A little over a year ago, I decided to makeover my home in San Diego suburbia-land. My wife wasn’t completely onboard but she humored me. She’s happy with the house as it was. I can’t rationally justify this desire to makeover my house, it would be like trying to rationalize the purchase of that sports car convertible or 60 inch plasma TV. It’s a desire not a need, consumerism at its worst. It totally goes against the motto of buy only what you need not want, but I’m nowhere near that good of a human being.
Our house was built 30 years ago and we’ve incrementally remodeled it over the last 10 years, new wood floors, kitchen, roof, windows, skylights, jacuzzi tub, shower, and lighting. Its most likely the smallest house in our zip code at 1,400 sqft. but big enough for our needs. I’ve gotten comments like “That’s impossible, no house is that small, my condo’s much bigger”. How times have changed, 30 years ago 1,400 sqft was average, now it’s impossibly small. The house is on a good size lot (11,000sqft) and its convenient to shops, Starbucks, and Jamba Juice, has an excellent school district, and it’s close to the ocean and a lagoon.
Why not buy a new tract home instead? Let me explain visually. This is what appeals to us:
This is what’s available in our neighborhood:
An obvious disconnect.
New tract homes for sale in our neighborhood are huge and expensive. Many are 4000sqft and their sole design goal seems to be to overwhelm the occupant instead of providing for a comfortable place live. We simply don’t need half the rooms in these homes…dining room, living room, parlor, gathering room, foyer, media room…is this a hotel or a house? I can’t bring myself to spend a million on something I like 40% of, if only I could buy the portions I liked and get a 60% discount. Living in these McMansions (the linked article is a good read) would degrade our quality of life rather than improve it. If these homes were desirable, I’d be willing to overlook some things. An iPod, Mini CooperS, or Porsche Carrera are desirable, and those who bought these products are more than willing to overlook their shortcomings.
How about a condo downtown? I do find that appealing and we did look. However there is something unsettling about living in a high rise condo and their high association fees ($750 a month) was a big turnoff. If downtown San Diego was more vibrant like some neighborhoods of Tokyo, I would be more than happy to overlooked those concerns.
The next decision to be made was to remodel or rebuild? The minimum cost of a rebuild is $250 a sqft. The minimum cost for a remodel is $350 a sqft. To achieve what we desired, I assumed it would require significant reconfiguration of the existing floor plan or move the main living area to a second story. However it was very likely that the existing foundation would not support a second story. Given the above, it seemed like a rebuild was more suitable.