With the urban housing market these days, many people are buying homes with ‘potential’— homes they feel have good bones and can be transformed into a space they will love. The prospect of living in a house that is not ideal or in poor condition means most want to renovate before moving in. Other motivations include avoiding additional moving, storage or rental costs that come with renovating a home after move in. While this seems logical, there are many downsides to this approach. Here are some things homeowners should consider before making this choice.

Crazy Pressure

No matter who you hire and what your stress tolerance is like, home renovation projects add additional work and high levels of stress to your life. For many, it means working on something outside their comfort zone, which requires a lot of collaborative decisions with other members of their household. This is challenging under the best circumstances. But, the added stress, anxiety and tension that comes with trying to do it in an expedited manner can make the renovation experience nightmarish. Decisions made on tight timelines are also more likely to be made without sufficient analysis or due process, leading to poor choices and strained relationships. This is not the formula for creating a space homeowners will love and embrace. While design and décor regrets can be addressed at a cost, strained relationships can be more challenging to repair.

Your design choices will be speculation

The best ideas about how to transform a space to meet your personal needs come from living in the space and determining what is and is not working for you. It’s much harder to do this when you haven’t lived in the space. Without this experience, design and décor decisions will only be based on your few short visits before closing, or other spaces you like. Some of these ideas may work, others may not work well for the space. Reasons why these ideas don’t work may be as simple as the lighting or as major as a structural wall that would need repositioning. Most ideas are better with insights gained from living in the space. If you live in the home first, you can test out ideas conceptually, and see if they really give you the results you want. Revisiting some design choices after construction can be very expensive, requiring additional design, materials and labour (money and time).

Availability of better building professionals

When you are making a substantial investment in your home, you want to hire the best professionals you can. These sought-after professionals are usually not available on short notice. The push to renovate before moving in puts homeowners in a position where they need professionals almost immediately, likely limiting hiring options to less great professionals, or paying more for your desired professionals. I have been advised that if a general contractor is required to take extra measures to do your project on top of all their other projects you can expect to pay more.

More flexibility to cover unexpected project costs

Unfortunately, most homeowners do not understand the true costs of home renovation projects and find themselves in hard spots trying to come up with additional money once they learn the truth. This is true whether you’ve lived in the house first or not, but plans to renovate before moving in often come with very rigid budgets and little flexibility to meet the inevitable extra costs. Moving into the home before renovating will likely offer greater flexibility to find more money if/when needed because of things like increased equity in the property or more opportunity to save.

Living in the house ‘with potential’ can have its own problems. Wondering how to make a home more liveable while planning a major renovation or rebuild? Watch for our upcoming blog post on this topic.