The Homeowner’s Dilemma: Buy/Build New or Renovate Old?

Image of the front of a red brick house, in dappled sunlight Here at Myers Constructs, we see clients facing this decision a lot right now. In fact, I am feeling it myself!

There seem to be a few forces at play. During COVID, we all felt like our houses shrank around us because we were not only living in them, but also working and schooling in them. Then after COVID, home prices surged significantly. Many of our clients saw their home’s worth reach 1.5-1.75 times what they were pre-COVID, leaving them to wonder whether they should make a move in the hot seller’s market. But, in order to buy a “move up” house, they found they would typically need to spend more than 2.5 times their home’s current value — which means they usually decided that it was wiser to renovate or add onto the house they are in now than to buy or build their “dream house.”

We’re also seeing more of the following trends:

  • Clients are moving from more expensive locations like NYC to Philly because they get far more for their money here.
  • Families are combining their wealth and living together multi-generationally.
  • Renters are paying up to 30% more than in pre-COVID days, making it cheaper to buy a “fixer-upper” now than to rent, even with higher interest rates.

In each of these cases, we help our clients clearly understand the value of investing in upgrades to their homes, and then we create and implement a plan for making those improvements. Our clients are thrilled to find that their old spaces now feel fresh, are aligned with their personal style, and offer all of the amenities their families require — from reorganized modern spaces to larger footprints and beyond.

Does your old space need new life? Contact us to start a conversation today.

Split-Level Home Renovation

In 2020, our friend and associate, designer Hannah Dee, called us in to renovate a 1960s split-level ranch in Northeast Philadelphia. This is a great, fun, easy-to-live-in house that is near and dear to Hannah’s heart, as it belongs to one of her close family members.

Generally speaking, the house was in pretty good shape, having been maintained and improved over the years, but it needed some 21st century updates and a great whole house design to pull it all together. With whole house design, we listen to how the homeowner wants to use each space, we observe how the spaces flow together, and we make adjustments to improve them both functionally and aesthetically. Having lived in the house for decades, this family had built many memories and collected pieces of cherished mid-century furniture and artwork. While some items were donated to museums and charities, others were scheduled to return to the house when it was done, so a big part of our task was to create spaces for these beloved items to be used and enjoyed.

Some highlights:

  • In the laundry room, we knew the client wanted a colorful and cheerful space to fold laundry and store supplies for her four large dogs. Tamara designed a high folding table with storage below for the pet items to replace the full height storage closet, letting the light in and helping the laundry room feel bigger. In this same space, Hannah selected bright colors, patterned fabric, and a painted floor inspired by the works of Matisse.
  • We added site-built cabinets at the stairs to the laundry to display other special items.
  • In the colorful kitchen, we opened the wall to the dining room and corrected some structural issues that had caused the ceiling to drop, working hard to design solutions that hid all the structural supports. With the wall open to the dining room, the room is light and airy — a bonus for the display shelves we built to showcase our client’s collectibles.
  • We removed the multiple heating systems and added one new heat and air conditioning system. Removing all the baseboard radiators that were popular when these houses were originally built freed up wall space. We re-wired the house and added new lighting and modern outlets.
  • We remodeled the two baths and powder rooms, making sure each felt open and light with all new fixtures, fittings, and finishes.
  • We updated the master closet with custom storage designed for the client.
  • We removed the hollow doors typically used in these mid-century houses with upgraded shaker-style panel doors that are finished with the black-and-white color theme of the house.
  • Updating all the rooms in the house allowed for custom touches for the client while we brought in all of the behind-the-walls upgrades.

This project, like most, was shut down when COVID hit. As we were allowed to return, we managed the many new working rules, supply chain issues, and other delays, and love seeing the bright and cheerful completed project. We are so happy to finally be able to share finished project photos with you. Tamara and Hannah love collaborating on projects like this for clients. It was nice to work together for family on this one — especially during such trying times!

How Myers Constructs Can Help You & Your Home in 2021 — Part 3 in a Series

Not Ready to Be Your Own Renovation Project Manager? The Owner’s Rep Solution

You already know that Myers Constructs specializes in the design, build, and general contracting of a wide array of renovation projects for residential and commercial properties. What you may not know is that we can also assist you in working with another general contractor by acting as an “owner’s representative” on your behalf.

In the role of owner’s rep, we take the stress out of managing your home renovation project by putting our decades of expertise to work for you. After all, project management is a profession that you are likely too busy to handle and, more often than not, it doesn’t match your current skillset. In many cases, we find that clients prefer to focus on their day jobs and hand off the responsibility for project management to our team.

What does this type of arrangement look like? In the early stages of your project, you may have an architect and/or contractor already lined up to do the work, or you may still be interviewing them, comparing pricing and personalities. We can help you understand the proposals you’re studying and make an educated decision about whom to hire.

Once that decision is made, we represent you throughout the renovation process to make sure you’re getting the project that was designed for you and receiving the full value of the substantial investment you’ve made in it.

We first meet with you, the architect, the designer, and any major contractors early in the process to establish expectations for working together and to communicate the dynamic that will take place: In other words, that we will be fully acting on your behalf and representing your best interests in this project.

As the project moves along, we oversee quality control, push the schedules forward, and help guide the general contractor and their team through to completion. Throughout the process, we keep a close eye on managing deliveries, communicating any issues with the designer and architect to make sure we have what we need when we need it — because we understand all too well how a missing plumbing part or electrical item can set a project back many weeks! While the architect or contractor is responsible for permits, we’ll stay on top of communicating the status of these items directly to you.

From start to finish, we act as a liaison in communicating with the architect, designer, GC, and you to help solve (and often avoid) problems throughout the project. And we send you daily updates that keep you apprised of progress as we see your new space through to completion in a way that meets your discerning expectations.

If this sounds like a fit for your next project, please reach out to discuss your specific needs. We look forward to assisting you as an owner’s rep.

How Myers Constructs Can Help You & Your Home in 2021 — Part 2 in a Series

Your Partner in Property Purchases

Are you considering buying a primary home or an investment property? If so, you already know that there are many complicated layers to this life-changing decision.

Generally speaking, you’ll spend more on a home you plan to live in, and you’ll be there for at least seven years, during which you’ll be looking to build a cushion of appreciation and make it as comfortable and attractive as possible. For most of us, our home not only houses us, shielding us from the elements, but it communicates to us and others what is important to us.

Your goals for a rental property will be much different: you’ll want it to generate positive cash flow, last a long time with minimal maintenance, and hopefully also produce appreciation. Of course, if you’re investing in a unique commercial property situation like adaptive reuse, rezoning property, doing land development, or building new construction, there are even more specific challenges that our experienced team can help with, as well.

Before you make an offer in any of these scenarios, we can help you understand your prospective property through the lens of the necessary construction, zoning, fixes, upgrades, and ongoing maintenance items it will need in the future.

We can even join you on a property visit to gather answers to important questions like:

  • What attracted you to a prospective house? Looking at what you love, we can get a good feel for how it can be made even better — including what that will cost and how long it will take to achieve.
  • How well is the home built? By examining the major systems and infrastructure features, we can tell a lot about the overall construction quality of the property.
  • What year was it built, and what are some common issues and concerns associated with that construction era that you should look out for?
  • How does this property compare to similar ones in the area — and how can you maximize your rental or resale potential? By analyzing quantitative data, we can show you whether it’s worth adding that third-floor addition, new kitchen, or extra bathroom.
  • What are the permitted uses and changes that are possible for a primary home? Together, we can look at options like future additions and other structural upgrades.
  • What are the problems the home inspector found, and what will they cost to fix? Which ones should be considered “deal breakers”?
  • What is the highest and best allowable current and future use for an investment property based on its zoning? For example, you may want to subdivide a single-home property into multiple lots and homes or expand a one-level commercial building into something like a low-rise condo.
  • How can you design an investment property to maximize cash flow, force appreciation, and/or put plans in place now for future payout?

The answers to all of these questions will help us provide an overall outlook on whether a property is the right fit and a smart investment for you. Unlike a home inspection, our home buyer’s service addresses not only physical problems with a property, but it also helps assess the emotional or quality-of-life issues you will face in achieving your dreams for your new home or property. We look forward to discussing the exciting possibilities with you!

How Myers Constructs Can Help You & Your Home in 2021 — Part 1 in a Series

The COVID-19 global pandemic has made each of us change how we live. The vast majority of us and our children are spending the bulk of our time at home while learning and working virtually, which has highlighted the ways in which our existing spaces may fall short of meeting our needs.

As a result, we’re seeing an uptick in requests for a wide variety of project types that will help our clients get the most out of their home and enjoy it to its fullest for many years to come:

  • Large-scale additions
  • Impactful project combos like kitchens with laundries and powder rooms
  • Mudrooms and bathrooms
  • Creating privacy within family spaces for home offices, study areas, and creative studios
  • Whole house remodels where we touch every room in the house

We invite you to visit us on the web, Instagram, and Houzz, where you can see the wide variety of “soup to nuts” project solutions we offer that include design, construction, decor, and color — even our own line of Myers Made™ custom cabinetry. As you can see in the photo above of Tam at the pre-COVID 2020 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, we make it a priority to stay on top of new products and industry trends that we incorporate into our signature projects, in contrast to firms that simply execute projects without vital expertise in design and strategy.

After you gather some inspiration, let’s connect and discuss your needs. We’d love to help you achieve the dreams you have for your home in 2021 and beyond.

The Details That Matter

You may recognize this deck image from our Facebook and Instagram accounts last week. It was a popular post that generated a lot of questions and interest, so we thought we’d share the backstory with you.

We came up with this little railing detail maybe 20 years ago, and we now use it on all of our decks because it’s a superior solution. Here’s why.

When you work on older houses, you have to take things apart as a part of renovating. You see what worked and what did not, and how long it lasted. You see how the people who did a section of work maybe 10, 20, or even 100 years ago thought about how to put something together — and they set you up to be able to fix it easily when it finally wore out. We always notice this, and we think about those people, who may no longer be alive, but we hope they hear us thanking them.

You also see what didn’t last or work at all, like renovation “coverups.” Maybe an old plaster wall was peeling a little paint or had a crack in it, and instead of repairing it properly, workers just layered over some paper or paneling. Then that failed a few years later, and they added another layer of something. Finally, we come in and fill a dumpster with all of the layers we need to remove just to get back to the nice plaster so we can finally repair that little crack or missing section. It’s a wasteful use of resources and time.

Inferior materials and quick-fix solutions simply don’t last. We’ve had to pull out almost every 1980s kitchen or bathroom we’ve ever seen because the materials and construction methods were not of good quality during that time. The big box stock cabinets get wet, swell, and deteriorate very quickly — they don’t even get old enough to wear out. Meanwhile we see 100-year-old bathrooms still working. The wall tile might have a thin settling crack, or the lead drain may finally have given up, but for the most part, the fixtures and finishes are still working. That’s pretty remarkable.

In working on decks over the years, we’ve seen that simple 45-degree corners on railings always open up after a certain point. So we came up with our solution that is a combination of a butt joint and a mitered joint that has more attachment surfaces and less area to open up. It’s not much harder to do than a simple 45-degree joint, but it performs substantially better. It has since become a calling card of sorts for us.

Tamara and I want to be like the builders of those 100-year-old bathrooms. We want to build projects right the first time so they last. Sometime in the future, some other carpenter will come along to replace the worn out railing we put in, and they will thank us for making their job easier for them. And in the meantime, our clients will “spend once.” They won’t have to repair that capping anytime soon.

In the Works at Myers Constructs

In South Philadelphia, we’re busy working on a large-scale renovation creating a 3-story house with 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms from an existing 2-bedroom, 1-bath, 2-story house. The plans call for adding a 3-story addition in the back as well as a 3rd floor master suite. The house is currently a shell, so it’s going to need everything, including a lot of masonry. Of course, the house is also vacant — which is a must with such a big project.

Northwest of the city, we’re also working on a high-end bedroom project in a lovely Lower Merion house. We’re turning what is now a simple, boxy bedroom into a luxe retreat featuring custom glass pendant fixtures, handmade wallpaper, custom furniture, upcycled large-scale hand-carved Asian doors for the closets, and many other rich textures and colors. All of the decor was selected by one of our interior design partners, Hannah Dee Interiors, with whom we’ve worked happily and successfully for many years.

With home sales in high gear, we’re also fielding calls for home renovations that people want to do before they move into their new-to-them homes. These projects include kitchens, baths, laundries, bedroom additions with storage spaces, decks, basement renovations, and resolution of various issues found by home inspectors.

Each of our projects presents unique challenges in light of COVID restrictions, but the solutions are mainly an extension of the core values we’ve always adhered to:

Prioritizing Safety — Our teams and homeowners all mask up when we are working in their homes or having meetings. We maintain strict compliance with standards for sanitizing work spaces and maintaining safe social distancing.

Encouraging Client Flexibility — Most homeowners understand our need to do more exploration of their project, budget, and time frame before we schedule time to meet in person — which keeps everyone a bit safer. When working in their homes, clients routinely offer us exclusive use of a bathroom and dedicated work site spaces.

Doing Our Homework — Every township has a different permitting process and requirements: some are online, some are in person with restrictions, and some are closed to new projects. We’re well versed in navigating this process, thanks to decades of experience in doing so.

Contingency Planning — Many materials — like plywood, pressure-treated wood, some plumbing items, flooring, and tiles — remain hard or impossible to get. Clients often happily provide us with second and third options so we can pivot and keep projects rolling. We also encourage adjusting contingency budgets up front for materials like lumber, which has seen a 20-40% price increase.

We’re thankful to be staying busy creating beautiful spaces that make people happy. We find that, as in all things in life, understanding and flexibility go a long way at this time.

Home Renovation Problems & Solutions in the Era of COVID-19

After general contractors were given the green light to resume home renovations in early May, the process has looked and felt a lot different, thanks to COVID-19 — not only for us, but for subcontractors, vendors, and homeowners, too. What does this mean for people who want and need work done on their homes right now? Having a well-organized design build general contractor with solid plans in place and great long-term relationships with their vendors and subs is essential to getting any project done right now.

As we navigate a host of challenges together, here is a top-level look at some of the most common issues we are all currently facing, and how our team is making the process as smooth as possible for our clients.

Problem: Supply chains are being disrupted.

Solution: Starting at the end of 2019, when the coronavirus pandemic hit China, we started seeing delays in products that were normally in stock, including everything from carpets to tile to hardware. Because these disruptions are continuing, we are implementing earlier order schedules and, when possible, “second choice” options so we might pivot in the case of longer delays.

Problem: Vendors are limiting service hours.

Solution: In order to protect their workers, many vendors are limiting their hours of service and discontinuing “walk in” service for the time being. We are working closely with our vendors to make the most efficient use of their time to keep projects moving along smoothly while also keeping a top priority on social distancing, safety, and cleaning measures.

Problem: Subcontractors are backlogged.

Solution: Our subs are working 6+ days per week to catch up on project backlogs. We’re communicating openly and proactively with both subs and homeowners so everyone has a clear picture of their project’s major milestones and completion dates.

Problem: Inspectors are backed up.

Solution: The City of Philadelphia is still closed, so new permits are currently stalled, and other township offices are either limiting hours or closed. We are working to have all paperwork as complete as possible on our end, so we are ready to hit the ground running when these offices reopen.

As a company, Myers Constructs has over 25 years in general contracting experience, with over 50 years combined experience between Tamara and Diane as owners who are personally involved in each of our projects every day. Please reach out to us to discuss your upcoming renovation plans. We’ll walk you through our process of keeping projects on an efficient timeline with a commitment to the highest quality outcomes, keeping you updated regularly so you rest easy and leave the worry to us.

Reflections on New Homeowner Realities in the COVID-19 Era

Wow, what a different world we live in now. After our first week of more normal working conditions, we thought we’d take a few minutes to reflect. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all been spending all of our time in our homes — working, cooking, and watching television — but now that the warmer weather is here, homeowners are finding other ways to unwind and enjoy their outdoor spaces. We have definitely noticed an increase in requests for new beautiful and transformational outside spaces.

Do any of the following scenarios sound familiar to you?

  • You’re spending more time outdoors, but your porch, deck, or patio are in serious disrepair — or you need better equipped exterior cooking and entertaining spaces.
  • You have a grill outside but wish it was a more complete outdoor kitchen.
  • It’s almost swim season, and you need a cabana room or dedicated powder room and entryway to your pool area.
  • You need more outside storage or dedicated spaces for items related to outdoor hobbies and recreational equipment.

Myers Constructs has been around for a long time. For that reason, you can be assured that we know how to successfully navigate an array of design-to-build projects even during uncertain times, like those we’re currently experiencing. We have a deep bench of highly talented tradespeople that we’ve worked with for decades. So even though the pandemic creates supply chain challenges and complicates scheduling, we know how to manage these problems in order to get your project done efficiently, beautifully — and safely. Tamara and I both have completed our OSHA COVID-19 training as part of our commitment to creating safe environments for our work to continue.

Great News: Home Renovations Resume

We are pleased to announce the news that we’ve all been waiting for: Governor Wolf has cleared the construction industry to resume work starting today, May 1. We are excited to move projects that have been in our design queue into construction — and to take on wonderful new projects for homeowners who have been dreaming about transforming their spaces but waiting to get started.

Of course, our focus will remain on the safety of our clients and our teams going forward. In addition to the typically careful and clean work spaces we maintain, we will follow the stringent new guidelines established by the Governor and the Secretary of Health. They include standards for social distancing, cleanliness, and mask-wearing, limits on the number of people on site at any given time, the appointment of a safety officer, and more. We will also continue to hang signs on our job sites outlining the measures we are taking.

We would love to discuss the changes you’ve been envisioning in your own home and how we can help you achieve your goals for better living through transformed spaces. Click here to get the conversation started. We’re happy to answer any questions you many have, and we look forward to hearing from you!