Why We Are Renovating Instead of Building (Again)

October 7, 2019

We believe we should all love where we live.

We’re a couple of homebodies, working to uncover the home our home wants to be. And we’re so happy to have you here. 




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Befores, afters, mood boards, plans, failures, wins. We’ve done a lot of projects, and they’re all here. 

We have a long-standing relationship with DIY, and love rolling our sleeves up and making it happen. 

Even when you don’t want to rip down a wall, you can make that space in your home better. Right now.

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Last week, Chris and I taped off a few living room changes that are coming up in the next couple weeks. The door on the right will become a tall, arched passthrough out to the new dining space. On the left will be built in shelving of the same dimensions to balance the doorway and there will be a large, 7′ tapered double-sided fireplace in the middle. It’s going to change everything!!!! 

With our major renovation in full effect, and me documenting every stud going up on Instagram–we often get asked, Wouldn’t it be easier to just build exactly what you want instead of renovate so much? I get it, it looks like a lot–especially right now with us ripping off an addition and essentially putting the same thing back in place. Adding ceilings and floors and making windows into doorways and moving fireplaces to completely different walls. And that’s just the major structural renovation we’re doing first. I can promise you, we’re gonna take the next several years tweaking this house to our liking. So why not build the exact house we want in the first place?

We aren’t against building at all (there’s a small chance we’ll build a cabin somewhere someday) but right now, in our life and for our lives, we are still loving the renovation journey–here are a few reasons that we have, and we’d love to know yours as well (or reasons you wouldn’t renovate).

  1. You can move in immediately and live there while improving over time. Building a custom house takes a long time. Renovating allowed us to find a house, in a location we loved and move in right away! For the most part, the layout was great, but the parts and finishes that weren’t, we can make exactly how we want to over the years.
  2. Building is a lot more expensive in our area right now and doesn’t include mature landscaping. Chris and I made a MUST HAVE list and a NICE TO HAVE list before looking for a home and one of our must haves was mature landscaping. Needless to say, we hit the landscaping jackpot. We have 3.5 acres and HUNDREDS of trees and shrubs and flowers. You can build whatever you want, but you can’t buy a house now and plant trees in the yard 20 years ago.
  3. To build this exact house and have it landscaped would have cost WAY more than what we paid. In our area, building costs are around $200/sq foot right now. Our home we bought was about 5000 square feet and when we’re done adding the permitted entertaining space and bonus space upstairs, it will be nearly 6000–so we’re talking $1.2 million and that doesn’t even include the hundreds of thousands of dollars the previous owners spent on landscaping. We definitely didn’t spend close to that. Economically, it just made more sense.
  4. We really love that renovating can be done over time, as budgets permit. All of the major renovations we’re implementing now are being paid for from the profit of the sale of our last house. But renovating over time on a budget is just what we’re comfortable with. It allows us to pay for our projects in cash and live in a space and figure out what it is we really want to do with it.
  5. Okay, so, it’s also our job. We have made a living renovating and giving existing homes a completely new life for the past decade. We aren’t professionals. We make lots of mistakes and mistakes in renovating seem like they would be a lot more forgiving than mistakes in building (like, HOW COULD I LIVE WITH MYSELF if I paid someone so much money to do something and then I end up not liking it?!).


Bottom line, we love sharing our renovation journey with all with you and we’re so happy we get to keep on doing that for years to come with this house. There are lots of moments that I feel drained by it, especially living in draped off portions of the house with loud noises and dust and power tools everywhere and then let’s throw 3 little kids and a dog in the mix! But for some reason–we just can’t quit it. It excites us every day. We’d love to hear your thoughts on building vs. renovating. Obviously there’s no right or wrong answer and I think it’s subjective and personal. Building is an adventure in its own right and something we’d love to try in some capacity someday. Tell us your stories either way!


What do you think?

  1. Chanelle says:

    I’m with ya! I prefer renovating for the same reasons (the mature landscaping!) and also because I thrive on the creativity it requires to work within some existing parameters to reimagine an existing space into one that is more functional and aesthetic. I love seeing how you repurpose doors, move walls, windows, cabinets, etc…and just see the potential of the space. Thanks for all the inspiration you give!

  2. Susan Highness says:

    I learn from you everyday! We are moving to Idaho next year and now I am not afraid to renovate! Hope to find a house on acreage cheaper and we can fix it up and end up with what we love! Inspired by you guys!

  3. Sarah says:

    Agree with so many of these points- we’ve been living in and renovating our home for 8.5 years now..and I feel like we’ve learned so much ! Buying and renovating a home gives you ideas and perspective you wouldn’t get from basic blueprints/floor plans. Taking a home’s original footprint and turning it into something beautiful that works for your family is so cool! (IMO) love following y’all on this journey!

  4. Krystal says:

    Curious as I haven’t seen any mention of it in a while – you said something about maybe building a cabin someday … What’s happening with the cabin? Insurance still taking its time? I wonder, as you own the land that cabin was on, would you rebuild at that same site? I’d just love any cabin update lol. I loved and miss that beautiful cabin, and those beautiful views from that site. Though I’m definitely excited for everything that’s happening at this house, definitely the silver lining after that tragedy. CAN’T WAIT to see this amazing fireplace happen.

  5. Monica says:

    I’m not in a position to build or renovate right now but if I were I would love to renovate. I just love the idea of taking something outdated or something that doesn’t function as well as it could and breathing new life into it and turning it into something new, better, more functional. There’s just something about an older home that has a history that you don’t get with a brand new build. There’s something about watching the transformation that is so satisfying. Needless to say I’m loving following along with your renovations. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Dawn says:

    I’d rather look at something I don’t like and know that I just haven’t gotten to it than have to think about how I sat down and actually chose it and now regret it. Yes, the same thing can happen with finishes and furniture, but I suspect it would be a lot more painful if it was something huge like where the garage is.

    As an aside, did you know you can buy and install mature trees? I’d never thought about it until I saw it in my area. Definitely much cheaper for the trees to already exist, of that I am certain.

  7. Ashley says:

    I too choose renovation over building new. In my densely populated city new builds are rare, pushing further and further out from the city center, and are on zero-lot lines. Also as a Realtor I see how the value of older, solidly built homes in established communities with mature landscaping will hold value, and even climb, as the real estate market naturally cycles. Renovating is not for the faint of heart, as I just undertook my biggest personal project yet, which of course went over budget and over time, but SOOO worth it get the finishes you want in an established neighborhood. Love watching your progress Julia, so inspiring!! :)

  8. PJ says:

    We’re doing BOTH!!! Our friends think we’re crazy. We bought an older home on 20 acres on the outskirts of town. Our initial intention was to fix it, but after numerous contractors telling us that it would be very costly to fix and renovate with what we need (we have major foundation issues) we are going to build a new house. My in-laws are going to move to the property with us and have decided that they want to renovate the old house. They’ve done various renovations before so they feel confident that they can tackle it. Since they won’t have to buy land they would just be paying to fix the house.

    I’m tempted to document the process. Julia, do you think it’s worth it to start a blog? It seems that people are reading blogs less and going to social media (like Instagram) more. Has that been your experience? I’ve been following blogs like yours and YHL since before Instagram was popular so I always come back to the blogs, but I’m not sure if “new” readers do.

    • Julia says:

      It’s difficult to grow a blog readership but I think it’s still absolutely worth doing if you want to document your process. The hard part about growing a readership comes from people not wanting to continue to write. If you consistently write–they will come.

      • PJ says:

        Thank you so much for your response. My intent is to document for my family members, like my mom that lives overseas, but I hope it will be helpful to others. Looking forward to following your renovations!

  9. Ginger says:

    I’ve done both, and although I would totally build again(I secretly enjoyed the process) it would have to be on property that already had trees. Our house is now 3 yrs old, on acreage, but with teeny tiny trees we just planted. My kids can’t enjoy the property in the summer because there’s no shade. By time the trees would be big enough for them to enjoy, my kids will be all grown up. When I drive around old neighborhoods I drool over the mature trees. Also, older homes have so much more character then new homes. Sometimes it’s the weird shaped rooms or “outdated” wood trim that makes it feel so special. So good call in my opinion!

  10. Carmen says:

    My degree is in construction management and before I had kids I worked for production builders and built hundreds of homes for people where they picked from minimal option packages. Personally we’ve lived in a fixer upper, a production new build, and then a bigger and nicer home in a lovely established neighborhood but that was stuck in the 90s (think topiary murals). I enjoy parts of every different situation, but my favorite has been renovating. There’s just something so satisfying about taking those awkwardly used spaces and making them efficient and pretty. I think what I’ll end up doing when my kids are all in school and I have the time to look outward again is to build spec homes and sell them. Not the production builder way, I loathe the clear cutting of lots, the basic finishes. And not for people (most people can appreciate a beautiful end product but are actually not very good at picking things that get to a beautiful end product).

  11. Renee says:

    Years ago when my husband got transferred 4 times in 12 years we always bought new.
    We looked at older homes but the ones in our price range needed work that neither of us could do so by the time we paid to have the work done we would have more invested than a brand new build.
    Three years ago I moved back to the area I was born in. New construction in my price range consisted of small homes with “boob” lights and builder grade carpeting. Even though the home would not need any maintenance for a long while I chose to buy a 50 year old rancher that has hardwood floors and is bigger and on a nice lot with
    nice landscaping and has many trees in the neighborhood. I hear birds singing all day long when the windows are open.
    I spent some money on new kitchen counters and a bath vanity and other small updates. Eventually I will need to replace appliances and HVAC……however I would never have found a new build as solid as this house is and with the landscaping. I think a lot depends on the area of country you live in but there are some great older homes for sale that have been lovingly maintained by older people wishing to downsize. If you can just see past the pink,green or blue bathroom tile you can have a nice house you can have updated as you go.

  12. Vicki says:

    I vote for renovation over building. The building prices in our area are crazy. I would much rather spend my time renovating our little Craftsman style house than going through the building process.

  13. Sayward says:

    We bought an extreme fixer upper. We disliked almost every aspect of the home, but the location was our dream location and the lot was gorgeous and so mature with huge old trees. We were able to afford an acre of land in an incredible but costly area for 1/3 of the price, and we immediately had a vision for what the home could be. We have babies and only pay for projects with cash so renovations are slow, but still exciting.

  14. Lori says:

    TOTALLY agree!! Renovating is a total headache but I love the challenge of working within the confines of an existing house and imagining it as so much more. We have the same issues in our area, building is pricey and you have to settle for smaller, clear cut lots. If you want larger lots you have to move further out with no mature trees or pay really big bucks in the inner areas to tear down and rebuild.

  15. Summer Bolte says:

    We are the same! We get the same questions from family members who live in areas where new builds are more financially accessible. We are on our third house. In our area, new builds on any size lot that we would be ok with cost twice as much AFTER the cost of our home plus our planned renovations. I love al your moody color choices and watching you guys!

  16. Matt says:

    After renovating two houses we are now building from scratch. We drew the plans, self-contracted, and are doing all the finish work ourselves and love it (most of the time). After the two renovations I vowed to never be stuck fixing somebody else’s mistakes again. Something not talked about in all of these design blogs but that is especially inherent in almost every older renovation are serious envelope and energy efficiency issues that are almost impossible to fix without major demolition and serious money. With new build, you can get the details right from the beginning. New building is not without its issues, but so far we’ve loved it. It doesn’t hurt that I’m an architect and happen to make my living off new building, I swear I’m not biased ????

  17. Patricia says:

    I honestly don’t care what your reasons are I’m just glad you’ve chosen renovation as your path. That’s so much more interesting for me to watch you figure it out and create mood boards and play with floor plans. I do wish I could see a floor plan of your current space so I could see how it all fits together.

    I’ve also been down the Reno road; took the kitchen down to the studs, upstairs we added a former so we could build a second bathroom, added access to our back yard by knocking out a window (not easy in a two story brick house) and finally finished the basement by adding a man cave and a laundry/craft room of my dreams. We also did practical stuff like replacing the roof and all the plumbing, relined the sewer, and refinished the hardwood floors.
    It will be fun to watch you but not have to live through the mess myself.

  18. Linda Grubbs says:

    I, for one am thrilled that you’re renovating. Before and after are my favorite things (decor-wise) and you’ll be providing a lot of those for us. Thank you. :) Seriously….it’s what you do…and I’d hate to see your talent wasted on a brand new build that needed no fixing. You guys are masters at making things better. I would sure miss that. So bottom line…I’m happy you’re renovating. And you have chosen such a gorgeous property…with SO many possibilities!!

  19. Samantha says:

    Agree with all your sentiments. My husband and I bought a 1932 Tudor Duplex and systematically converted it to a single family home in about 3 years. I’d like to add the sentiment:
    6) You can’t duplicate the warm, aged, architectural integrity and details that you inherit with an older home. You can’t build that. You can buy/inherit it and preserve it as you make the changes desired to accommodate this generation and your lifestyle.

  20. Christina says:

    I prefer being closer to the city, my job, and major highways to visit friends and family. I also prefer being in a more mature neighborhood. Quite frankly I could not afford to build in the areas I wanted and also could not grapple with environmental concerns of building new when there were plenty of homes already out there (I have this philosophy with a lot of things, though!). I know several people who built though and definitely understand it! One aspect is they are definitely more energy efficient which must be super nice!

  21. Jenifer says:

    I think its so fun to see the before, in hetween & after! We remodeled several yrs ago when we couldnt find the home for us & our girls. We liked the location we lived in & it just made sense.

    Fast forward, and we are looking to add on 1 more time within the next 6m-1yr. Just waiting on our contractor to say ge is ready.
    Sometimes i think what are we thinking?! Maybe we should just build but, we would owe much more with a new build than we do with our home & addition.
    I really enjoyed the process( we had to move out for 9m when we remodeled). Another way to look at it is..
    I think its better for our environment. Not cutting down more trees or taking up more land.

  22. Jeannine520 says:

    I get it. We came to the same conclusion when we decided to buy instead of build. It’s impossible to find a large flat lot with 100+ year old oaks within city limits here in the SF bay area. The thought of hanging out on a building site night after night with little kids didn’t sound good either. We bought in a tree lined historical neighborhood and are able to live in the house comfortably while working at projects at our own pace. It’s working out perfectly and we’d do it again.

  23. Courtney says:

    So happy you’re renovating, I love following along

  24. Joan says:

    I totally agree with you. You can’t beat the property you’re on…it is magical!
    Sometimes you need the money from the house you’re in to build the house you want, so renovating a home makes sense for many reasons!

  25. I love following along with your renovations! I would love to hear if your new house feels like home yet, what/if you miss about your old house, and how you are all adjusting being in a different area–although being closer to Target doesn’t seem like a bad thing at all ;)

  26. Debby says:

    Where I live it is too expensive to buy a new house, the land value is incredibly high. Since we already owned our first home, but outgrew it (1000 square feet, 5 kids:), the most affordable option was to knock down the house and build from scratch. The original house had significant problems and was not in good shape and had no historical character. Keeping within the budget we set for the new home, that helped keep the choices from being endless. I really enjoyed the process and would do it again (except we love our location and that’s why we built here). Even though I designed the house and chose everything myself, there are always things that could be better or different. We learn as we go. Had the market been more reasonable though, we would have bought and renovated.

  27. Jenn says:

    When I see a new house, I’m honestly not impressed with builder grade finishes. Obviously fixtures can be replaced, but it’s too large of an undertaking to truly get what you want in the first pass and needs change over time. Homes are at their most comfortable and functional with the work over time and I for one completely understand your preference to renovate. Rebuilding the dining room is a no-brainer if it was poorly constructed and you have large groups of people over regularly, needing the best function out of it. Meanwhile, you worked with what the kitchen had to offer and it turned out great for a lower cost than complete renovation. So happy that this home is working for you, your family, and your business :)

  28. Nicole says:

    I’m currently building a new house. Although, I would’ve preferred to buy and renovate. In our area it is comparable or even cheaper to build new vs renovating. After a year of searching for a new house, we decided to build. We found a lot that works for us, with 10 y/o trees planted around the lot. I’ll take it over no trees!

    We found a great builder allowing us to completely customize the house. My husband is doing the majority of plumbing and all of the HVAC (he’s a journeyman). We’re saving a lot of money in labour costs that way. It just makes the most sense where we are and our circumstances.

    I’ll definitely miss the character that comes with mature homes!

  29. Kristi says:

    My husband and I have renovated two homes – the first we lived in and did bit by bit, the second was not livable when we bought it so we gutted it and did a year long renovation. I think there are pros and cons to both. It was nice to not have to shower at the gym for months while we renovated our one full bathroom, but it was also nice to be able to map out 18 different kitchen layouts while living in the existing kitchen.

    That said, I’ve told him I want to build our “forever” home, although I’m starting to think that I’m not a forever home type of girl. I really want an antique home, but with things like modern HVAC and 9′ ceilings so the dream is to do a reproduction type house. (I know some actual older houses have high ceilings, but not in our area).

  30. Cayla says:

    Our first home was a tiny falling apart cape that we made into our dream colonial… only to outgrow it within 2 years. We had plans of making a master suite in the attic but after finding out we wouldn’t be able to count it as a bedroom when we sold eventually, we started looking for a new home. And by getting a fixer upper, we were able to move into a neighborhood we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford. We’re able to slowly save up for projects, while living in the space and that helps us decide what really is important and what can wait. We have a 5 year, 10 year, and 15 year plan for this house. And it just feels so much more doable than when we basically rebuilt our first home and went from a 1200 mortgage to a 3700 mortgage and were SO house poor. Also, our new home inspires me in ways that I wasn’t inspired looking at our old home’s blueprints did. It makes me want to bring out the soul of the home instead of just tearing down and starting from scratch.

  31. Melissa L. says:

    I also think there is a joy to taking a house that is beautiful but dated and giving it a new look and life. I love watching the progress and thought process y’all give to your blog and IG stories! Keep them coming ????

  32. Jess says:

    I would never want to build. It’s just exhausting with all the decisions. Plus, you are absolutely right about the mature landscaping-it’s priceless!

  33. Sarah says:

    i love this approach! i’m so thankful you guys are renovating so i can watch and learn from every single step.

    when we bought our first house in 2017 we got majorly lucky, but overall couldn’t afford to build and didn’t really want to. in my eyes too it was more eco-friendly to buy an existing structure, with bonus points for being able to bring a run-down old house back to life. our house is ridiculous and there’s a lot i wish were different, but then there’s a whole hell of a lot more i have the power to change on my own…some day….when we have a little more money………….. ;)

  34. Leslie says:

    I love the challenge of taking something that already exists and putting your own touch on it. That’s why I like renovating. You’re killing me with the house costs though! I live in a suburb outside of Vancouver, Canada and 1.2mil will get you a subdivision home on approx. 6000sft of land! ???? Time to move to Idaho lol!

  35. Ashleigh E. says:

    Love this! There’s totally a place for everyone–a shopper who’d rather hunt for just the right place, an editor who takes a great space and elevates it, and a creator who thrives creating from scratch. Each has it’s own pro’s and cons, but I get inspiration from all three types even though I’m definitely more of a combo hunter and editor than a creator. Thanks for sharing your reasons why you’re renovating over building!

  36. Maya says:

    We’re renovating a 600-year-old house in three Czech Republic, and I wouldn’t trade it… Though after living with reno dust for three months (EVERY wall or floor has to be torn up to put in heating and new electricity) I definitely can’t see myself living constantly in a reno zone like you guys! It’s so gratifying to figure it out, though, and you can’t build age in trees or houses!

  37. Liz M says:

    I totally agree that a reno is much more fun to ‘watch’ and follow along with on the Blog.

    My hubby and I reno’d our first home and then custom built our forever home about 4 years ago. I think living in our first home and renovating was super frustrating to my hubby where nothing was square and ceilings were old. Wires run everywhere lol.

    The area we live in is hard to find good ‘middle’ homes – its all tiny old homes or mini-mansions! We wanted a 3000 sf home and couldn’t find it. We built only our main floor with the builder and have a big unfinished basement to reno ourselves in the future. Best of both worlds.

    The landscaping was the hardest for us to get over – between the fence, driveway, deck and actual landscaping plants we are in about $50k yikes!

  38. Allyson H. says:

    We have friends that are building, while we just purchased an older home that we are renovating over time. I personally think I would get overwhelmed with all the choices and decisions that comes with building custom. I prefer to work within the confines of what is already there and make changes slowly over time. I do love living vicariously through my friend’s builds though! And, fortunately for them, their lots already have mature landscaping that they’ll get to keep!

  39. Ellie Cox says:

    Have had two sets of friends over the years design and build their “dream house”. Because we moved we never got to see the finished houses but both families Sold their dream house within ga year after finishing. I don’t know the Whys of that but it feels significant.
    I too, enjoy watching the Reno process. Sometimes I do wonder about people—why buy that house in the first place if you dislike so much about it, but that’s a subjective thing.
    Having a good location and mature landscaping can’t be overrated really. And since you guys are supporting your family via Instagram and your renovations it makes sense you might not even have viewers if you bought a house you truly loved from the get-go. Nothing to do but decorate. So that is a consideration too.
    We’ve learned a lot from our last few houses. The one were in has had more renovations than any of the others and it’s the smallest house of the bunch. Crazy. The one we had built was a great design by a very good builder and every single option we paid for felt like a good investment all the 4 yrs we lived in it. {patio sliders instead of windows, extra lighting everywhere offered, and extra cabinets }. All the items we passed on that seemed so popular with other buyers we never had a moments regret…{one of the 4 (included) granite choices instead of fancy granite, an open office space instead of extra bedroom, basic tile instead of trendy tile and mosaics, etc.)
    And one more space comment. A Huge No for this smaller house was the rally small galley kitchen. Almost a deal-breaker. But with some added cabinets, paint, better appliances, and a little tweaking of the function of the space, I’m finding it a great kitchen to work in. So surprising.

  40. Kelly says:

    Not to mention renovation is a more eco-friendly choice as well.

  41. Anne H says:

    Thanks for this post! We recently moved into a 1990s house in a location we really like. While there have been some updates to the house since it was built, I have lots of plans in my head! We had been in a 1956 rambler that we loved for the character, but with 2 kids I just felt like we’d outgrown it… I had a good friend build a couple of years ago and I was so jealous that she had gotten everything she wanted, or most of what she wanted, in the new build right away. I thought that’s what I wanted to do… but it was just out of our price range. And I think honestly, I’m glad we couldn’t afford to build because I may have regretted it. Our new house, while needing some updates, has beautiful, mature trees, isn’t too far out from the heart of our metro area and is in the same school district our kids were in previously. Also, with the current disposable society, I like being able to “reuse” things and make them new again, especially houses!

  42. Mirror says:

    No one has really mentioned new construction, and this is what my husband and I go back and forth on. I too want mature landscaping which you never see with new construction. But we’ve looked at a lot of homes, and the new construction just has such a superior layout that we haven’t found in older homes.

    But I can’t stand the idea of paying top dollar and choosing 1 of 3 “interior design packages” with no choice of alternate flooring, cabinets, etc. Plus, with a new home then we are the guinea pigs when it comes to finding out what corners were cut or mistakes made. I’d be happy paying top dollar if we had more choices in finishes or we could find a reputable builder instead of 1 that builds as many as possible as far as possible, but we haven’t come across any.

    • SusieQ says:

      This. I love the idea of building our home, but am not interested in choosing one from a pamphlet. If we build, it will be fully custom, but that is not cheap. So we’ve tweaked here and there on the 2 houses we’ve lived in so far, and are generally only looking at existing homes for our next one (in the next 1-2 years).

  43. Danielle S says:

    I learned from watching my parents build a home that it was not something I was interested in for myself. My husband and I are big DIYers and we bought an older home in our area for reasons very similar to yours. To build the house we bought would’ve been a lot more than we wanted to spend! And while we want to change a lot, there’s a lot we liked about it! The charm of an older house can be very hard (and expensive) to capture in a newer build.

  44. Karly says:

    While building a new, custom home would be amazing, I have to agree when it comes to renovating. We bought our home 7 years ago because it was in our dream neighbourhood, and had a large lot with mature trees. The house itself was original to 1981….windows, green shag carpet, oak cupboards. My husband and I are DIYers, so we have been updating and upgrading over the years. While we might be restricted when it comes to size and general layout, we can still make big changes to make our house work for us. We also are very close to paying off our mortgage, being in our early 30s, which we probably wouldn’t be able to do if we had built new or bought a newer house. I am really enjoying watching you transform your home, your Instagram page is one of my favourite follows!

  45. terri d. says:

    Luckily, I got to learn that building a custom house is hard through my parents…by the time they finished figuring out where all the plugs and switches should go, they were exhausted and didn’t have any interest left to pick out the lights and other more exciting finishes. I also think it’s huge to live in a space and see how you use it rather than thinking you know exactly what you need ahead of time…happy renovating!!

    • Betsy says:

      So much this! My mom sold her house, and moved into a maintenance provided townhouse community. So she didn’t have to worry too much about decisions on the exterior. Just minor things. But the inside was exhausting. She could not make a decision without me giving her the OK. Every light switch, electrical outlet, recessed light. The decision where to place them, and how many to have was brain draining. The second guessing yourself was even more exhausting. It was stuff I had never thought of at all, or I guess just took for granted. There was not much “testing” of products in the space either. No checking out how a paint color would look in the lighting. It all had to been in place way before they began that part of the process. This was just the interior. So I am all for renovating. Plus after her place was finished, and living with it for a while, she was quite unhappy with some of the things she did. So no living in the space to see how you will best use it option available. I don’t think I would ever build from scratch. For all the reasons Julia said in her post as well.

  46. Jaime says:

    We bought and gut remodeled our current home bc the lot size/character/location was perfect and impossible to obtain with new build. I much preferred renovating to our prior custom build (my husband might disagree ????) bc to me living through the whole process was exciting and allowed me to make changes immediately as they were happening.

  47. Julie says:

    Honestly, as a consumer of this type of content, I enjoy watching renovating A LOT more than new construction. It is way more inspiring to see someone take something dated and ugly and turn it into something new and beautiful. I agree with your reasons 100 percent. I just really appreciate all the ideas you guys share, it helps me and I know so many others.

    • Laura says:

      Yes, I agree! Going from the ugly before to the amazing after makes renovations SO much more fun to watch as a fellow consumer of this content. I also follow some professional designer/new build accounts, and sure they have some ideas and some eye candy, but it lacks the entertainment value.

  48. Katie says:

    My husband and I love renovating. We have renovated 2 homes and are currently building. Building is not cheap but we have done a lot of the work ourselves which has saved a lot of money. Our reason for building came down to lack of inventory. It would take us years to wait for a larger home, so when we found a lot in our desired location we decided to take the plunge. I think your home is beautiful and I would renovate a home ten times over if it came with the beautiful property that you have! Thanks for sharing your journey!

  49. Debbie says:

    I know it’s probably not the same in Idaho, but out here in the northeast, things are pretty congested and building is becoming less and less of an option. Besides that, there are so many “almost” homes just waiting to be saved. I am very cranky about the trend out here to knock down an older home with tons of potential in order to build several big, ostentatious homes on the same lot, with no site or landscape planning whatsoever. It just brings everyone’s property value down when a town supports that kind of building. *soap box rant over* All this to say that I fully support your choice to renovate. :-)

  50. Teresa says:

    My husband and I have done both – we remodeled our first home and then we just finished up building our new home this past summer. I have to say, while it was so fun — sometimes, haha — to dream up something from scratch (we were able to design and build it ourselves, so we were able to do a custom home without the big price tag), I still have a huge spot in my heart for remodeling an existing home. I think older homes have an existing character that is tough to recreate in a new build without spending a crazy amount of money. I also love the challenge of working with what you have and making it into something even better. And, like you mentioned, it’s nice being able to live in the space while doing projects. All that to say that I don’t regret our new build, I just love older houses and reimagining spaces. :)

  51. Christine says:

    With 3.5 acres you also have the option build something from scratch on your land. I think there was potential mention of a guesthouse one day?

  52. Emily says:

    Four years ago, my husband and I purchased a home built in 1978. It was a foreclosure, which meant it was a steal–and needed a tremendous amount of work. We’ve spent the last 4 years doing absolutely everything to the house, from a new roof and HVAC to new trim, paint, and flooring. We pretty much gutted it and started over.

    We lived in the home throughout the renovation and while that was stressful, in retrospect it’s made us incredibly grateful too. We did a lot of the work ourselves, and I find myself looking around our home and being reminded of what a labor of love those projects were, and how meaningful it was to work on them together. Was living in the middle of a construction zone stressful and frustrating? ABSOLUTELY. But the finished product was well worth the effort.

    Renovating a home was all about being intentional for us; thinking through how we live and how we want our home to function. We also love that our older home has unique architecture and features that we may not have chosen ourselves (our home had a fire pole going from the top floor to the basement!) but add to the charm of a house we have successfully made our own.

    For us, there is just an incredible feeling of satisfaction and pride in taking something old and run down and making it beautiful again. Our house was a disaster when we bought it, but we fell in love with the potential we saw–it was the worst house in the best neighborhood. Many people told us we were crazy, which is probably true, but we made the home shine again and I can’t begin to describe how great that feels. It was a beautiful home that someone loved years ago, and we felt like we were saving it.

    We work stressful jobs with long hours, and our home is truly a “safe place” for us both. It didn’t start out that way, but every step of the renovation process was us sitting down and thinking about how we plan to use the home.

    That being said, we have one last project: our master bedroom and bathroom. It was the first room we tore apart when we moved in and the last thing we got around to doing. We just closed the door and pretended it wasn’t there (we’ve been staying in a guest room). After 4 years of working through every other project ourselves, we decided to hire out this one. Like you, we saved the money to cover the cost. We know we are perfectly capable of doing the project ourselves, but we’re tired and burnt out–and paying someone else to do it ensures it will be done faster and probably with better results. It was tough for us to make that call (especially my husband) but it just made sense.

    Would purchasing a brand new home built the way you (think) you want it be much easier? Perhaps. But I love the feeling of making the home mine, and the best way to chase that feeling is to roll up my sleeves and do it myself.

    • Julia says:

      In our last house, we ended up hiring out the last project too! Our bathroom. We were so burnt out and it was so wonderful to design it and have someone else do all the heavy lifting. Haha

    • Dawn says:

      I had to laugh since we did the exact same thing — master bedroom and bath last on the list! Funny how we all make that the last priority.

  53. Liz says:

    I’m with you Julia. Every reason you gave above makes perfect sense to me. I really enjoy following along on your projects.

  54. Amy says:

    We’re considering selling and building because we have a lot of skills and friends in the trades that we’re confident we can get our cost per squarefootage down significantly. Our hope of building is to build something very modestly designed/sized specifically for our family, and something very energy efficient. Our family also kind of loves the idea of living in a trailer for a year to give you a good taste of needs vs wants in life ;)

  55. MT says:

    This is a fun conversation guys!

    The hypothetical nature of building is too much for me – like for example you couldn’t tape off the fireplace and adjust until it’s perfect because it could go ANYWHERE! All the little details that come from living in a space and fully understanding it and making it perfect are worth the renovation to me i think. Tweaking, not building from scratch.

  56. Melissa says:

    While a new build is enticing (I can make ALL the decisions!!) to me the real beauty is making something old new again, and breathing life into a space that maybe someone else forgot about or was tired of.

    I also worry a new build won’t have that feeling of home – that feel you get instantly when you walk into a house and say “this is it. This is home.”

    Thanks for taking us on your journey! Love love love watching it unfold.

  57. Nicolette says:

    One reason I wish I would see more renovation rather than new builds is because a lot of those older homes end up falling into disrepair and making surrounding property values go down. You end up with whole neighborhoods that were once the prime place to live being heavily avoided and becoming the places of poverty. Beyond that, forests and farmland are rapidly being overtaken to create more residential areas which destroys the natural ecosystem for animals and wildlife in the area.

    • Christina says:

      YES, THIS!!! Nicolette, you are spot-on. There are so many homes on the market (depending on your area, of course). I’m in Denver, and while the market has been kind of crazy here the past few years, there are always homes to buy, and new builds are comparable if not more expensive. We’re also getting massive urban sprawl as people are buying homes farther and farther out of the city to reduce costs – which then is threatening ecosystems and natural habitats. I think it’s generally much better for the environment and community to buy an existing home and renovate. THANK YOU for bringing this up!

  58. Lindsey n says:

    There are times with a renovation, that i get upset because of previous owner or builder mistakes that i hate having to spend money on. Those are the moments I wish we would have built. Landscape maturity, however rundown it got before we moved in, is still better than nothing at all. And, in the long run, quirky houses are hard to build from scratch. The quirk, which is my favorite part of a reno, comes from redoing previous owners choices and making creative choices for otherwise ordinary things.

  59. Courtney says:

    We bought a house 9 years ago and there isn’t one thing that is the same in it. Literally. Nothing. We moved walls, tore down walls, filled in sunken rooms. We bought it for the location and size of the lot.

  60. Aminah says:

    Julia, this post feels like a Godsend right now in my life. Just yesterday while staring at our gutted kitchen I was saying to my husband that we should have just built a brand new house and been done. Reading your thoughts about the topic is a great reminder of all the reasons we chose to buy and remodel instead of building. Hope you have a great week and can’t wait for the pantry tour!!!

  61. I’m on the same page as you – I think renovating > building. You can change things as much as you want when you renovate, plus you can’t buy charm. Charm only comes from buildings with a history (in my opinion).

  62. Marina says:

    As someone who is in the midst of building new construction, I WISH I had taken a bit more time to decide to do massive renovations before moving in! With my home, as soon as we started to take down walls, it was clear the home could not even support the new renovations. We ended up having to demolish it and start over. Of course, my new home will be beautiful and safe and shiny and new – but it’s a much bigger project than I ever anticipated taking on. Had I taken more time to think about what I truly wanted, I would have moved in immediately and made changes over time. Regardless, it’s so fun to follow along with other blogs and get inspired. I can’t wait to design my own fireplace in the next few months! Thanks for taking us along for the ride.

  63. Danna says:

    This blog post is so good! My husband and I are about to become empty nesters. So we have lots of options (luckily) of whether to stay in our current home; move to the country & build; renovate; etc. We have been going back and forth on whether to find a pre existing house & renovate or buy land & build. Building makes me super excited but also very scared! We have always bought in a neighborhood and picked the finishes (jewelry) of the home. Buying land and building would be a dream but we have no experience.
    You have brought up some interesting points. I agree…landscaping is worth its value especially in Texas with the heat!

  64. Sabrina says:

    I’ve often felt that building means too many options; I seem to need the limits of something already built to actually make decisions and move forward. If starting from scratch EVERYTHING is an option and it’s all just too much. Limits can help.

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