Deciding whether to stay in the house or move out during a home remodel is a major consideration.
Of course, there are many factors that will affect your decision, but if you’ve ever lived through a remodel, you’ll support me in advising everyone to get out and stay out as long as you can, if you can. It is NOT fun to live in a construction zone and it certainly tests the patience of the best of us.
Let’s consider the major factors that will affect your decision…
- Do you have a place to stay in the interim?
- Do you have young children or pets?
- How large is the scope of work on your project?
- How long will the project take?
- Is the additional expense feasible?
Do you have a place to stay in the interim?
This is HUGE. If you have somewhere to escape to short term or short-ish term and for free, it will make a BIG difference. This usually means staying with parents, other family members or possibly a close friend.
This helped good friends of mine who literally rebuilt their house from the ground up and moved in with her parents for about 18 months during the process. This was feasible when they were just a small family of 3. Now that they’re a family of 5, it would be less desirable, but they were smart to build their family home in anticipation of a larger household.
I’ve had several clients move out temporarily while work was being done in the home. In fact, I encourage this every single time. Knowing the project timeline is key in the process. It’s much more palatable for all parties involved if you know that you’ll be roomies with your generous host for 4 weeks or 6 weeks or 6 months.
When no cost accommodations are not an option, short term rentals are ideal. I had a client move into an apartment for 3 months last year while we gut renovated his entire house which included 2 bathrooms and a kitchen and everything in between. We had clients who stayed in their rental home until their lease was up before moving into their new house which was undergoing renovation. My sister is currently remodeling her house and she and her family have moved into a short term rental during the process and extending her summer vacation to visit family while they figure out where they’ll stay upon their return as they’ll have another 2-3 months of construction before the house is habitable.
On another note, I had a client who slept in a sleeping bag in the evenings in the house to save on rental expenses. It was just him as his family was relocating from another state once the house was finished so he made it work.
Do you have young children or pets?
It’s one thing to “rough it” as adults, but when you have young children or pets, it’s another story. Construction sites are messy, dusty and semi-dangerous. Navigating the construction land mines may be tolerable to a grown person but if you have toddlers or pets who want to run around everywhere and your environment is not suitable for their adventurous spirits, it’s best not to live in the house during the remodel. The constant worry of someone possibly getting hurt is not worth the aggravation, especially during the initial phase of demolition when walls and floors may be open and wires are exposed. The client who moved into an apartment for 3 months had 2 indoor cats. He had considered having them stay in the house until they couldn’t and I had to encourage him to move them out from the start. I imagined them escaping and the contractors having to chase them down. Not a good scenario. If you have young children or pets, it’s best to relocate during this process.
How large is the scope of work?
What are you having done? Is it just a bathroom or a kitchen or are you redoing the entire house? Are you adding on? Which rooms will be affected during the process? This is important to know as that’ll affect your daily lifestyle. Obviously, if it’s just one room, it’s manageable to stay living in the home. With a client of ours, we started with the upstairs hall bathroom and gradually moved to other rooms in the house over the course of a year. It didn’t make sense for them to move out over one bathroom renovation. Of course, if you’re doing a bathroom renovation, it’s safe to assume you have another bathroom to use during the time the one is undergoing work. If you don’t, living in the house may not be an option unless you’re my sister who bathed her girls in the kitchen sink and she and her husband showered at the gym. You do what works for you. A kitchen is a little more difficult since you won’t have another kitchen to use but you can set up a temporary kitchen with a microwave, toaster oven and hot plate to get you through the few weeks yours is out of commission.
How long will the project take?
This is the million dollar question. Whenever I plan out a project, I can guestimate how long it’ll take to complete based on how large the home is, how quickly decisions on materials are made and whether or not the home will be occupied during the renovation. The majority of our projects are completed within 3 months. These are full house remodels with gut kitchen and bathroom projects. This is doable when contractors are not working around people living in the home. We can demo all the spaces from the start and go gangbusters with everything that needs to be done such as plumbing, electrical, framing, etc. without having to accommodate for electricity to be available for people living in the house or that a bathroom still needs to be functional. Those are all roadblocks that slow down the process. If homeowners can vacate a property, it will definitely go faster.
Is the additional expense feasible?
The bottom line is, moving out can create additional expenses that may not be an option. If you don’t have parents, family or friends that you can stay with for several weeks or possibly months, you’ll have to pull up your big girl panties/big boy briefs and suck it up! And suck it will, I promise you. No sugar coating it here. Just keep in mind that there will be several days during the process when you’ll still need to vacate the property such as when hardwood floors are being refinished. A few nights at a motel is the most cost efficient way to manage that.
Take it from someone who has lived through renovations in my personal homes and live it daily with my clients. I can’t stand the mess of a construction site when I don’t live there, so imagine the inconvenience when you do. I stayed at my sister’s house just before they moved out and there was no heat since they had to cut the gas to begin the work in the basement. It was December! in the height of Winter! in San Francisco! It was fr-eee-zing! No thank you.
Ultimately, you have to do what’s best for you and your family and what will fit your budget. My biggest advice, build in alternative housing into your budget. It’ll save you stress, save your sanity and possibly your marriage…no joke. Good luck!