When to Tear Down a House and When to Remodel?

When it comes to real estate, there is one phrase that everyone knows: location, location, location. Most buyers are looking for the perfect location instead of the perfect house. So what happens when you find a home in the perfect location, but the home is not up to your standards? Do you choose to tear down a house or remodel it?

When you’re remodeling, it can seem like it would have been easier to just tear down the home. And when you tear it down, you may ask yourself if a remodel would have been a better option. It’s a typical “the grass is always greener” situation. 

At Urban Design Associates, we hope we can offer some clarity on this tough decision before you make it. 


(Above: Gainey Ranch remodel before and after)

Know What You Want Before You Decide

While it may seem obvious, if you know what your goals are, you will have an easier time making decisions early on. It will also help you stay on budget. You have your perfect location, so you need to ask yourself if the existing house can support what you want. 

 For example, if you want to add an outdoor kitchen, but the existing home has a pool in the way, you may need to consider remodeling the exterior entirely. 

Or consider this: You want to add three bedrooms to the home, but the existing home would only allow additions facing east and west. In the desert, this can be a deal-breaker and reason to tear down a house and rebuild. 

Knowing what you want early on will help prevent large changes down the road, which can stall remodel projects. Professional Phoenix architects can also guide you through possible situations that may arise in advance. Changing your mind as things move forward is unavoidable, but the more you can prevent that, the easier everything will go.

Also, be sure to know when you need permits to do what you want. If you are working with an expert, they will know about the required permits, but at the end of the day, it’s still your project. Make sure you are aware of and understand local requirements so you know you and your team are in compliance.

Know What Fits In Your Budget

If your budget is tight, you will want to stick with remodeling. Even a whole-house remodel is going to be less expensive than starting from scratch. 

The cost of a teardown will be about 20 percent higher than engaging in an extensive remodel. Plus, remodeling will allow you to adjust costs according to your resources and timeline. For example, you can remodel your kitchen and move to other rooms at your own pace. You can’t do this during a rebuild. 

The biggest takeaway of this tip is to add contingency funds to your budget so unexpected costs and incidental costs won’t break the bank. 

Consider the Long Term Costs of Tearing Down a House

When you’re thinking of a budget, always consider the short-term and long-term costs of rebuilding a home, versus remodeling. In the short-term, remodeling is more affordable. However, long-term expenses might be more financially prudent if you opt to rebuild. 

As soon as a home is built, it starts to deteriorate. Some things will need to be updated on a staggered schedule, like paint and roofing, while some items, such as your air conditioner and water heater, are going to need to be replaced around the same time. If you’re rebuilding a home, you’re resetting everything’s lifespan. 

This might not be necessary to consider if you only plan on being in your home for a few years, but if you plan on living there for 15 or more years, considering these future costs is important and can be the tipping point for deciding whether you want to tear down a house or remodel it. 

How Much Work is Needed?

You may want to remodel the home after considering your goals and your budget, but that doesn’t mean you should move forward with a remodel just yet. Always have professionals come in and inspect the home before you make any big decision. For instance, what if the foundation is bad or the ceilings are too low? 

A bad foundation will require a lot of work before the actual house can be addressed. Low ceilings are also a big job, as it’s not always that simple to have them raised. 

If you run into big projects like this, considering tearing down the home to avoid costly and expansive repairs and changes. 

Know The Zoning Restrictions 

Your area’s zoning restrictions might prevent you from building what you really want. Zoning laws govern the type, size, and location of buildings on any property. In a lot of areas, home rebuilds are restricted to the footprint of the original house and may limit the height of the new home. Therefore a complete rebuild may not be in the cards. 

Try A Feasibility Study

If you’re still unsure, a feasibility study can help clear up any of your uncertainties. A feasibility study is an analysis that takes all of a project’s relevant factors into account — including economic, technical, legal, and scheduling considerations — to ascertain the likelihood of completing the project successfully. In other words, it can tell you if a remodel or a rebuild is a better choice for your home. 

If you’re unsure and need a little help, contact us at Urban Decision Associates. Our feasibility studies don’t just stop at one site meeting to ensure your dream home is exactly how you want it: 

  • First site meeting to review onsite existing conditions and photo document
  • View study: A sun study orientation in relationship to city lights, lot, neighbors’, and scenic views
  • Site analysis: Location of the spaces depending on the clients’ needs and the results from the view study
  • First program meeting to review design criteria checklist and budget
  • First concept meeting to deliver on the concept site plan to meet design criteria

Give us a call to help you turn your dream home into a reality.


(Above photo: A floor plan as part of our Feasibility study process)