Renovations, Rehab and Multi-Dwelling Homes

It’s the year 2023 and we in America have found ourselves coming to grips with the reality that inflation isn’t just affecting the builders, it’s affecting the livelihoods of consumers everywhere. This is causing a need for home renovations, rehabs and multi-dwelling homes. Multi-dwelling home situations can be defined as parents and in-laws moving in, and adult children moving back in with their families due to not being able to find affordable housing. It’s a sensible way to share mortgages and other expenses.

There are different naming schemes for this concept of multi-dwelling homes. When you look at other parts of the world, these are commonly known as “Granny Flats” or “Granny Pods.” In the Midwest they have typically been called “Mother-In-Law Suites.”

Another new trending term for this kind of living situation is Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). An ADU is a secondary housing unit on a single-family residential lot; an important definition to keep in mind.

An extreme alternative living situation, includes tiny homes, all the rage amongst the savvy modern day crowd living off of the internet enjoying life where the road may take them, or living minimalist, thus maximizing the area of natural land around them.

Home renovations and rehabbing your home is more in demand than ever as costs rise. Discover your potential next project that may add more value and accessibility than you think to your home:

What To Consider From A Technical Standpoint

There are five elements to think about: design, building plan, utilities and zoning regulations.

The overarching message from all experts is not every design plan is right for the space. What looks good on paper doesn’t always translate to reality. What you see on reality TV isn’t always possible, and many times what you want versus what you need are two different realities.

Greg Cops of Linked Living Homes said of those who want to add a Granny Pod or ADU, “With some of the pre-fab units available online it is important to think through day to day living and visualize if the living space will accommodate your needs. Linked Living offers both pre-set standard designs and custom designed living spaces.”

But when you’re not using pre-fab the design rather just updating spaces or adjusting spaces, VKB Homes said, “Consider where entrances are placed and how that affects the flow of traffic throughout the home. In-law suites generally should provide a sense of privacy while still remaining related to the rest of the rooms in the home.”

VKB says another important aspect to consider for those who need to deal with ADA issues, “The job featured in our photos is of an addition built and designed around a family member who needed an ADA accessible main level bathroom and a functional living space. We converted the existing den area into a master bedroom suite with the former powder room turned kitchenette/pantry directly outside, and the accessible bathroom addition nearby.”

When it comes to Building Plans, Cops reiterated “one size fits all” isn’t the best approach, “When looking into this type of housing it is important to work with a company that is familiar with the local building requirements and can blend together traditionally accepted methods with some benefits of newer practices used in modular or ADU building to optimize the project.”

According to VKB Homes other important things to consider may be a zero clearance shower, the tie-in to the roof, adding a sub-panel for electrical to the addition, or adding a new furnace and A/C unit versus zoning off the existing system. For these projects, aesthetics are not the most important thing, functionality for the user is.

For those inclined to update and make the space more green, make sure to involve your builder as close to the onset of ideas as possible. This will ensure a smoother process with less headaches, plus your builder will likely have newer information than what you’ll find online. Berhoff has been building green since the 80s, and with 40 years in the business he said “If you go to the internet you could easily be looking at something that was done 20 years ago that doesn’t really zero in on where the industry is at.”

One update that he has seen more of is car charging ports in garages, Berhoff said, “Depending on the house design, sometimes it’s as simple as putting conduit, other times it’s more complex. Right now they all have different charging systems, but it will become standard in the near future.” One thing he emphasized to customers is, getting it right the first time, “I don’t like having to reinvent the wheel and have you spend more money than you need to after the fact.”

One of the most important elements of Berhoff’s approach is the dollar justification, “We dollar justify things. So for example, if you have windows going in, that’s your payback. If it’s got a 30 year payback and you’re 80 years old it probably doesn’t make sense.”

Utilities will be your most crucial aspect of any ADU build, and it’s important to make sure you have the right people to do the job, Cops said, “It takes careful planning to get utilities set up in a clean and quality way. Many modular builders are not willing to provide foundation and utility connections as a part of their service. Linked Living handles foundation and utility connections.”

Finally, Cops notes Zoning is the most important part of any ADU, “Certain properties allow attached and detached units. Other properties only allow attached units. Some properties have setbacks that are very constraining and there is no room at all for a living space. Zoning can be very complicated for someone who is not familiar with it.” Moreover, he says it can be easy to get a “no” answer even when there are solutions possible and the person you are talking to might not be considering all the possible options.

Timelines of Projects

Linked Living Homes is definitely the most unique of the three experts, as everything for them is pre-fabricated, this gives their customers a timeframe of 3 months from start to finish, with only 3 weeks on the customers property, compared to potential months with other companies.

Most timelines however, have gone up substantially, Jazwari mentioned supply and demand as part of the issue, “The supply is high and the demand is low. Within the last year we hit a record low of housing that is available.”

Jazwari says rather than buy, they renovate, “Building costs have gone up so much so instead of building a new house, they’re renovating their existing spaces, or they’re getting creative in what they do with their spaces.”

In a roundabout way this translates to contractors charging more, Jazwari said, “They’re charging people more because they can’t keep up with all of the jobs. They’re in the mindset of, ‘If I charge more, and I get it great. If I don’t get it, there’s 20 other projects’.”

Jazwari looks at his own cottage renovation and what may have taken three months in the past has taken almost a year for him to renovate.

Berhoff is in agreement, “A good rule of thumb is seven to nine months depending on the complexity of the project.” Berhoff also notes many of the businesses are having staffing issues, which exacerbates timelines.

2023 Trends

Cops take note of the baby boomers, a viable, yet aging population, ”One of the most significant trends occurring right now that will impact housing is the growing population of seniors due to the baby boomers. According to the US Census Bureau, the number of people over the age of 65 will have about doubled from the year 2016 to 2034.”

This is where an organization such as Rebuilding Together Fox Valley may help. Elisha Bushman, Community Outreach Manager says as long as the applicant owns the home, and is not above 80% of the median income for the county, and the application is approved, they will work in the homes using volunteers and contractors to install a number of things, such as grab bars, shower chairs, handrails, nightlights, anti slip grips, anything that helps with fall prevention. For the most part they help with small renovations that the homeowner may not be able to afford or do themselves, all at no cost to the homeowner. While they do not work on major updates generally, if they can find extra funding from grants they’ll work with contractors to complete the updates.

Another trend isn’t always about adding monetary value to a home, it’s about adding loved ones, VKB Homes said, “Our clients are usually not looking at resale value when moving forward with these types of changes to their home.  It is more about making a commitment to a family member who will benefit from being closer to their loved ones.”

The shift in technology has caused homeowners to look at their monthly budgets. Berhoff notes how simple updates make a difference, from LED lights to DC fans (from AC), updating windows with air seal windows. He says start with the obvious things and work your way to the more expensive things.

He notes the prices of going green are far less than they were in the past too, “For comparison, in 2007 I put all LED light fixtures in a house I was building for the Department of Energy, underneath the Building America program, I paid $178 a light fixture. That same light today, you get 6 of them for $4. They’ve come down that much.”

However, it’s not just the pros that are looking to update the home, it’s the homeowners themselves. Because costs and timelines are going up many homeowners are doing simple updates that bring a new life. Jazwari notes his own scrolling habits on social media. For better or worse, COVID combined with social media has caused a lot of people to notice things they want to do differently about their homes, “They’re being bombarded with so many great ideas to renovate spaces, like adding an accent wall, or making new things out of repurposing furniture. It’s getting people’s creative juices flowing. Ordinary people are trying out different things and especially when there’s an instructional video.”

For the larger updates however, the price is going to cost you. This is where being realistic with your budget is essential.

When it comes to the trending green movement Berhoff suggests, “Decide what’s important, and where that money’s got to go. If you really go nuts with green in the house renovations will be out of your budget.” You’ve got to ‘green to the budget’ as he suggests, “So you have to look at every aspect, if you really feel you want the triple pane windows that’s where you’ll put your money.“

At Linked Living most of their projects fall into the range for $200-$300 per square foot with fully equipped granny pods ranging from $100K-$160K. Cops says, “Our cost includes all planning and construction related activities. Including; design, permitting, foundation, building the living space, all utility connections, all exterior finishes, all interior finishes, all mechanicals.  Essentially when we are done the living space will be ready for furniture and move in.”

Lastly it’s not just the consumer feeling the pinch, it’s also the contractors, Jazwari said “I had a builder that I work with very closely surprised at what the bid came in at. Between materials and the labor, the basement rehab which would normally cost $30,000 came back at $70,000. He couldn’t believe the cost. When even the builder is shocked at the price, it is startling to me.”

The largest piece of advice from all the experts was to involve your contractor, designer, or planner as soon as possible to avoid headaches down the line. Because of the complexity and timelines and costs of major renovations it’s better to be ahead of the game, and you likely save yourself money.

Berhoff compared the process to being married, “You’re matching up with someone who is going to work on your house, your dream. It’s like a marriage for as long as you’re working on it. You’re going to have ups and downs. Be patient.”

Beyond the marriage proposal, Jazwari reminds all his clients how much time they really spend at their homes, “You should have a home that you’re proud of. Don’t cut back on your home because chances are that is where you spend the majority of your time. So make it a space that you enjoy and that you love and that you’re proud of.”

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