How much time and money to add to our house?
February 6, 2010 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Househunting in VT. How feasible is adding a 600sq/ft addition (master suite above living room) to an existing 800 sq/ft Cape Cod? Could it be done by the end of the summer for under $100K?

We found a wonderfully located property with a slightly too-small house that's sited perfectly for an addition. With the addition, the house would most likely sell for $200K more than we purchased it, at least.

Our other option would be to spend $200K up front for an acceptable house in an acceptable (not ideal) location and not do any work on the house.
posted by billtron to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I dont know about price but I have always been told its better to take a crudy house in a good location then a great house in a bad location.
posted by majortom1981 at 10:05 AM on February 6, 2010

There are a ton of variables involved here that affect the answer. Most importantly, is the existing structure sturdy enough to have the second story added? Only a detailed inspection can answer that one. If you have to, essentially, rebuild the ground floor in order to carry the top floor, I'd say your 100K price point is not going to hold.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:11 AM on February 6, 2010

I don't think this is very realistic. Or at least without a detailed inspection, I don't think it is very realistic. Can you get a contractor out to quote you a price? I would at least find 2-3 to get a feel for it. Local contractors will know the quirks, especially for older buildings like this. Don't tell them your under $100k price point.

I also think the 200k profit is unrealistic. I work with a friend on remodeling and expanding older (19th-20th c) homes. I simply have not seen anything with that kind of profit. Granted I've never seen anything where doubling the size of the house would make sense. When you're doing that the price you're really paying is for the land and the existing foundation. You have to expect everything else to cost as if you're building new (plus, of course demo costs).

I also, speaking personally, would not buy a house to live in and be needing to make a profit on it. Your in the odd position of having to sell the house you live in, look for a new house and remain unemotional about it all. Sometimes things don't work out, even on sure things, and you have to cut your losses. It is hard enough when it is a property you put money into and worked on, having it your home makes it even harder to think objectively about it.

I've seen people have their house on the market for years, usually on then off on then off, because they had some set idea of what the house was going to sell for after they put money into. Don't put yourself in this position.
posted by geoff. at 10:51 AM on February 6, 2010

Response by poster: geoff, thanks for your advice. we will get quotes from contractors, just to see what they say.

to clarify, though, we already have another home, with no plans of selling it. the house is early 20th century. the addition would include the master suite above the living room, on a new foundation, next to the existing house. the house now is listed at $175K and nothing in the area is going for less than $350K, and the only thing keeping this price so low is the tinytude of the house. we figured there was at least a chance that the renovations and additions would make the house comparable to other homes, most of which have already been renovated and added to.

So maybe the question would be this: should we get the renovator, invest in addition/renovation, and sell for 0 profit, or spend an additional $100-150K above that for an already renovated house and expect no profit as well?
posted by billtron at 11:30 AM on February 6, 2010

"nothing in the area is going for less than $350K"

Chittenden County or Woodstock?
posted by crazylegs at 11:46 AM on February 6, 2010

Response by poster: Norwich
posted by billtron at 11:51 AM on February 6, 2010

Best answer: I'm basing my response on the fact that you don't already know the answer to your question. If you were really qualified to embark on this type of deal, you really wouldn't be asking here.

Have you already fully investigated all the code/zoning/legal aspects of this? Even if it's all working in your favor, $125/SF for quality residential construction in an area with relatively high construction costs is kinda pushing it. When you factor in your own time, the cost of buying and selling the property, an uncertain real estate market, etc? Pass.
posted by paanta at 2:09 PM on February 6, 2010

So maybe the question would be this: should we get the renovator, invest in addition/renovation, and sell for 0 profit, or spend an additional $100-150K above that for an already renovated house and expect no profit as well?

Which could be restated as: Do you like living amongst mud, dust and debris, and having strangers tromp through your house every day, at considerable financial risk, for little possible reward?
posted by jon1270 at 2:46 PM on February 6, 2010

For perspective, the house across the street from ours (in Milwaukee, WI) was a smallish cape cod, probably around 1000 sqft. They just added a huge addition, extending the roof line up and a adding whole big room or rooms on the back of the house, while making the front upstairs room much bigger by adding a new front dormer. It is not totally finished, but nearly all of the work happened in about two months.
posted by sulaine at 5:16 PM on February 6, 2010

If you'd like a professional opinion from a Vermont architect, you might contact Liz Herrmann (website: She has experience with residential additions. Disclaimer: I'm not a client, just a friend.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:06 PM on February 6, 2010

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