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When you love the lot, but not the house. Remodel or build new?

It’s a dilemma many of my clients have encountered. They love their lot, the street, the neighborhood. The home is close to their schools, favorite shops and their friends. But the house just isn’t working. Two clients in particular faced significant drainage problems due to the topography of their site. After years of battling it, one client realized (with my help) that a remodel on their existing house would still leave them with the drainage issues they’d come to dread. Their solution? Tear down the family home and rebuild on the lot. This home was a custom Mediterranean design I did that took full advantage of their lot and allowed us to change the topography, thereby eliminating the water problems. A radical option and not for everyone, but it was ultimately the right choice for them. My other client had a sloping backyard that ran down right to the enormous family room on the first floor. For decades heavy rains brought water in by the bucketful, but it took a lot of convincing on my part that the backyard topography was the culprit. The family was deeply attached to the yard for many sentimental reasons, and changing that was a tough sell. The client finally agreed, and we are now in the midst of construction in which not only will grading make the yard more level, we will enhance it with a water feature and significant landscaping. I am confident this approach truly saved their home by making it much more livable and also more valuable. I often help my clients through these decisions, weighing whether or not the neighborhood values can support a new home on the lot, or if the cost of an extensive remodel can be justified versus building new. While the site largely dictates what is feasible, the homeowner’s emotional connections to the property, and how they want to live in the home, are major factors in what is often a tough decision.

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Jack Arnold, AIA