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Old 12-15-2015, 09:49 AM   #21
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For option 3, since you most recently had renters in there, would it be possible to make this a "repair" and write off many of the construction costs? I recall watching a nearly total demo (except for one small section of a cinder block wall) of a house, and learning that the section was retained for tax purposes. I don't know the tax laws surrounding this, but it was just a thought.
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Old 12-15-2015, 10:03 AM   #22
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I don't think it is usually a good idea to tear down and then build fewer square feet.

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I agree that re-building a smaller house might not be a wise move. What about building a two story home with all of the living space you need on the first floor, with an unfinished second floor that a future owner could finish to their specifications. It wouldn't need to be cooled or heated and would provide you with some excellent storage space.


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Old 12-15-2015, 10:47 AM   #23
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Removing load-bearing walls requires some major reconstruction, but adding or widening a doorway not so much.
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Old 12-15-2015, 11:13 AM   #24
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If money is no issue, then go with #3. You're obviously leaning that way. It's going to be a major hassle and very expensive, but might be kind of fun as well.

If it was me, I'd move back in and take it off the market for a while. Consult with your realtor about minimal cosmetic improvements to get a reasonable, middle-of-the-road price. While this is happening, search for a smaller house in the same area that you can update to your liking. Just take your time and find a house with good bones in a great location. You'll get the same result as #3 for a lot less money and hassle. You might find a location you like even better. Just be patient and be prepared to look at a lot of houses.
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Old 12-15-2015, 12:57 PM   #25
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Thanks for all the input! There is much to think about.

While I find plan 3 very attractive, all the options are still on the table. To be honest, I would not be surprised if we let LBYM and KISS win this one and go with Plan 2 Light (leave load-bearing walls alone, remove the paneling in the family room, replace the wall-to-wall carpeting with tiles/hardwood floors, and apply a fresh coat of paint on the walls, ceilings, and cabinets). I can live with the older kitchen and bathrooms a while longer. It is the path of least resistance for sure (moving back into the house as is is not an option for me).
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Old 12-16-2015, 11:03 AM   #26
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Congratulations on getting out of the bay area (small initial caps used intentionally), a real armpit of a place to live (I grew up there). Southern California, where I'll be leaving from soon, is no better, more like the crotch of CA.

I like your LBYM/KISS/Plan 2 Light option. Having just completed a remodel, I'm thankful I had the good sense to not go overboard. It's resulted in a lot more satisfaction with the end result.
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Old 12-16-2015, 05:17 PM   #27
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If money is no issue, then go with #3. You're obviously leaning that way. It's going to be a major hassle and very expensive, but might be kind of fun as well.



If it was me, I'd move back in and take it off the market for a while. Consult with your realtor about minimal cosmetic improvements to get a reasonable, middle-of-the-road price. While this is happening, search for a smaller house in the same area that you can update to your liking. Just take your time and find a house with good bones in a great location. You'll get the same result as #3 for a lot less money and hassle. You might find a location you like even better. Just be patient and be prepared to look at a lot of houses.

+1

Almost any of your options will have you moving at least twice and/or living in a construction zone; not desirable. I'd try to do your #2 light before you move to AL.


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Old 12-16-2015, 06:13 PM   #28
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I don't want to live in a construction zone. And it would drive our cats crazy. But I am OK with living in temporary housing during construction. There is a nice apartment complex down the street from the house and since we already live in a small apartment now it would be a pretty straightforward move to temporary housing. We'd probably live out of boxes for a while and then we could just move down the street when the work is done.

It would be awesome if the house could be ready on day one, but I want to be there to supervise the work. And I don't want to fly back and forth to make it happen, as I want to enjoy the rest of my time here.
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Old 12-16-2015, 06:20 PM   #29
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Is there any advantage to making your decision before you move? Maybe once you are back in the house and have recovered from the move, it would become apparent which is the best choice.
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Old 12-16-2015, 06:32 PM   #30
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I want the work done before we move back into the house. Once the house is full of stuff, it's going to make everything more difficult. And I would prefer not to live in a construction zone.

Right now the plan is to keep the house on the market. If it sells, we try to buy a smaller house in move-in ready condition when the times comes. If it does not sell, we move to temporary housing and then decide whether to go with plan 2 or 3 on the existing house.

We do not need to decide before the move, but I want to use the next year to considers the pros and cons of each option so that we can quickly make a decision and hit the ground running after the move.
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Old 12-16-2015, 06:47 PM   #31
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We just had a Solatube installed in one room which due to zero lot line restrictions had no windows. It is amazing how much natural light the Solatube adds.
good idea! we have skylights in the master bath and kitchen and they do add lots of light.
We have been living in our home for 7 years, and have been upgrading it little by little. So far:
Replaced the crappy 2 x 6 decking with composition decking
added plantation shutters
replaced tile counters with granite and new faucet
refaced cabinets and had new drawers made
replaced all doorknobs
painted interior new colors
replaced stove, microwave, dishwasher and fridge with upgraded appliances
just had the exterior painted
(Whew)
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Old 12-16-2015, 10:38 PM   #32
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Is this place in Huntsville or the Birmingham area (Mountainbrook, Homewood, Vestavia Hills possibly)? Love those areas and Florence area too. Boy I could go for a steak at Dale's right now.

My wife and I have fond memories of our time in Alabama in the early 90's as a very young couple. I wouldn't mind retiring to any of those areas some day. However, if we got that close the little Mississippi girl would want to be back in Oxford, MS.


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Old 12-16-2015, 11:25 PM   #33
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We were pretty happy in the house before moving to CA. I thought that it was a nice house at the time and I was pretty proud of it.

.....

But the original plan always called for the house to be renovated upon our return from California, using the rents collected while we were away. Honestly, new floorings and a fresh coat of paint would go a pretty long way to make the house look pretty nice again. The kitchen and bathrooms are 40 years old but they are functional and have been "refreshed" once already.
I understand your emotions, but suggest you move into it before embarking on huge expensive changes as life changes a lot.

I also have a house I left and rented as I loved the location and the house.
Now after a decade, I go back and realized I've changed and my life has changed. And the neighborhood has changed a lot.

My lovely old house no longer fits me.
So I'll sell it instead of moving back into it.
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Old 12-17-2015, 09:54 AM   #34
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Now after a decade, I go back and realized I've changed and my life has changed. And the neighborhood has changed a lot.
Tru Dat!

Same thing happened to DW & I. After living on the Florida east coast in our 30s, it remained at the top of our retirement locations list...until we (in our 50s) visited FL (2 decades later) on a confirmatory vacation, and it just didn't fit.

You sound very sure about AL; maybe you've visited lots in the past 5+ yrs. But, if you're not completely sure, perhaps you should wait until you move (as W2R suggests), and live in temp housing a bit to confirm while planning, then 'manage' the renovation, which sounds like you'd enjoy doing as a post-retirement project.
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Old 12-17-2015, 10:09 AM   #35
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Wow, tearing down the house and rebuilding would be pretty expensive. Could you just keep slashing the price to get a buyer? Rent it out and sell it to an investor as a positive cash flow property assuming it pencils out (this worked for me in Chapel Hill NC during the pre-2007 boom)?

Then find a real tear down somewhere in town or a vacant lot (yeah, probably hard to come by a good one...). Much more cost efficient than option #2 or 3.

I would caution that #2-3 would likely be very expensive and might be long term for 6-8 years but your desires might change at some point in the future. You likely wouldn't get back much of your money from options #2-3.

From a cost standpoint, I would encourage option 1, with the possibility of buying a fixer upper and contracting out the upgrades. You get closer to what you want, assuming you want a smaller space (I definitely would with just the 2 of us and no kids!).
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Old 12-17-2015, 10:17 AM   #36
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Wow, tearing down the house and rebuilding would be pretty expensive. Could you just keep slashing the price to get a buyer? Rent it out and sell it to an investor as a positive cash flow property assuming it pencils out (this worked for me in Chapel Hill NC during the pre-2007 boom)?

Then find a real tear down somewhere in town or a vacant lot (yeah, probably hard to come by a good one...). Much more cost efficient than option #2 or 3.

I would caution that #2-3 would likely be very expensive and might be long term for 6-8 years but your desires might change at some point in the future. You likely wouldn't get back much of your money from options #2-3.

From a cost standpoint, I would encourage option 1, with the possibility of buying a fixer upper and contracting out the upgrades. You get closer to what you want, assuming you want a smaller space (I definitely would with just the 2 of us and no kids!).
I think Fuego has a good point. Plans 2 or 3 could become a financial trainwreck if you ever change your mind and decide to move to Europe, for example.

Maybe in the springtime you could plant a few annuals for curb appeal, lower the price, get it professionally cleaned, get a new realtor, or whatever, and sell more easily than previously.
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Old 12-17-2015, 12:16 PM   #37
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Our decision to return to AL has been made after carefully reviewing many other possible retirement locations (including in Europe). We feel comfortable assuming that we will remain there for the long haul.

There is no doubt that option 1 is better from a financial perspective and that's why we are still trying to sell the current house. But let's also establish that the local real estate market is very cheap. The value of our current house amounts almost to a rounding error as far as our our net worth is concerned.

Now, I understand that we should not go crazy and spend half a million dollar on this project - because you can get a beautiful 5,000 sqft house with views of the valley for less than that! And there is no way I would want to spend a lot of money in such an illiquid real estate market.

So let's keep that in mind before assuming that we are heading towards a financial disaster with plan 2 or 3. Surely a couple of multimillionaires can afford to build a brand new 1,500 sqft house in Alabama without heading for bankruptcy.
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Old 12-17-2015, 12:18 PM   #38
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Surely a couple of multimillionaires can afford to build a brand new 1,500 sqft house in Alabama without heading for bankruptcy.
Depends on the builder and the number of change orders.
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Old 12-17-2015, 12:28 PM   #39
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Depends on the builder and the number of change orders.


Well maybe we should just rent then. Plan 4? or is that 5?
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Old 12-17-2015, 12:35 PM   #40
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I don't think anyone implied you were going to go broke over it.

Projects like this take money, time and aggravation, only you can decide your tolerance for all 3. Most posters here would get queasy at the idea of tearing down a usable house. You did ask us what we thought.......LOL
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