Christy and Walter Hutto love to entertain, they both enjoy cooking, and they have two young sons who need plenty of room to expend their overabundance of energy. As they realized they needed more living space because their house could no longer accommodate their lifestyle, they struggled to find a solution.
When it comes to exploring home expansion options, there are three questions to consider: Is remodeling the right choice? Would it be better to add on to the existing home? Is it time to consider buying or building a new home? The choice depends on a family’s particular needs.
Renovating and Additions
Typically, the least expensive route is to remodel or add on to the existing home. Dick Gallup, president of Gallup and Gallup, says the first question he asks a client is what they’re looking for. “Many of our customers are at points where they want some lifestyle changes,” Dick says. “Homeowners who are in houses that are 20 years old or more want to incorporate some of the current trends, like open floor plans, more windows, wider hallways, larger kitchens and bigger master suites.”
It’s also important to consider how meaningful it is to stay in the existing home rather than relocate. “Many people who renovate or add on to their homes do so because they truly don’t want to move elsewhere. They like their neighborhoods, they have friends close by and they’re comfortable,” Dick says.
He points out that many people are now looking to renovate in order to stay in their homes for years to come. “Universal Design is a concept that allows homeowners to age into their homes and keeps it livable for them through the various stages of life.”
He often advises his customers to create two shopping lists. “One is a priority list of things they want the most, and the other is a wish list of what they’d like to have but could do without.”
That’s when it gets down to the detail level. “You have to be able to trust your architect and builder to accomplish what you want within your existing structure, to fit any additions on the property that you have available, or to design any renovations to blend into what’s already there.”
Christy and Walter loved their neighborhood and the friendships they had developed, but adding on just wasn’t going to be an option. “We were on a small lot so we had to rule out expanding,” Walter says. “Besides, Christy and I both grew up in more rural areas, and we knew we wanted our boys to have that same kind of experience of being able to enjoy being outdoors.”
“You have to put a great deal of thought into a process like this,” Dick says. “You have to be realistic about your goals and your budget as well. It can be frustrating and lead to construction nightmares if you don’t have your plan in place and know that you can get what you really want.”
After determining that a renovation or an addition wouldn’t solve their problems, Christy and Walter began looking at existing homes for sale.
Lifestyle considerations are key when looking at existing construction. Loretta Starr, a real estate agent with Russell & Jeffcoat Realtors, says, “Most people are looking for move-in ready when they’re considering buying an existing home, whether it’s an older home or new construction.”
Time can be a factor for deciding to buy an existing home as well. “Often buyers don’t have the time to build a new home,” says Loretta, “so they’re looking for a home that can provide what they want and that they can get into as quickly as possible.”
Buying an existing home can sometimes be less expensive. Given current market conditions, sellers may be willing to take less than their initial asking prices. When buying a newly constructed home, the builder may even be willing to throw in extra features at no additional cost. According to Loretta, “There are so many new construction homes on the market now, buyers have tremendous leeway in negotiating great deals.”
Working on a set timetable was not an issue for the Huttos. They actually began talking about their need to expand five years ago. “We looked at probably 20-plus houses already-built but couldn’t seem to find anything that fit our space needs,” says Walter.
“We finally came to the conclusion,” Christy says, “that we could get just what we wanted and at a better investment if we did it ourselves.”
So the decision was made to build. The Huttos found the property on which they wanted to build a year and a half before they actually began construction. The focus then turned to finding the right architectural plans to fit their needs. Pouring through what seemed like endless numbers of house plans, Christy and Walter found designs that offered some of what they wanted, but not everything. “Most of the floor plans we looked at had certain things we wanted but then were missing other key items,” recalls Christy.
So the process turned into designing a custom home that would incorporate everything on their wish list – a list that Christy began working on years earlier. “I called it my ‘grand binder’ of ideas,” laughs Christy. “I began collecting photos from all types of magazines of things that I liked, things that caught my eye.”
Christy took photographs of designs that she saw when they were traveling and kept those in her folder, along with photos and videos of houses in the Parade of Homes. Having those ideas made it easier to convey to their builder, Nick Blackhurst, exactly what they were trying to accomplish. “We started with a particular list that we wanted A, B, C and D, and it evolved into a clear vision,” she says.
The end result is an Arts and Crafts design that features an open floor plan with all the main living space on one floor, a large kitchen that allows both Christy and Walter to work around each other, and the boys’ bedrooms on the opposite end of the house from their parents.
“We always wanted a media room,” adds Walter, so the full daylight basement serves as the entertainment spot for football parties, church youth gatherings and the boys’ electronic games.
Also included is a second master suite downstairs. “We both have parents who are aging,” notes Walter, “so we added the suite with a small kitchen to accommodate them.”
The design also incorporated Walter’s need for a large office since he does a significant amount of work from home. Christy had the builder include built-in bookcases in the walls to allow for more room.
They wanted a separate mudroom, laundry room and storage areas for those items that typically get stuffed in the attic like Christmas decorations. “It’s so nice not to have to climb up into the attic to haul those down each year,” Christy says. “The clutter factor has been diminished. Everything now has its own place.
Because they knew they would like to install a pool in the future, Christy and Walter had the foresight to make sure there was an exterior door into one of the bathrooms. “We asked a lot of ‘what if’ questions,” says Walter.
It took nearly a year to finish construction, and the Huttos moved into their new home this past Memorial Day weekend. With 5,200 square feet of living space, they are no longer tripping over each other. “I’ve really enjoyed this layout,” says Christy. “It doesn’t matter if I’m cooking dinner, I can still talk with the boys in the living room. We’re not cramped in a little room.”
Because they put so much thought into planning, Christy and Walter have the house they’ve always wanted. “We lived in our other neighborhood for 14 years,” says Walter, “and we had great neighbors. But it came down what we wanted for our family, and this is just what we envisioned.”