In the last few months, we have been consistently receiving a new real estate paper in our mailbox. I enjoy the paper in the summer, because they’re good firestarter for my charcoal barbecue, otherwise I have to buy a print newspaper every few weeks. Last weekend while we were on a road-trip, my wife grabbed the paper out of the mailbox and was reading it to me while I was driving to a friend’s place.
Beyond having an idea of what our own townhouse is worth by looking up listings when we notice new “For Sale” signs in our condo complex, we’ve tried to avoid shopping around for houses. The main thing that would make us avoid even thinking about buying a new place is the hassle of moving. We try our hardest to reduce the amount of crap we have in our house, but somehow we just keep accumulating it. Rather than move, in the last couple of months, we’ve attempted to optimize the house we do own (at a whopping 1,050 square feet + a basement).
Last month, I completed a backyard “renovation”, which mainly meant giving away a bunch of heaving patio stones (incorrectly installed), building a big cedar planter box over a weekend and laying some new sod and cedar mulch. We now have an outdoor space that we hadn’t really used in the 5 years that we’d lived here because it was kind of gross to sit around. Total cost was under $150.
Our next project (which we hope to complete by next spring) is to convert our basement from a catch-all storage area, into a place we can actually use if we have people over. For the cost of a couch, some paint and trim, as well as a few trips to the Salvation Army and city dump, we’ll gain about 400 square feet to (maybe) use.
I can’t see us needing more space, and it always amazes me when I hear people talking about “upgrading” their house – moving from their current 1,200 square feet to 2,000 square feet, something that usually more than doubles their debt levels. When we were house shopping 5 years ago, something as simple as a garage added on to a similar townhouse was going to cost us an average of $25,000. Adding a single bedroom in our townhouse complex (still no garage) of identically built houses was going to add around $35,000. The marginal cost for this extra space seems excessive, and this is on about as low as “low-end” gets on housing in the city I live in.
We don’t really need two separate areas to sit in (a “new” basement and current living room), but we have the space available and it would be nice to sit in the much cooler basement in the summer. For very little work it might allow us to use more of our house – optimizing available space rather than even contemplating a costly upgrade.
Would you consider “upgrading” your house? What would make you do it? How would this impact your financial plans?