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Buying a home with renovations in mind

Over the years, designer, builder and renovator, Shane Rennie of Rectangle Design Inc. has seen a consistent trend emerge when it comes to renovations.

“Most people are looking for a long-term investment, a family home, a place that they can see themselves in 15 or 20 years and they are looking to renovate to suit, so that the home lasts a lifetime,” said Rennie.

But renovating an entire home at once is often out of most people’s price range.

“The trend now is to renovate in phases,” said Rennie, who recently purchased a home that he is renovating in three stages. “The home is in a fantastic neighbourhood, but it was at the top of our budget.”

Rennie and his wife created an overall master plan for their renovations and are executing it phase by phase over the next few years.

Shannon Lenstra, founder of Kon-strux Developments Inc., a Calgary-based design, build and renovation company, also notes that clients want to create long-term homes, but that the trend isn’t on par with the 1950s mindset.

“The cost of real estate is too high now, so people have to build equity by trading up,” said Lenstra. “Millennials may be able to purchase a condo for $350,000, but that’s not where they want to stay for the rest of their lives.”

Whether it is a starter home or a home for the long-haul, when it comes to purchasing with a renovation in mind, it is really about finding the right neighbourhood – one that works for the phase of life that you are in.

“The number one thing is to love your location,” said Lenstra. “Take a look at the amenities, the schools, the ins and outs and then find the house.”

Both Rennie and Lenstra suggest that the home need not be picture perfect, as long as it has good bones. “Look for a home that is in good structural shape, but is in the worst condition in the neighbourhood,” said Rennie.

“The number one thing is to love your location. Take a look at the amenities, the schools, the ins and outs and then find the house.” – Shannon Lenstra, founder of Kon-strux Developments Inc.

However, he cautions that asbestos can be a project killer because of the exorbitant remediation costs. “Be mindful that if the home does have asbestos that you build that into the offer,” he said.

Rennie says that the benefits of renovating are well worth the disruption. “People often don’t think of this, but renovating rather than building a new home is a much greener process – you don’t have the waste of removing an entire home and often you can save much of the infrastructure – the sidewalks, the driveways, the landscaping,” he said.

Cost is another big advantage of renovation over a new build. “Essentially, with a renovation, you have a brand new house – new electrical, new plumbing, new fixtures, new drywall, but you are saving the costs of the excavation, the foundation and the infrastructure.”

Renovating also retains the congruency of the streetscape.

But Rennie cautions that a haphazard approach to a phased design can be counter-productive. He suggests mapping out a comprehensive strategy.

“Definitely create a whole vision plan. Everything needs to be laid out for future phases – the plumbing and electrical – whether you do it now or in 10 years,” said Rennie.

And when it comes to material and finish selection, it’s important to keep it timeless. “Stay away from the whimsical and trendy choices – you want consistency and balance throughout the phases,” said Lenstra.

Keep the selections neutral and add pops of colour with accessories.

“Three, four or five years down the road, you can match the material selections so that everything flows really well,” said Rennie. “Even if you can’t match the exact tile or flooring, it will be timeless enough that you can find something to match.”