Adding Value with an Addition to Your Home
By: Steve Bonser
Feeling a little cramped in your home sweet home? Instead of upsizing by selling and buying a bigger piece of real estate (and taking on a bigger mortgage), you may have toyed with the idea of building an addition. Adding a room or more common space can make a lot of sense. Obviously it is a great way to enhance your enjoyment of your home, especially if it lacks enough bedrooms, has a small kitchen, or you want to bring in extra money with a rental unit.
Done well it offers a potential boost to the value of your property by increasing square footage or number of bedrooms or bathrooms. It can also enhance curb appeal if it’s visible from the street.
Where to Start
People who end up most pleased to move ahead with an addition typically put a lot of forethought into the decision. For example, if you find the layout of your home doesn’t allow enough sunlight or has too little common area, consider knocking down a wall as part of the project. If you want to enlarge the kitchen, it might make sense to add a laundry area next to it or install that badly needed guest bathroom. By achieving more than one goal with your new addition, you can get a “twofer” and achiever a multiplier effect on your investment.
Regardless of how long you’ve lived in your home, make an effort to see it with fresh eyes. Put yourself in the shoes of a guest or a prospective buyer. What is the first impression upon entering the front door? Is there a focal point such as an open dining-kitchen area or just the hallway leading away from the living room? Your addition can serve to create more depth and enhance the best characteristics of your home or downplay or eliminate the drawbacks.
Draw rough layouts and picture in your mind the size, locations and design of an addition would deliver the most value. Today, there are dozens of apps and software programs available which can turn your thoughts into highly realistic “walkthrough” simulations. By mapping out your floor plan, adding furnishing and decorating, and seeing your creation in 3-D you’ll greatly increase the success of the final result. It will also give your contractor a head start when you meet to discuss the project.
Focus on Aesthetics
Being that you’ll need a permit and you’ll want to ensure quick approval, make every effort to arrive at a design for your addition that will adhere to the architectural style of your home. Virtually all single family dwellings fall into one of these design categories: Ranch, contemporary, Cape Cod, country French, colonial, Victorian, Tudor, Craftsman, cottage, Spanish revival, or Mediterranean.
Depending on the age of the structure and whether it has a brick, wood, or stone façade, and sash, casement, bay or double hung windows, your addition should mimic these existing characteristics. Even if your goal is modernize or alter the look of the exterior, the new addition should complement the rest of the house. Research additions made to other homes of the same vintage and design and make notes of especially successful end results.
Bring Specific Ideas to Your Contractor
Even if you’re openminded about the direction you’re willing to go with your addition, we’ve found its best to bring all ideas to the table at the beginning and investigate each for feasibility and cost. Scaling back on features is easier to do than adding them when it’s done. The last thing you want upon finishing a major home remodel is to not have explored a feature you really wanted when it was actually possible within budget, with some value engineering or modifications. Beyond any budgetary limitations, be realistic about your lot size, the existing proportions of the house, and other site-specific factors. If you’re building a rental unit, determine if a separate private entrance is needed. You’ll likely make changes to landscaping which requires forethought and will incur costs.
Types of Additions
The fundamental choices in planning an addition are build up or out. Before you make your mind up definitively, bring in a contractor to discuss your goals and solicit his expert opinion. Whatever direction you both decide, each offers its own advantages and set of challenges. For example, a “bump out” addition simply moves one or more walls out in a single room to create more space, yet is costly and may not pay the dividends of a first floor addition. By adding a whole new room you open up options to truly change the home’s layout and maximize your investment at sale time by boosting an additional bedroom, family room, bathroom or rental unit. The primary sacrifice is the loss of yard space.
Building up is popular because provided you can get it permitted, you can literally double the square footage of your home. Having a second story provides several advantages such as creating more bedrooms, bathrooms and storage space to windows with better views, and a balcony or deck if you choose. Obviously your yard space is unaffected.
Other forms of building up are the dormer addition, garage addition, and the attic remodel. Homes with steep rooflines lend themselves to adding a window which projects vertically from a sloping roof which can enlarge a cramped room with more headroom and the benefit of natural light. Construction costs are much less than a full addition and it adds character to the home from the outside.
If you have a garage separate from the main structure or attached but with its own roof, adding a second story may be an attractive option. Part of the cost analysis will involve reinforcing the supporting walls and adding a side or rear stairwell. Attic remodels are not considered additions, but if this is a practical avenue to explore, it could serve much the same purpose for significantly less capital cost.
Permits and Other Considerations
As your vision for the expansion of your home begins to take shape, consult with your contractor to prepare for the permitting process. Submitting the blueprints will start the wheels in motion for gaining approval from the appropriate city or county office depending on your location. By planning wisely and benefiting from the experience of your builder you should have avoided problems such as proposing an addition that is too high, blocks your neighbors’ views, encroaches on the property, or in any way is not within code.
By planning wisely and benefiting from the experience of your builder you should have avoided problems such as proposing an addition that is too high, blocks your neighbors’ views, encroaches on the property, or in any way is not within code.
If you plan to rent the unit, Santa Barbara zoning laws typically do not come into play unless it is deemed a “short term vacation rental” which are now regulated as hotels due to the explosion of Airbnb activity. On the flip side, building a granny flat, in-law unit or backyard cottage is now significantly easier from a permitting standpoint. As of January 1, 2019, California law became much more lax concerning Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), primary as a way to address the state’s perpetual housing shortage. If you have the yard space and want to create a living space completely separate from the main residence, this might be your answer. Talk to your contractor about their experience in this type of construction or investigate the wide variety of prefab modular granny flats or small houses which can be delivered, erected, and attached to the electric and water/sewage grid within days.
If you agree with the old adage that there’s always room for improvement, you might want consider improving your home with more room. With a solid game plan and the right contractor, an addition may be the ideal solution.