7 Questions to Ask Before You Build an Addition to Your Home

Three kids, a dog, countless toys, two hamsters, and a fish and you're busting at the seams of your once-perfect-sized starter home. But moving is out of the question. You love your neighborhood, the kids’ schools are great, and your house is full of so many good memories. So you’ve settled on an addition. What do you need to know before you start?

Will you build up or out?

Should you build on out the ground floor or add another floor to your home? Think about the size of your lot. Does it make sense to squeeze your new master suite into your postage stamp lot? Are you planning on retiring in your home? Climbing three flights of stairs to your new master suite might not be as easy 50 years from now. Talk to a builder or an architect to find out what will work best for your home.

Would you prefer a custom or modular build?

If you want a pretty straightforward addition, you might want to think about going the pre-fab route. Most of the work will be done off-site in a factory, which will end up saving you time and money. If you want something a little more complex, you’ll probably have to hire an architect and have everything built on-site.

Are there any zoning restrictions on your property that will affect what you can and can't add?

There might be a rule about how close you can build to the street, or to your neighbor's property line. Some cities even have restrictions on how high you can build. If that third-floor master suite is ruining your neighbor’s view, you might have a zoning problem on your hands.

Does your HOA have any restrictions or rules about what you can do to your home?

Your homeowner's association almost definitely is going to have rules about additions. Check your bylaws and let the board know what you’re planning. It might seem annoying, but if you break the rules your HOA probably has the right to fine you or even put a lien on your house. This is not a case of "better to ask for forgiveness than permission." Breaking the rules could cost you a lot of money, time, and heartache.

How will the addition match your house and fit into your neighborhood?

Even if there are no rules telling you how to match your addition to your house, you should still consider how it’s going to work with the existing structure. And while you’re at it, think about the rest of the neighborhood too. We’ve said it before. But really, you’re going to have a hard time selling your five-story house in a ranch-style neighborhood.

How much value will your project add to your house?

Sure, the space is going to be functional. But when you took out that HELOC to pay for the addition, you were probably expecting it would add value. Crunch the numbers before you start to make sure it’s worth the investment. Make sure the additional equity is somewhat in line with what you'll spend on your addition.

How will my taxes and homeowners insurance be affected?

Hopefully, your addition is going to add value to your home. The downside to that? Your property taxes and homeowners insurance are going to go up after the new appraisal. Make sure you get those numbers before you start.

So, ready to get started? Adding on can be a lot of fun. Especially when it's over and you have new space, built to your needs!