Remodel or Teardown?

For homeowners who want more space, each option has its pros and cons.

Donna Welsh and Joe Dewald expanded their home from 1,400 square feet to 4,200 square feet to make room for family. Courtesy of Paradigm Building Group.

It’s a question local architects, real estate agents and home builders find themselves fielding repeatedly from clients: Should they renovate their existing homes, tear down and start over, or move?

Sometimes a family is crowded into a small, postwar rambler or Colonial and they want more space. Maybe they’ve expanded their household with a couple kids, or have elderly parents moving in. Others just want the open floor plans and contemporary design flourishes they’ve seen in friends’ houses and on ubiquitous home-improvement shows.

Whatever the circumstances, many want to stay in this area for the quality schools, parks, cultural offerings, proximity to D.C. and Metro accessibility. Some just really like their neighbors and are reluctant to leave them behind.

“We wanted more light and a more open floor plan,” says Liz Mixer, an interior designer, whose Lyon Village Cape Cod was originally built in the 1940s with “dollhouse-size windows.” By the time she and her husband had two kids, they needed more than two bedrooms. Also on their wish list: storage space for a stroller and an open layout that would allow them to watch the little ones in the family room while fixing dinner. But they didn’t want to give up their short walk to Wilson Boulevard and the Metro—or their playgroup of neighborhood friends. So they remodeled.

“People are not necessarily outgrowing Arlington,” says real estate broker Billy Buck of Buck & Associates, based in Lyon Village. But at the same time folks are staying, more are moving in. He’s seen an increase in the number of young families leaving the District and buying homes in close-in suburbs like Arlington, McLean and Falls Church when their children are toddlers, instead of waiting until the kids are school-age.

However, there is a mismatch between how people want to live and many of the available homes for sale. Buck says roughly 20 percent of his clients buy houses that they plan to renovate immediately—sometimes getting bids on the construction work before they even buy the house.

Categories: Home & Design
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