3 Reasons You Should Not Renovate An Old House

Let me begin by saying how passionate I am about renovating old houses. I am currently immersed in my sixth renovation and my most historic house project so far. Drawing from my experience, I have found three important factors to consider before jumping into an old house renovation. When not given honest self-reflection, these three factors can derail even the most seasoned renovators.

So why are we so captivated by old houses?

The popularity of old houses and historic renovations gives no indication of waning. HGTV has decidedly had a big influence on our house and home décor preferences. In particularly, Chip and Joanna Gaines’ show, Fixer Upper, has sparked a wave of popular home renovation programs. These shows often spotlight dilapidated older homes that appear almost beyond repair. But with all the striking before and after transformations, the speedy timelines, and the reasonable budgets these shows portray, it’s no wonder so many of us feel ready to roll up our sleeves and get started!

Additionally, the enduring appeal of old house renovating is a direct result of our growing weariness with today’s disposable culture. So much of what is produced and purchased is not intended to last, but rather to be thrown away in a short number of years. Most newly constructed homes today offer few details that have any personality or distinction. After all, making the same thing over and over is faster and cheaper. Adding one-of -a-kind details often requires craftspeople that can be difficult to find and difficult to afford given the time-consuming nature of their work.

Source: myscandinavianhome.com

Therefore, it is easy to understand why we find old houses with charming details so enchanting.

But is tackling an old house renovation for you? Read on to find out. Most importantly, be honest with yourself as you consider each point.

3 Reasons you should not renovate an old house

1.You are financially stretched with little wiggle room for unexpected expenses.

With any home renovation, one of the first steps is to determine what your renovation will cost. Many experts then advice adding 15-20% more to cover unexpected costs. With an old house, I have found that a buffer of 25% is more realistic.

If you are an optimist like me, you might consider a 10% contingency fund as sufficient. It’s tempting to believe that nothing could go wrong, but in reality, unforeseen issues, like hidden problems in walls or under floors, may escape detection during a routine home inspection. Imagine an unexpected expense, say $5,000 – can you realistically manage a setback like this and still stay on course with your plans?

Take a good hard look at what you can afford to spend. It is better to overestimate the cost of your renovation to save yourself the agony and stress of running out of funds in the middle of your project.

2. You will be taking on your old house renovation by yourself or without a like-minded partner.

All home renovations can be stressful. An old house renovation, though, can bring an even greater level of overwhelm. With the unforeseen issues that often arise along the way, renovating an old house should not be tackled alone or without a partner who shares your vision and commitment. Whether it be a spouse, a committed partner, a parent, a sibling or a combination of these, you will need emotional support along this journey!

Think honestly about your support system. Are you and your partner equally committed to the project or is one gung ho and the other just along for the ride? Like a marriage vow that says “for better or for worse”, your commitment and shared vision for your renovation project should be solidified before you begin. This is what will carry you through the hard times and will protect your emotional wellbeing and your valued relationships. 

Consider waiting until you have the emotional support you will need when things seem overwhelming. Take the time before jumping in to talk honestly with your support person/team. Make sure you truly have a shared vision and an uncompromising commitment to this project and to each other.

Source: thenordroom.com

3.You have an overly romantic notion of what it would be like to renovate and live in an old house.

Those of us who love old houses dream of what life would be like in a home filled with charming, hand-crafted features that are endearing and unique. You wouldn’t even be considering an old house renovation if you didn’t.

The problem arises when you have an overly romanticized vision of life in an old house.

Once again, the key is to be completely honest with yourself. Are you a perfectionist who likes things to be just so? Can you really be okay with sloping floors, drafty windows, small closets, strange room configurations and the countless other issues that are common in older homes? Some quirky features can be fixed, but some just are what they are. If you are uncomfortable with irregularities, you may end up wanting to remove everything that made your old house unique in the first place.  Take some time to really think about your tolerance for imperfection. Otherwise, your old house may never live up to your unrealistic expectations.

After some honest reflection on your budget, your emotional support system, and your vision of day-to-day life in your old house, you may decide this is the right time to embark on an old house renovation. Congratulations! Welcome to the growing number of us who are passionate about renovating old homes!


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