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OLD HOUSE RESTORATION: Renovations for Resale

Fully renovated kitchen with custom colonial revival cabinets that match the home’s surviving moldings. The result is an updated space which is still connected to the original architecture.

By Martin Schwartz
of Textured Home

Inferior quality repairs and poorly executed renovations continue to pose challenges for many old-house buyers and sellers today.

When offering a home for resale with tacky, 20th century eyesores, a cost-benefit analysis should be done before establishing the final selling price. Given the perceived benefit from presenting a fully done up property, sellers should evaluate whether it’s really worth the extra investment to try and fix-up any major residential blight.

As reviewed here before, starting in the 1950’s, many homeowners who commissioned dens, kitchen expansions or downstairs half-baths, frequently ended up with out-ofcharacter rooms, largely devoid of molding detail. Many homeowners today are now re-doing these poorly conceived spaces. They are trying to organically re-connect back into the residence’s original design.

Clearly, there has been a mindset shift to a “restoration style” for many new, old house owners. And many commercial retailers are now carrying better quality ‘historic’ or ‘traditional’ molding lines as a result -- to try and capture the now more sophisticated, home repair buck.

Unfortunately, unless prompted otherwise, most typical carpenters and contractors still go for the cheapest and easiest fix-up materials they can find. These may be the wrong kind of detail, or elements lacking in quality needed for your particular style of older home. More troubling is that some sellers and estate executors are far too willing to invest in this ‘quickie’ work, just to get something done. It’s a mistake.

In some cases, sellers are spending considerable funds just to give the appearance of a fully renovated look. Rather than leave the house in its original state for the next buyer, they’ve been told that purchasers don’t want to do work after moving in. Consequently, we are seeing a number of homes up for sale today that offer what I call - the ‘pseudorestoration.’

These are renovations or fixes that try to give the surface impression of high quality, but upon close inspection, just don’t make the grade. Sometimes, the new work may actually make the situation worse. It may ruin that property’s good bones which only needed a polish, or a proper basic repair.

What’s the underlying problem?


Even with better-quality, mass-produced materials, it’s the continued loss of skilled labor and poor housecraft that’s now rampant throughout the home repair trades.

Artisans…

Early century craftsman and carpenters didn’t need to be restoration experts. Everything was done by hand. They just replicated the original lines and details already in the home.

Nonetheless, there are significant stylistic differences for construction details found in colonial, arts and crafts or 19th century Victorian homes. Today’s newer, mass produced moldings lines generally do not clearly delineate these different styles. So unless new work replicates exactly what’s there, as frequently done in the past, someone has to really know what finishing details work and go where.

Architect plans do not generally spec out each molding element. It’s largely left up to the contractor. But when presented with raw construction materials by the typical New Jersey GC, most homeowners just can’t see what’s really going on.

Once finished however, the quality differences on a job immediately stand out. Sophisticated real estate brokers spot right away when something isn’t up to snuff. The brokers talk among themselves. They decide ultimately what your home is worth. And if they think a new buyer is going to want to redo the very same space, they may just ‘dis’ the monies you’ve just spent on renovations – work that if done better might have really helped your resale bottom line.

How do we know this? Textured Home hears a good bit of back-channel broker pricing talk for many houses coming on to the market. It’s not particularly pretty. There are comments like: “the seller just doesn’t get it”, or “I told them how to do the kitchen but they didn’t listen.” Yes, this is what’s really bantered around by some of our areas selling pros. And more often than not, they’re right.

The Bottom Line…

Some may feel that this focus on stylistically correct finishing detail only affects a modest price difference. You may even think that it’s just our own self-promotion, restoration hype. Well forget the broker cabash that’s described above. When renovations work in harmony within an original old-house, that home truly ‘resonates.’

Most house-hunters can’t put their finger on it, but when they arrive to a jumble of styles or tacky repairs, the place just doesn’t feel right. A buyer may lower their offer, calculate in work, or just take a pass. They may go to a property where everything is seamless or left whole in its original state.

Today’s sophisticated, old-house buyer wants a space that ‘speaks’ to them. They’re seeking that special feeling when making a final purchasing residential choice. This is why brokers tell you that older homes which have either retained their original detail, or are repaired and restored properly with quality, restoration elements -- generally sell for 30% higher.

Consequently, whether seeking short term gain or long term appreciation -- cutting important corners or trying to improperly save on needed repairs - may ultimately cost much more in the end.

A Montclair resident, Martin Schwartz is a principal of TEXTURED HOME --
Restoration Builders & Modernization Contractors.

Their design/build work includes kitchens/ baths & additions, as well as whole house restorations. They specialize in sensitive renovations for the older home.
If you have questions about updating while still retaining the character of your home, call him
at (973) 783-2580 –
www.texturedhome.com.

New House...Classic Style
Bathroom Renovations
Kitchen Renovations
Renovations for Resale
Siding Removal and Exterior Restoration

 

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