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Home "Improvement" Idea


inthehotsun

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I have a small Heights bungalow with an even smaller backyard. One side of my house literally sits about a foot from the property line. I was thinking of adding an extra room in the back, but a neighbor told me (who has experience with building "stuff") that if I were to get a permit, I would have to build the room 3 feet from the property line, which would basically make the room not worth building due to its size.

So, here is what i was thinking:

When you come into my house now, there is a hallway with my bedroom to the right and then the livingroom to the left. adjacent to the livingroom is a diningroom and then the kitchen.

If you continue down the hallway from the front of the house, there is the bathroom.

My house is almost shaped as an L with the lower part of the "L" being the one bedroom. (It used to be configured where the livingroom and the diningroom where the bedrooms, but I like having dinner parties. :)

Anyway, this is what I am thinking of doing...when you come into the house, on the left and the right will be the two bedrooms...when you continue down the hallway, the wall between the current diningroom and kitchen will be knocked down to create one big common living area (livingroom, diningroom and kitchen). It won't be a "huge" area but it's okay-sized. (I lived in the East Coast and by those standards, this would be a mansion.)

Would it be weird to have the bedrooms in the front of the house and the living space in the back of the house? How will that impact resale value?

I don't want to totally mess it up but at the same time, it's the only way I can afford to make an extra bedroom given the contraints I have of (1) no backyard; and (2) house sits too close to existing property line so building extra bedroom in the only "free" space will be too small due the 3-foot limit.

I cannot afford to build a second story nor can I afford to sell my house....I couldn't afford a house in the Heights at this point in time.

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can you upload a quick sketch of the current and proposed layout? in the meantime, this being houston, nothing you do will ever be weird enough. a room's only a bedroom when you put a bed in it and as long as you don't have something really odd like walking through bedrooms to get to the living area I think you'd be okay. as long as what you do is well designed and well built I think you'll be in good shape.

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My house is itty-bitty so 10 feet from the front and you'll be in the common area, but your comment is exactly my concern about this plan.

i have attached a very basic drawing in Word.... :)

top drawing is current plan; bottom drawing is what I have in mind.

The little hash-marks are my "attempt" to show where the entries are.

House_Idea.doc

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explain again why you can't take in at least part of the area on the top right? if you did that you could have a small master suite (albeit to the only bathroom in the house), then have a cased opening on the left as you walk in through the front door. that would split the house more or less down the middle, a "public" living/entertaining area on the left, "private" bedrooms on the right.

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the yard behind the kitchen is not big enough to build anything.

Ideally, I would like to build the bedroom in the area inside the L but again, with the limitations I have with that side of the house sitting a foot from the property line, if I had to push it back, it would probably be....maybe 12 feet...whatever ever it is...believe me, it would be small and I'm just not sure if I could justify spending that much for an addition that most people would come in and say, "wow. that's really small" when I can get that same reaction by just knocking a wall down and spending a lot less. :)

I'm in austin so cannot run outside to measure so I apologize for the estimates.

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To answer Sidegate's question, due to the house currently sitting quite close to the property line (i guess when they divided up the land who-knows-when, they didn't care that it sat a foot from the property line), the top on the left would have to be pushed back at least 3 feet...and that would cut into the proposed bedroom.

Ideally, that's where I would want to build but I can see a bedroom with 16-18 feet x ~18 ft. being an okay size, particularly for the size of the house, but 12ish x 18 seems a little small and weirdly long and skinny shaped to me.

And if I just tear down the wall, I can still preserve the little backyard I do have, too. If I build the bedroom in the right-hand corner of the L, I basically wipe out my backyard.

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And before y'all think I am/was completely stupid for buying such a small house,...probably right (I didn't think about needing more space. Again, I have been living in the East Coast so it seemed HUGE to me)....

I bought it for $137,000 almost five years ago and going thru the refinancing process now and it was appraised for $185,000 so.....

It's a really cute house, lotsa charm and character, and in the Heights close to the new bike trail on Nicholson.

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you seem to be thinking more in terms of resale so anything you do will I guess be dictated primarily by that. in this city a buyer's as likely to knock down an itty bitty bungalow as anything else no matter what size the bedrooms are. the master suite in the add-on to our bungalow is microscopic by mc mansion standards but it fills our living needs. even in the case of resale, anyone who is even looking at a house as small as yours probably won't be put off by small bedrooms. if they are they need to either have a lot of money or go to the burbs.

Edited by sidegate
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good points that i didn't even think about.

and for the record, i do plan to live here for about 5 more years and then I see myself moving to austin. so, while not an immediate concern (resale value), i know in five or so years, I will be thinking about it and don't want to do anything stupid now that i will regret in the future.

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A 12 foot wide bedroom is not that tiny. Suburban homes built in the 70s, 80s and 90s all routinely had 10 and 11 foot wide bedrooms. That is small for a master, but not for a guest room. Even 10x10 is tolerable. Once you go below 10 feet, though, it is small by every standard.

If you are looking at resale, make sure that what you spend will be returned. Generally, resale goes by price per square foot. So, if the original house is 800 feet, and you add 200 feet, if the additional footage is not recovered by the higher value, it was not a good "resale" move. You may enjoy the extra footage, but it did not gain you equity. The other way to look at resale is if it is a teardown. In that case, it will go by land value, which in the Heights is currently $35-40 per square foot. On a land value basis, adding on will never be a good move.

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I have a small Heights bungalow with an even smaller backyard. One side of my house literally sits about a foot from the property line. I was thinking of adding an extra room in the back, but a neighbor told me (who has experience with building "stuff") that if I were to get a permit, I would have to build the room 3 feet from the property line, which would basically make the room not worth building due to its size.

Do you have your survey? It should have a set back line on it. When the builder built your house he probably got a variance to move the setback line. If the move was for the entire property then I would guess that you have a fighting chance that you can add on your room at the 1 foot line. I certainly would not go forward with some rigged plan because a neighbor said your set back is 3 feet.

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And is the $35/40 for just land? What is the average price per square foot for the "improvement" on the property in the Heights? It's probably hard to get an average given the two-to-three story monsters that are being built around me going for $300,000+ on itty-bitty pieces of land.

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My home was built in the 20's so no clue what they did. I doubt they had to worry about things like that.

And what's a setback line? Is it clearly marked on the survey? How can I tell what is the setback line?

a setback is basically an area setback from the property line where you can't build. many times the setbacks are defined in the deed restrictions (should the area be restricted).

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My husband balked at the idea when I presented it in our own house due to having to move the height of all the wall plugs, but have you considered moving the kitchen/living/dining forward and using the existing kitchen as the bedroom so it would be closer to the bathroom?

You should call the building permit department and talk to them about the setback. Developers get variances all the time for building on setbacks--no reason why you couldn't ask for a variance so you can build where you want to.

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And is the $35/40 for just land? What is the average price per square foot for the "improvement" on the property in the Heights? It's probably hard to get an average given the two-to-three story monsters that are being built around me going for $300,000+ on itty-bitty pieces of land.

$35-40 is the price per square foot of land. On smaller houses, the psf can range from $200-250 for a good remodel. Some even go higher. Don't worry about the McVictorians for comparison purposes, but they generally fetch around $200 psf.

a setback is basically an area setback from the property line where you can't build. many times the setbacks are defined in the deed restrictions (should the area be restricted).

The side setback is usually for fire protection. With a fire rated wall, you might be able to get closer to the property line. I doubt you are deed restricted with that undersized lot, but check your deed to make sure.

Oh, and fire rating is cheap. Usually, a one hour fire rating is simply two sheets of drywall instead of one.

Edited by RedScare
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I'm back in Houston and took out my survey. How do I know what the set back line is? Is it marked somehow? I see a line with double slash marks that is different from where the property line is and different from where my house is built.

Is that the set back line?

I don't have a scanner so don't ask for me to download my survey. :)

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I have been thinking about it... I think you should ignore your neighbor and figure a plan based on what you want. All you need for a permit to remodel is a drawing and it can pretty much be on a napkin. But if you really want to be safe, make a copy of your survey, draw the plan you want and take it to the Permit office, if they are OK with the idea, they will issue the permit and charge $35 to $75 depending on how much you estimate the project to cost. The worst they could say is no, and then you could pursue all those other options, like requesting variances...

Cheers

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We added on to the back of our bungalow in Norhill Heights in 2006. The deal with the setback, at least the sides of the property, is you have to be at least 3 feet from the property line for a "normal" wall, but you can make it 2 feet if you build the addition with some extra fire resisting materials. This is not very expensive or difficult, but the catch is you can't put in a regular window - not fireproof enough I guess - but glass block is OK. Also, you can't have any roof overhang, which changes the construction a little bit, but it's not a big deal. I can't see your proposed drawing due to my crappy work computer, but if the addition is in the back, no one will ever see the odd-looking roof. This is what we did and it worked out great for us.

Also - regarding the return on your investment if you sell in 5 years - it can depend on what the addition entails. We added on a 3rd bedroom and a den, which brought us up to 1450 sq ft from 1050 sq ft. We refinanced our mortgage this year and were appraised - on paper anyway, our value increased in proportion to the cost of the addition. There just aren't many 3 bedroom bungalows in the Heights which makes the supply small. People don't buy bungalows because they wanted a big house and yard, but these days 1000 sq ft is not much space - it seems to me that people paying over $200,000 for a house will readily pay a little more for a house that's truly useful for having company over or setting up a home office etc.

And finally...our 3rd bedroom (the master bedroom) is 12x13. It's all we could squish into our little lot. It's not big but if you put in a decent sized closet (we did), it works fine. As far as bedrooms in the front...check out the new house section of the sunday paper...a lot of new suburban houses do just that, so the living area at the back of the house is huge and overlooks a backyard. Seems to me this would work on a smaller scale OK too.

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