Remodel and watch your “investment” plunge in value: 2011-2012 data is worst in 9 years

home sweet money pitHow much money will you make on that lovely new kitchen or bathroom when you go to sell your house? Oopsy — likely not one penny. In fact, according to the 2011–12 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report (, released last week, you will lose 30-35% — or more — on most home remodeling projects, even “mid-range” ones. This gap is the worst in nine years, since the survey began in 2003. For example, a “minor” $19,588 kitchen remodel? Expect not to recoup — that is, expect to lose — more than $5,000 on that “investment” when you go to re-sell. Debbie Downer reports…

This much-cited Remodeling Cost vs. Value research report is completed annually by Remodeling Magazine, and includes data gathered in collaboration with HomeTechPublishing, the National Association of Realtors and Realtor Magazine. It looks at 35 popular home remodeling projects, year after year, to assess the returns (read: losses) of each project upon resale. The magazine does a really nice job reporting the data and explaining the survey on their website – see it here for info on costs vs value for each project.. and there are regional reports, too. Ugh, I think that I am also reading that the gap between remodeling costs and value recovered on resale (loss) is the worst since the research was started in 2003.

One of the biggest pet peeves in my life, I’m serious,
is the way these findings are soft-pedaled every year

For example, Reuters covered this 2011 Cost. vs Value report, and here is one of their sentences:

Remodeling projects earn back 57 percent, on average.

True enough. So I cannot argue. But, this is definitely a “glass half full” way to state the findings.

Hey, let’s pretend they were talking about the U.S. stock market — say, the Dow Jones Industrial index — instead. Would we see this headline:

The Dow Jones Industrial Average earned back 57% last year.

Or this one:

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 43% last year (sending the world into another global Great Depression.)

I repeat, hitting thee over the head: ‘Earning back 57%’…means you just lost 43%. Every project, every situation is going to be different, but taking these numbers at face value, chances are, you are not improving your home’s value with remodeling projects if you count the money you put into the update. You are going to come out with le$$, not more $$.

In other parts of the Reuters article, the message was ‘more in your face’ about the gap. But to me, the story did not seem ‘alarmist.’ It was kind of… peppy. Ack! These numbers are dismal, shocking. Even in “bubble days,” the return was only 76%, that is: The loss was 24%. Am I missing something?

love the house you're inOne of reasons this blog’s tagline is “Love the house you’re in” is that I *think* I have long understood that unnecessarily “updating” your home to reflect what is trendy today is not a particularly sound financial investment. In fact, what’s trendy today… will likely be ‘hideous’ in about 10 years. In the same vein, I also read somewhere that even getting the 50%-80% return/20%-50% loss indicated by these figures assumes near-immediate resale… that is, today’s updates begin to depreciate, immediately. So, contrary to a lot of what’s in the mainstream: We talk here about keeping your “outdated” vintage bathrooms and kitchens, if they are in good shape. And if renovations are required, I am an advocate in choosing styles that are harmonious with the original architecture of your home — in this way, your interiors will be “dated” to match the date of your house.

Spend money on your house? Of course! Americans love their homes, and are likely to continue to want to improve and update them. Moreover, a home can be one of the greatest life-investments you will ever make — in creating memories for yourself, family and friends… for providing a creative outlet… for building and being part of a community. So, you will want to make it “yours.” But, get back all the money you put into the modern new kitchen and then some? No no no! Read the report, and be thoughtful and realistic about the goals of your remodeling projects … unless money is just not an issue.

Data cited © 2011 Hanley Wood, LLC. Complete data from the Remodeling 2011–12 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at

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  1. jeanne says

    Ah, the “greatest generation.” My WWII vet father and mother bought their first and only home in 1952 (1200-1400 sq. ft. story-and-a-half brick bungalow) and lived there until my dad retired (a teacher) at 55 in 1980 or so. They never did ANY major remodels. The most they ever spent was probably new living room furniture a couple of times, besides regular maintenance like a new roof, etc. They had the same linoleum floor and brown tile kitchen counters the whole time. BUT, they paid it off and raised three kids in the meantime. They retired to Florida to live in the home my grandpa left them. My dad is now 87 and has been retired longer than he worked!! That won’t be an option for most of us ever again!

    I bought my first home in 1981 for $45,000 and my monthly mortgage payment was just under $800 (17.25% at the time!). I’m in my fourth home now and it’s a small brick story-and-a-half 1952 bungalow and my mortgage payment is roughly the same (a little less) with a 5.325% interest rate. As we sold and bought new homes (well, they’ve all been built in 1948-1952) any profits we made just went into the down payment of the new homes, so it’s really been an even playing field along the way (except my last home where my 2nd husband put a $65,000 2-bedroom/1-bathroom addition to accommodate all the kids). We lost money on that one.

    Not really realizing until I started following this blog, but EVERY house I’ve bought has been as a second owner. I realize now why. I LIKE the fact that each house really didn’t have many updates and were all pretty much original to the late 40s/early 50s time period that they were built. I just wasn’t attracted to homes that had multiple owners and MULTIPLE updates from multiple periods of time. Weeks away from finalizing my 2nd divorce (not to be a “Debbie Downer”) and I’m living in my bungalow by myself. It’s just the right size and easy for me to manage and do updates. I used to joke that I’m middle aged and in a starter home, but it’s more realistic to live in a smaller home as a “finish” home. I’d much rather spend my time doing things I enjoy than worrying about how I am going to take care of my home. Although I just discovered a roof leak and need to deal with that. ugh.

  2. Marion Powell says

    Wow! What a great topic. It’s so interesting to hear how others are riding out this depressed housing market.

    I really am thankful for this blog and finding it. I used to look for the faults with my house but now I think of all the great things about it. And when I want to redecorate, I go with what I like and keep it as cheap as possible without losing the effect I was going for. For example, I used some free white tile and added some not too expensive delft tiles as accents in my kitchen backsplash. It’s homey, old fashioned, unique, and not a bit boring.

    Also, I’ve always complained that we never made any money on our houses when we moved for job reasons. But I am so glad we were able to stay in this house for 16 years as opposed to the 2-3 year average in our previous houses. And as I mentioned before, I’m loving it more each year.

  3. EngineerChic says

    I’m struggling with this dilemma now. We moved 2 yrs ago due to a corporate relocation & we lost a TON of money on the house we sold (close to $90k). As a result we bought a house that is dated & needs some help.

    I’ve always been the kind to say, “If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right.” So I buy the more expensive windows & doors, I insulate the heck out of the place, and I stick with the same level of trim on the outside.

    We have the money to do a dormer addition, and we need the extra light & space & air circulation upstairs. We never plan to move – I’ve told my company that I’m staying put (and since that was my 3rd move for them, I’m well within my rights). But I almost want to cry when I think of the money leaving our savings and never coming back.

    I can’t say I regretted the previous homes & the work we did on them, but I know we’re $90k behind where we would be if we’d chosen to rent. It’s making it hard to feel good about renovating again – even though I want to.

  4. clampers says

    I know I am a day late to this conversation but wanted to add something about the “starter home”…do other people on this site think that the whole concept of a “starter home” is a crock? Or do you all support that idea, of buying small and then “trading up” later on?

    I am 28 and my spouse and I just bought our first house, a 1968 rambler with a walk-out basement…4 beds, 3 baths, 3 living rooms (ha!), fireplace, 2-car garage, deck, patio…because the basement is finished, the whole place is approx 2,300 square feet.

    We got a steal of a deal on this thing! This is not a starter house! We decided that, since we are young with student loans up the wazoo and the economy is…unpredictable at best, we should find a house that we could LIVE IN for a loooooong time. This meant that we had to expand our search outside of our beloved city limits and find something in the (gulp) suburbs. Yeah well who knew living in the suburbs was so awesome! We love it! (I know there is a lot of support on this site for pro-suburbs.)

    Coincidentally, we both got pretty sizable pay increases after we closed on the house. So instead of paying $1,100 per month (which is what our mortgage is), we pay $1,400 a month and plan to make an extra payment at tax time. It’s a great feeling to look at that total the next month and see it actually MOVE.

    So, the starter home…isn’t that just a concept coined by the real estate industry anyway? Or am I totally off on that one? What happened to buying a house that you can raise your kids in, retire in, even die in? (Because it’s a rambler, we really could grow old in this house, minimal stairs and whatnot.)

    Anyway, I don’t want to make anyone mad or step on toes. Just voicing my humble opinion. :)

    • says

      Recently wrote about the joys of my 70s suburban neighborhood on my blog. Moved there for the same reasons you did–it’s practical and affordable. I can’t believe there aren’t more people who’ve figured this out! (Well, I predict it’s the next big thing…) We got a great house for a great price. Our only complaint: The “updates/upgrades” that are the topic of this post. We’re the 4th owners, and we’re trying to figure out what to restore, what to keep, what to go new with, and where the sanity line is (so we can walk it). We hope to be where we are (and love it) for a good long time. I see myself only making one more move in my life–to a smaller place once our kids are grown and gone. Maybe that’s the ender house?

  5. JKaye says

    Great topic. We had our modest ’59 ranch on the market for awhile this year. We don’t have to move, we just would like to be in a similar house in the same part of town that has a better floor plan and more garage space or a basement for my husband’s hobbies. We took the house off the market after a few months when we got so little interest. We knew going in that any profit that we made on the place would go toward the agent’s fee, but, we had been willing to do that to get into a house that would meet our needs better. But when we realized we’d be dipping even deeper into the equity to cover that fee plus closing costs on the next place, which was also going to have a bigger price tag, we got less interested in moving. On top of that, most of the houses we were interested in had had kitchen and bath renovations that we disliked, with ceramic flooring in those giant squares that seem way too big for the size of the room. Those renovations were a big reason why the houses, which were similar in size and location to our current house, had the bigger price tags. I found I can handle living in a house that has an old kitchen/dining area I don’t like. But I can’t handle moving into a house that has a newly renovated kitchen/dining area I don’t like!

    • Zoe says

      I feel exactly the same way! I can deal with an old house with a funny layout, but it irks me to pay more $$$ for someone’s idiotic idea of an “upgraded” kitchen. I’ve found more ranch houses with horrible 1980s and 1990s kitchens in the than you can imagine, with 200K+ price tags, that I’d have happily bought for the same price if they only had their original kitchens.

  6. JKaye says

    Oh — so we took the house off the market, and our Realtor was great about it. She thought we gave it a good try. Now, we have a bunch of stuff in a storage unit that we cleared out of here to make the place look better, and we don’t want to bring it back in because we love how open and clean the house feels now. So, I think we will do like Gavin shared in a different post, and dispose of things and feel less burdened. It certainly makes this house much easier to live in.

    • Ian says

      Interesting this topic came up yesterday. I bought my 1946 house 8 years ago,I was in my 20′s and making a lot less money than I do now. I had my heart set on a descent 40-50′s house in a nice neighborhood that was mostly original.

      This was back before the bubble really grew,but even houses then were selling within a few hours of going on the market.I had my heart set on a couple neighborhoods in particular. I wanted a keeper house. I put an offer on a few houses,one a time capsle that even though I bid over asking price,someone came with a cash offer. (Turns out a flipper who renovated it and made it a rental..then selling it. aaargh! At least I got the Youngstown cabinets off the curb )

      I ended up “settling” for my house. It’s not in the greatest location,and had had renovations over the years. Oh well,it had potential and I figured it was a “starter” and I could fix it up and profit to trade up to a house I want in the neighborhoods I wanted.

      While the boom was in full,I felt like a fat cat,and was VERY happy I bought when I did because I’d be renting.

      Fast forward to now,I look online at houses for sale in the neighborhoods I wanted,now they are dirt cheap and have been on the market for months. Interest rates are also down. Houses I could only wish to have are well within my reach-If only I didnt have to sell my current house! Good luck doing that now and have enough to pay realtor fees and closing etc.

      Frustrating,but at least I’m not upside down or lost tons of money like some of you guys have. I don’t feel quite as bummed now. ;)

        • Ian says

          Good question. It’s something in just the past few days I’ve started to really consider. I need to stop speculating and being discouraged ,and look into it to see if I can pull it off.

          There’s a semi- time capsule 1940 house in the neighborhood I originally wanted to be in that’s calling my name. My sister and her fiance really like my house,I’ve been putting the bug in their ear to buy it the past couple days. ;)

          • pam kueber says

            If you can sell directly to your sister, you would avoid real estate agent commissions….that’s a 6% saving (as I recall) that you could “split” with your sister as an incentive right off the bat!

  7. Lauryn says

    Great post, Pam. Another point to consider is the life time cost of the loan. We bought our house (in Iowa) in 2006 with a considerably higher interest rate (6.75%). When we decided to do some work on it, we were able to refinance with a modest cash out (to do the kitchen) at a much lower rate (4.8%) and a shorter (20 vs. 30 year) term. By doing that, we are actually paying $32K less over the course of the loan and will have a new/old kitchen to boot.

    And just as an aside, every one thought we were crazy when we left Seattle to go to Iowa, citing, among other things, the fact that housing didn’t much appreciate here. But we were buying a home, not something to flip, something we could never have done on the west coast. And you what? In one of the worst economies we’ve seen the value of homes in our town has significantly increased … by nearly a third in many cases. So sometimes when you buy a home for all the right reasons (a place to live!) rather than to make money, you’ll do okay. And we do so love the house we’re in.

  8. Jay says

    Ugh! I cringe when those realty shows have prospective house buyers whining because the kitchens have formica instead of granite and stainless. All for show! I’ll let the next owner of my home worry about the house being current and trendy. I intend to stay put until I fall off my perch. All my money has gone into basics – roof, furnace, etc. The houses in my neighborhood that have gone up for sale have been priced too high, I believe that the owners are trying to recoup reno dollars – the emphasis is placed on New, New and New finishes.

  9. Lisa says

    Hi Lauryn!!! I think you must be the one I know who made that same move to Iowa.

    I love this blog but have never posted because our new historic house is a 1909, so many of the style tips here don’t really apply. But the advice to stay true to your house is right on! We have lots of infrastructure work to do, so our budget is going to roof, electrical, etc. But after that if any money is left we are turning to the tarted up kitchen asap. Luckily they didn’t put in anything really pricey that I will feel guilty ripping out, but the faux French is really unlovely and way too frilly for the clean Arts and Crafts lines of this place. I will probably leave in the fake Victorian window trim and molding because thankfully it is confined to the kitchen and only about 2 decades off period for this place.

    Most of this house has been left alone except for what must have been some wild paint colors over the years. Red! Green! Chartreuse! The baths are newer but renovated obviously for love not resale, and I like them as they are.

    • Lauryn says

      Okay, I knew a fair number of Lisa’s in Seattle (which is where I’m assuming you’re from!). Hints, please???

      And welcome to a great — and my personal favorite — way to see your day slip away! Love, love, love RetroRenovation!!

      • Lisa says

        I’m the parent of Julian — that might be enough hints. Love RetroRenovation! I usually take it in small chunks throughout the day because I peek in at work.

        And so odd, because “Iowa” (your particular quadrant, even) and the name Lauren/Lauryn have come up multiple times for me today in different venues. Must be in the stars for us to connect like this.

        • Lauryn says

          Thought it might be you!! Shoot me an email at our website (still the same one). And give Julian a hug for me.

          And Pam … do come to Iowa! Lots of great mid-century homes here, not just old farm houses (which are wonderful too).

  10. christa says

    Hello! I just stumbled across this blog while doing some reno research. Great blog for resources!

    My husband and I recently bought an architect designed 1958 mid century. The home had only one owner so the original mahogany cabinets and vintage yellow bath fixtures were all still here. Unfortunately, they had done some remodeling – they put granite in the kitchen, and some unattractive tile on the fireplace surround. They also installed wall to wall carpet, a giant wall of mirrors in the dining and kitchen, and put awnings (!) on the wall of glass windows. No wonder we got a bargain! So far we spent money to restore the hardwood floors and resurface the concrete on the lower floor. I felt it was worth it to do those things while the house was empty. We also did some needed plumbing and electrical updates, roof repair, installed a new furnace, new w/d, new tankless hot water heater, and sump pump. Those were things that were upkeep/repair of old, worn and dangerous items that came up during the inspection. In decor, we managed to remove the ugly fireplace tile – underneath was a gorgeous original concrete treatment. The awnings and mirrors came down, and I’ve carefully patched and repaired the tile, the wood walls, touched up paint, replaced hardware, replaced hollow core doors (hate those). It’s really fun for me to do. So far, I would expect to break even on all these things since the sale price was below market (due to the house needing all that stuff, plus the ugly mirrors and awnings ;-).

    We really wanted to update the kitchen and bathrooms. We would do a careful job, keep what we could and stay true to the house, same footprint and character, it’s just the appliances are over 20 years old, and the leaking (just a tiny bit) fixtures in the bathrooms need replacing. Once you start looking at plumbing, it has been my experience that you end up having to open up the walls and floor — there’s always a leak hiding somewhere.

    With a 56% rate of return like cited here, we decided to do what repairs we can and wait for the economy to improve. The only problem with that is the deals to be had these days on fixtures and appliances, plus good plumbers, carpenters and electricians are available and eager for work right now.

    I think if your house has character, it’s important to keep and restore that. Thanks for having this blog with so much information on where to find the materials to do so.

    • pam kueber says

      Welcome, Christa, it sounds like you have a gem of a house and that it has gem owners! Hey, be careful with the *u*-word, though, because there are lots of us that luv our awnings and walls o’ mirrors. It all just depends on your house and taste! Re renovating the kitchen and bath — I would always tend to advise live in your house at least a year before you go gutting anything — you can’t undo it — lots of regrets. Unless there are enviro or safety issues, of course! And, start hanging out here, dear, we’ll have you loving those old appliances in no time! :)

  11. christa says

    Thanks for the welcome. No offense intended to awnings and mirrors in general, just mine in particular. Imagine purple scalloped awnings on an Eichler A-frame type of window, and you may understand why I thought it wasn’t quite right. And wall-o-mirrors glued over mahogany paneling — not a great remodeling choice for the home. If I could learn to love those appliances, it certainly would save me some time and money.

  12. ClaudiaD says

    I’m not worried. We bought our house in 8 years ago and it’s still worth more than we paid for it.

    In addition, we’re not going anywhere. This is the house that our kids are growing up in and someday, when my husband and I kick the bucket, we’ll just leave it to them. That’s our plan, anyways.

    I’ve never had the “resale value” mindset. My idea is to maintain the 1958-ness of the house and keep it in good condition. We’ve installed a new roof, insulated the house, switched from an oil furnace to a gas furnace – and some day we’ll replace the windows.

    I’m curious – does anyone else not care about “resale value” when making decisions about their houses?

    • Just another Pam says

      Well, Claudia, when my ex walked in on my reno once he said…..”Well, you’re certainly not worried about resale.” So, no I didn’t worry about it, but I also know that given a month I can make the place generic market ready just like all the other houses I’ve had or leave it alone outside of fresh neutral paint and accept a slightly smaller buyer pool.

      Like you, I plan on leaving it to my son….if it’s long enough then it will most likely be sold to someone who’ll level it anyway…..there are two wee places a couple of streets over that are being sold as building lots for 26,000 less than this house cost. Transitional in town neighborhood by the river so I suspect all the older houses are on borrowed time. Sad.

    • gavin hastings says

      I have owned 2 homes…one for 23 years and this one; the last stop, for 8.

      My ex-realtor called my style….”Dollhouse”, and it seems to appeal to many.

      If your State offers it: I hope everyone has an Act of Homestead and a that your property is in a Trust.

  13. Alex Anderson says

    People in this country have short memories and, once conditions have changed, they soon forget that they were ever any other way. Historically, people have bought homes in order to have a place of their own to live in, not to flip them and make money. Under ordinary (non-bubble) conditions, you have to add value to something in order to increase the price – and, even then, there are no guarantees. Flipping houses is no basis for an economy. It’s an aberration that soon runs its course, as we’ve just seen, and leaves destruction in its wake. We have to change our thinking and stop viewing our houses as investments that will sooner or later make us rich. House prices will, in general, never return to what they were when janitors were buying million dollar houses and trying to resell them at a profit. Those house prices were inflated vastly beyond the actual value of the homes or of anyone’s ability to pay for them. If you think those prices will ever return, ask yourself this: what would it take for that to happen? The answer is that it would take a huge drop in unemployment and everyone to get enormous raises. Just how likely do you think that is?

  14. says

    I’m smack in the middle of a renovation of a 1950 bungalow (bought 2.5 years ago) and I’m getting that money pit panic feeling. The home inspector either missed or didn’t mention some major problems that would’ve made me back out of the contract. I saved for 2 years to fix what I was told were “minor” cosmetic issues and restore the 1950s charm that was stripped away in a 1970s remuddle.

    It turns out the whole foundation needed fixing and there are more things than anticipated on a very long list. It all has to be done. I’m doing a lot of weather proofing and I already added insulation, solar screens and a new electrical panel.

    The good thing is I picked an excellent neighborhood and an otherwise great little house. I know I won’t get all of the money back and that most of the big-ticket items are things people will never see, but I’m making the house livable for me for as long I’m there. I don’t plan to sell any time soon, and if I had to sell, I wouldn’t be able to without having all these things fixed anyway.

    So one way or another, the money will be spent. I choose to spend it to make the house what I want it to be.

  15. says

    Pam, I truly understand why people are so upset these days with housing prices and many have been hurt including members of my family and myself (sold condo in FL for 15% less than we paid in ’88 but in FL, three-quarters of the state is underwater … and my father-in-law is turning 97 and doesn’t want to go back).

    On the other hand, let me offer this comparison. Put $20,000 into the minor kitchen remodel, enjoy the new room for 5+ years and it will cost you $5,000. Instead of remodeling your kitchen, buy a new car for same $20,000 and 5 years later you’ve lost more than $10,000.

    If you eliminate the housing bubble and look at trend lines from 10 years ago, they’re mostly still positive but only the 3 to 5% growth that’s been true for many (pre-bubble) years.

    PS Fun seeing you hear after our fun at BlogHer.

    • pam kueber says

      Over the past 100 years, home prices have, on average, risen only 1% more than inflation. And, I don’t think that calculation takes into account the cost of maintaining of home and paying taxes on it. Another story to come on this topic. The point of this particular story: Don’t think of remodels as a way to make money, they are a way to lose money. Note, I was not at BlogHer….

  16. Just another Pam says

    I wonder how gentrification of neighbourhoods would factor in.

    If I look at the house we had before we moved to the country we bought it for around 150,000 but it’s worth, or, more correctly, would sell for around 550,000 or more now as it’s become a very hot area of town.

    • pam kueber says

      Yes, clearly there are exceptions. Averages are averages…there are homes that will do much better, homes that do much worse…Hence the 3 most important features of real estate: location, location, and location.

  17. Lanay says

    Hi – what a find to come across this blog! We have property we own with another couple–we own the l.2 acres of land (which costs too much to develop) and they own the house they remodeled about 10 years ago (on about 1 acre). We need to sell & they want to back out every dime they’ve spent on improvements/remodeling (into their pockets) before we take care of existing loans/realtor fees & splitting any remaining (?) cash. How can we determine what percent, if any, of these improvements are able to be recouped? Specifically: if I spent $250k ten years ago to remodel, how much of that can I expect to recover when I sell now? (what a mess!)

  18. Scott says

    I agree with remodeling equals losing big money if you have been brainwashed into thinking you need all new cabinets, granite counterops, marble floors, professional grade appliances, and whirlpools in the bath. Us thirfty retro folk who are smart enough to treasure the original cabinets and basic bones of our houses can pull off a room redo for peanuts in comparison.

    I think Kate’s kitchen remodel is a perfect example of what a keen eye, hard work, and alot of creativity can accomplish. How great that room looks for such a modest price has even inspired me to get the ball rolling on my own kitchen after years of feet-dragging because I thought I couldn’t afford it.

    I guess I’m just lucky I grew up in the laminate and vinyl era. :-)

  19. Bill says

    We bought our house two years ago and spent more what I wanted to spend–But it is located in a great small college town and the cul-de-sac /street takes a lot of pride in being neighborly. It is the street where people will stop their cars in the middle of the street to talk to someone of the sidewalk or the car behind them—that is King Street—we like to talk to each other. There are children playing on the sidewalks or riding their bikes. We celebrate birthdays, housewarming, and baby showers and graduations parties. We have the King Street phone/email listing that goes out whenever there is a change. What does this mean resale? A house for sale on King Street will sell by word of mouth. The last four houses (since 2012) sold that way within a month that way—one of the houses, the couple went to the owner and ask if they could buy it from him. The houses range from 1900 to 1950—no “state of the art kitchens” or “spa-like bathrooms” and hard to believe, but there are no HGTV interiors or Great Rooms either–Just your average American street. The prices for homes ranged from 125,000.00 to 290,000.00. The thing that we forget, it isn’t all the updates or features that make a house great or saleable, but rather the community and the neighbors that make living in the house worthwhile.

  20. Pat Wieneke says

    I realize this story has been around a while. But it is maybe more true now than when it was written. We bought our MCM house 2 years ago. Nothing had been done to it in 60 years….including a roof and paint outside. But because it was so well built, it survived. The previous owners used and abused the kitchen and we had to gut it and build new. I had a heck of a time trying to explain to the contractor that I wanted birch cabinets with a medium stain, a vinyl floor, and no change to the floor plan ….AND no walls knocked down to open it up to the dining room. The back splash is a bit trendy in that it has glass tiles in with the others, and the lighting fixtures are trendy too. But they can all be changed pretty easily by a future buyer. Its a nice usable kitchen and looks good and I think it will look good in 20 year or the 5 to 7 years that we plan to live here.
    The paint in the rest of the house was all sorts of trendy colors from the early 2000′s. Dark and intense. Not me and no longer in style. Not in style a few years before, either.
    My only issue now is the family bath. It is original and in bad shape and so profoundly ugly with some tile, some pine, some this and some that and worn out. It looks like they used the odds and ends of every other project the builder had. THAT I am going to have to fix. I don’t want to go fully retro, because the retro look is, frankly, a trend, too. Like Victorian. So I am going to go with a simple, clean and ageless style, even though I would love to go ‘pink’ in feeling and color, I think we will go with white or beige. Maybe some ‘pink’ touches, like lights, and hardware….easily changed in the future.

      • Pat Wieneke says

        Well, maybe I didn’t quite state myself clearly. Or we have different ideas of what trend means.
        My kitchen, for example has cabinets, floor plan and hardware that match the style and age of the house. They just happen to be new. The back splash and lighting are more the HGTV trendy stuff that can be easily changed.
        The bathroom is such a muddle of tile and wood and what not that I am not able to decide exactly what to do. The tile job in the tub/shower is beautifully done, but they bought different die lots of tile. And as the tile goes round the room it stops mid wall to turn into knotty pine. It makes me think of the Donnie and Marie song, “I’m a little bit country. I’m a little bit rock and roll”. I really do not think it was any sort of a style, but just the wacky taste of different family members duking it out in the bathroom decor.
        As far as the MCM style being a trend. I am in my 60s and I can remember when Victorian was THE thing to have and prices were very high for Vicotrian things. People were trying to make their 1950′s houses into gingerbread. Then Victorian saturated the market and frankly the prices for that style furniture are much lower than 40 yrs ago, when you take in account inflation. When I was in college, Craftsman style stuff could be easily found in the Junkateria or my uncles garage/man cave. Then it became so hot that you couldn’t afford even an end table. It is still pretty hot on the market. But not quite as much as say a few years ago.
        During those years, the great MCM designs were ‘ugly’, the ranch was boring. Now, some people are looking back at their grandparents ( my parents) ranch style homes and seeing how efficient they really were. Someday the 90′s are going to be cool to collect. Dallas Modern McMansions will be the hot thing to bring back . ( My I be in my grave by then).
        There are always going to be people, like many on this forum, who will never lose their love of a style. They truly see it’s beauty and place in history. But there are many, more fickle types, who loved it once and later divorced it for something different.

        • pam kueber says

          Yes, I understand your point now: Midcentury is ‘trendy’ now – among those who buy according to trends.

          This still harmonizes with my point — which is that midcentury is a bona-fide style that will always be appropriate to midcentury houses. (Same as Victorian to Victorian, A&C to A&C.)

          This whole situation also is consistent with the everylasting gobstopper repeating fact: Styles are popular, then they are unpopular, then some 40 or 50 years later they are rediscovered and they are popular again.

  21. Pat Wieneke says

    I think that if you do what needs to be done to keep the house in good repair and then remodle to fit your own tastes ( assuming that you bought the house because your taste tends toward it’s style) you are doing the right thing. We move too much and often not because we have to. Maybe the recent housing crash will keep us in our homes longer and we can see that remodling is for the betterment of our own life in the house, not so we can flip it.
    Also, with out the flipper mentality, maybe more high end things like windows and such will be used and we can take better care of our homes.

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