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Build or Renovate?

Hot on the heels of our semiannual Buy, Sell or Renovate seminar with the Cindy Cody Team, we thought we’d take the conversation one step further and answer the "build or renovate?" question. Because the truth is, many homeowners also find themselves wondering whether they should build a new custom home or renovate their existing home to meet their needs. And while this might sound like a rather straightforward decision, there are many factors to consider— many of which could sway your decision one way or another. 

And for first-time home buyers, you can also use these factors to help you decide whether you should build your first home or purchase an existing home and renovate it to make it yours.

Continue reading below for a list of factors you should consider when deciding between building a home and renovating your existing one. And as always, if you have any questions regarding custom home building or home renovations, we encourage you to reach out to us by phone, email or on social media. We’d love to hear from you.

Factors To Consider When Deciding Between Building And Renovating


The first thing to consider when deciding between building and renovating is the quality of your home. Is the wiring up to date? How about the plumbing and heating? But that's not all you should consider. With Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo being home to many century homes, you should also consider the quality of craftsmanship in your home. While today's carpenters are experts in craftsmanship, sometimes, specific details in century homes just can't be recreated nowadays. If you feel your home is up to date and contains outstanding craftsmanship, then you may want to consider renovating your home.

However, if the plumbing, electrical or heating systems in your home seem to be failing or are requiring repairs quite frequently, then it might be better to consider building a new home. The same goes for craftsman details that might be starting to show their age, or worse, breaking completely. As much as we are all for restoring and maintaining the charm and detail of the Tri-Cities' century homes, sometimes they are just too far gone to bring back to life.

Your Neighbourhood

Location, location, location. When it comes to real estate, it’s no secret that location is key. And when deciding whether to build a new home or renovate your existing one, location is still an important consideration. The most obvious factor would be whether or not you get along with your neighbours or not. But there are many location-related aspects to consider.

Some of which include:

  • Are you happy with your daily commute to work?
  • Do your kids love their school and friends?
  • Do you love your kids’ school?
  • Do your kids have a long bus ride to school every day?
  • Does your neighbourhood have the amenities you value most (i.e. parks, grocery stores, shopping centres, etc.)
  • Do you feel safe in your neighbourhood?
  • Are you ok with leaving your neighbourhood behind?

Those are just a few of the location-related factors you should be considering when contemplating building a new home or renovating your existing one. It’s highly unlikely that your current neighbourhood will have an empty lot ready for you to build your dream home on, and so if you answered “no” to the majority of the questions above, building a new home may be the better option for you. And if you answered yes, then you’re probably better suited for renovating your existing home.

The Financial Side Of Things

Next up in things to consider when deciding between building a custom home or renovating your existing one is the financial side of things. This means looking at your home from an investment point of view. You'll want to start by considering what you paid for your home originally as well as what similar homes in your neighbourhood are selling for currently and what the market is projected to be like in the future. To do this, we highly recommend consulting with your realtor. Once you've gained a solid starting point, you'll then want to sit down with your chosen home renovator to discuss what it would cost if you decided to go through with your renovation. Once you've gotten a better understanding of what your desired renovation will cost, it's time to reconvene with your realtor and look at the big picture.

Things you’ll want to consider include:

  • After renovating, will your home be worth its starting value plus the cost of the renovation?
  • Will it be worth more?
  • Will it be worthless?
  • Is the cost of the renovation what you expected?
  • Does the renovation give you everything you’re looking for?
  • Will you have to renovate again in the near future to get everything you want?

As a general rule of thumb, you always want to make sure that your home will be worth more than what you have into it, or at the least, equal to. If you find that the value of your home will be less than the sum of its current value and the cost of the renovation, you may want to consider building new. With that being said, there are some exceptions to this rule. When it comes to financial considerations, your situation will play a significant role in helping you make your decision. This is why we highly recommend consulting with your realtor and chosen home renovator to not only figure out the real value and cost of everything but also to receive their unbiased, expert opinion.

Available Space

Similar to your neighbourhood considerations, you’ll also want to consider the amount of space you have on your property. When renovating your home or building a home addition, you have two options: build up or build-out. When looking at the instance of building up, you’ll want to consider the zoning laws in place in your neighbourhood. These will restrict how much of an addition you can put on and might limit you to an addition that doesn’t provide enough space. The second option is building out. And while there aren’t as many restrictive zoning laws when it comes to building an addition on the ground floor, you will want to consider how much yard you will have once your addition is complete. This is especially important in city neighbourhoods where lot sizes tend to be smaller than rural homes. If a large backyard with enough room for your family to run around a play is what you’re seeking, you’ll want to consider building a new home. But on the other hand, if you spend most of your time indoors and don’t necessarily care too much about the size of your yard, renovating or building a home addition might be better for you. 

Main Floor Renovation


Wear And Tear Repairs

Whether it's two years old or 20 years old, a home will always require repairs to maintain general wear and tear. And while it's almost a guarantee these repairs will happen, when they happen is a different story. Generally speaking, an older home will require repairs sooner than a newer one. And while this may not apply to your renovation, seeing as how that portion of your home will be brand new, your existing home might require repairs to other areas much sooner than an entirely brand-new home. This is an important factor to consider because it can place additional financial pressure on you should you choose to renovate rather than build. And like we said above, all homes, no matter their age, will require repairs. And that's why we recommend that this factor not play as big of a role in your decision as some of the others listed above and below. If you feel as though you may not be financially ready to complete additional repairs during or immediately following your renovation, you may want to consider building new. Whereas on the other hand, if these wear and tear repairs will be inconvenient and not necessarily "financially impossible", then consider renovating.

Opportunity For Modern Updates

Last but not least on our list of things to consider when deciding between building a new home and renovating your existing one is the opportunity to install modern updates and finishes. Just like fashion, haircuts and practically everything else, home design trends change. And so what was in style half a century ago, may no longer be in style. In fact, we’re willing to almost guarantee it’s no longer in style. And sure, a renovation can often fix cosmetic updates, but sometimes century homes simply don’t have the capacity for modern updates. Things like kitchen islands, master bathrooms, walk-in closets and open concept floor plans are all examples of rooms and design features that might be limited by your existing home. These things can often be retrofitted to work with older homes, but they may require additional spending when it comes to your renovation budget. For this factor, it's important to know exactly what you need from a renovation to make your homework for your family. We encourage you to include wants on this list as well, but be sure to separate from the needs so that you can make better judgement calls throughout the renovation process, should problems arise. As a Kitchener-Waterloo custom home builder and renovator ourselves, we offer our clients an initial consultation stage at the very beginning. A member of our team will come and visit you at your home, and together we'll walk through your area of focus and discuss realistic expectations as well as areas we think may cause problems. Nobody wants to be stuck in the past, and so if your home might limit your needs, you may want to consider custom building a home rather than renovating. 

Those are just a selection of the factors you should consider when contemplating a custom-built home or renovating your existing home. Sitting down with a home renovator like ourselves, we’ll be able to help you uncover the rest of the factors to consider and help you narrow down your decision to the answer that’s best for you. Because the truth is, your decision should be based on all of these things as a whole rather than one individual aspect. Each factor will carry different weight in the decision depending on your family’s status and needs, but no single factor should outweigh all the rest. As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, if you’re considering a custom home, home renovation or home addition, we encourage you to reach out to us with any questions you might have. We have a long history of providing Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo families with all of these projects and would be more than happy to chat with you about yours. And who knows, we may already be doing work for one of your neighbours. Just look for the CHART project sign outside the home.

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Family-Owned and Operated for 40 Years

Canadian Home and Renovation Team has 40 years of experience as renovators and builders in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and Guelph.

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58 Woolwich Street North Breslau, Ontario, N0B 1M0, PO BOX 324
Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge-Guelph - (519) 576-0937
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Professional designers, craftsmen and renovators in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, and surrounding area since 1980.
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