. Just because a bathroom is updated, itdoes not have to appear out of place. Stores such as Mission Tile in South Pasadena have an array of vintagetiles and materials that can give a bathroom a period feel. Whatever you do, make sure that it isin keeping with the home’s original architecture and scale. The whole object is to make these roomsfit in with the rest of the house, while adding convenience, attractiveness andfunction. If your home is Spanish,use materials which blend and harmonize with the terra cotta tile, rot iron andarches inherent in most Spanish Architecture. Assuming that you are working within your original bathroomfootprint, a bathroom remodel should cost between $15,000 and $20,000(including infrastructure), but Haslam thinks that you could to do it for aslittle as $10,000. Haslamadvocates the use of simple moderately priced materials, such as whiterectangular subway tile and white hexagon floor tile in bathrooms. You can never go wrong with thesetimeless and attractive materials, and they are extremely suited for our periodarchitecture.

    Sellers frequently ask me if theyshould redo their kitchen and baths before putting their homes on themarket. These sellers have usuallyspent many years in their home and have never gotten around to the tediousrenovation process. My usualadvice is to leave them alone, unless there are major cracks or flaws. Well-maintained homes that are cleanand original are very desirable to a large group of buyers. Many buyers will want to make their ownimprovements, and money spent in haste will probably not add dollar for dollarto your bottom line.

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