Renovate an Old House vs Building a New One

Renovate an Old House vs Building a New One

Sometimes we may be faced with deciding to keep an existing home or tearing it down and starting over. Is it worth keeping an old house and remodelling or renovating it or should you tear it down and start over?

How do you assess whether or not to renovate/remodel or tear down and build new?

It is important to get your architect, designer or engineer involved right at the beginning, even your realtor if you are considering purchasing an older house. You also need to find out what your local municipality requires when it comes to heritage houses.

If you already own the house and want to renovate, you may have an idea of what will need to be replaced and any restrictions that the City and/or the historical society has. However, if you are looking to buy an older house, you should be very thorough in the assessment of it.

Those who are thinking about acquiring an older house should enlist the help of their realtor to assist in finding out if the house has been registered with the local heritage society and what their requirements or restrictions are for remodeling and renovating. You don’t want to purchase an older house only to find out that you cannot put in a stand-up shower with modern fixtures next to the claw foot bathtub.

Other things to consider when thinking about purchasing an older house are: how old is the house? When was the electrical wiring last updated; has it ever been updated? How current is the existing plumbing? If you upgrade the plumbing (not just the fixtures), will the City require you to upgrade your sewer and water connections at street level? How much will that cost? What about insulation, windows, the roof and the foundation? When you purchase the house, these last items should be given first priority before anything else.

Remember, in the city of Vancouver there would be necessary to apply for permit for any upgrade in the house. If the house has older wiring and plumbing it is highly recommended to have it upgraded. Usually during the upgrade, the trades need to open the drywalls and run the new lines. Most important of all, you have to make sure the old house does not contain any asbestos. That can be determined by a certified contractor.

I had a client who was planing to do a minor renovation in their new bought home and after the asbestos test result came positive, they end up to remove the drywall from the entire house and upgrade their insulation as well.

I had another client who couldn’t make up her mind if it’s benificial for her to renovate or re-built.

Renovating might cost over $200,000 less (it depends on the each house and extend of renovation) compare to re-building, but if you ever thinking of re-selling the house, the title on the house will never changes as the date is built. It will consider an old house with a major renovation which might effect on your asking price determination.

Concrete meant to serve 100 years and if you buy a 50 year old house, it’s foundation passed it’s half of it’s lifetime. Spending $400K to $600K to renovate an existing house might be good for environment to re-use some of existing material and the style of the house, but at the same time you have check the economic feasibility of new built vs. renovation.

In summary, some things to consider if renovating are:

  • When was the house built?
  • Is your house designated heritage?
  • What is your budget and are you prepared to go over budget if needed to meet industry standards, municipal and heritage requirements?
  • Is there any asbestos in the house and how much does it cost to remove it if there is any
  • Will the electrical wiring need to be upgraded?
  • Will the plumbing need to be upgraded? Will that require new sewer/water connections?
  • Do the windows need to be replaced to get a better insulation value and how much that would cost?
  • Will the walls need to be deepened to accommodate thicker insulation?
  • Where will you stay; in the house or somewhere else? What is the cost of staying somewhere else?
  • Do you have children and/or animals that will be affected by being in the house or displaced during renovation?
modern bathroom designer

modern bathroom designer

And some things to consider if building new:

  • What is your budget? Is your budget flexible?
  • What are the building requirements for your local municipality?
  • How long is it going to take?
  • Where are you going to live while the house if being built? How much will that cost?
  • Are you going to use the house as an income property (rent it out) or live in it?
  • How long do you expect to live in the house when you are finished?

Check out the following blog posts on about renovations in Vancouver:

What You Should Know and Do Before Renovating Your House In Vancouver and

What You Should Know and Do Before Renovating Your House In Vancouver – Part 2

Here are some documents you can download to help with your decision-making process:

Design Team Meeting – Renovations

Design Team Meeting – New Home

Deciding whether to renovate an existing house or to tear it down and start over is when you definitely should seek the advice of experts. Ltd. is experienced in dealing with both renovations as well as new or re-built homes and has extensive experience in investment in real estate which can help you to make an inform decision. We are ready to answer your questions; contact us by filling out the form on our website or call 604-929-6696.

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Subdivision & Rezoning

Subdivision & Rezoning

What is Subdivision?

According to BusinessDictionary, subdivision is “a tract of land which has been divided into smaller pieces (called lots), usually for the purpose of constructing residences which will be sold individually.”

The information in this article is based on the information found on the City of Vancouver’s website. If you don’t live in Vancouver, but want to subdivide, check the website for your local municipality.

Getting Started

First, you need to find out if it is even possible to subdivide your lot. You will need to contact the City and provide them with the address of the property as well as the legal description, which you can get through the Land Title office.

At this point, the information is unofficial because a full staff review needs to be performed “before the Approving Officer can confirm the feasibility of subdividing your property.” Once you have an idea of whether or not the subdivision can be done, you will need to make an official request in writing or submit a subdivision application.

When submitting your application, you will need to know what type of subdivision you are applying for.

Subdivision Application Types

There are five types of subdivision applications. They are:

  • Minor
  • Intermediate to major
  • Dedications for road or lane
  • Joining properties; also called consolidation
  • Air Space

Air Space? Yes, you can subdivide air space. According to the City of Vancouver’s website “Air space subdivision” … “is a volumetric subdivision with both horizontal and vertical dimensions. It is commonly used to separate ownership in mixed-use developments such as buildings with both residential and commercial occupants. It allows each component to be financed and owned independently.” If you own a condominium, this subdivision process would have been completed before each residential and commercial unit could be sold.

Under each of the other subdivision types, the City explains what each one is and has a list of requirements that need to be met for each application.

Subdivision Approval Process

The approval process steps are as follows:

  • Preliminary proposal
  • Formal application
  • Proposal review
  • Public notification (determined by the approving officer)
  • Approval of a proposal or
  • Refusal of a proposal
  • Obtaining final plan approval

After your subdivision plan has been approved and signed by the approving officer, you have two months to submit and register the plans with the Land Title Office; after two months, you will have to go through the whole process again.

Capilano subdivision

Capilano subdivision plan


What is rezoning?

First, zoning is determined by the municipality in which you live and defines how the property can be used and developed based on where the property is located (neighbourhood) and the City’s visions and goals that are typically set out in their Official Community Plan (OCP).

Rezoning,” according to the City of Vancouver, “changes how a property can be used or developed.”

When making your subdivision application, you will need to know the current zoning and if you will be making an application to rezone the property.

There is so much information on the World Wide Web to help answer your subdivision, zoning and rezoning questions. If you are working with a designer/contractor, they are also a good source of information to help you through the process.

Building a new house is not going to happen overnight. Sometimes you see buildings go up fairly quickly, but in the background, before the ‘ground was broken’ on the project, a lot of work went into submitting applications, getting plans drawn up, receiving approvals, attending Council meetings and so on. Don’t get discouraged because when you finally move into your newly built home, it will all be worth it.

Contact us at to see how we can help you through the process. We’re here to help you.

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Tenant Improvements

Tenant Improvements

What are Tenant Improvements?

Tenant Improvements are changes made to the interior of a commercial or industrial property to accommodate the needs of a tenant such as floor and wall coverings, ceilings, partitions, air conditioning, fire protection, and security.

Do Tenant Improvements require a permit?

Based on the definition above, if you are only giving the place a fresh coat of paint and moving in some furniture and don’t need any other work done (such as plumbing fixtures/hook ups, etc.), no permit is required.

Once again, the City of Vancouver has a lot of helpful information that can be accessed here. Check the website of your local municipality for their bylaws, rules and regulations; most of them have handy print outs to help you through the process.

According to the City of Vancouver, in order for them to help you they need to know the following:

  1. What type of business do you plan to operate?
  2. What type of business was in the space before?
  3. Do you know your zoning?
  4. Does the building have a sprinkler system?
  5. How big is your suite or unit, and what floor are you on?
  6. Will you be sharing the space with another business?
  7. Do you have direct access to the unit from the street?
  8. Is there any parking on the site?
  9. Do you have any floor plans of the unit or a site plan?

After questions 1 and 2, you will need the services of an Architect, Architectural Technologist or Designer. Who you hire is determined by the types of changes you want to make and how much work is involved. The changes you are planning also determines the type(s) of permit(s) you will need from electrical to plumbing and assorted others.

restaurant renovation vancouver

restaurant renovation vancouver

What is involved in getting a Tenant Improvement permit?

First, you need permission from the owner of the building before your application for a permit (or permits) can be considered. These improvements are typically negotiated in the lease agreement. However, a letter of authorization signed by the owner still needs to be included with your application.

Next, visit City Hall to review the approved plans and previously issued permits to get a general idea of what changes have been previously approved in the building and/or unit(s). It would be a good idea to take your designer along with you so he or she can decide which documents and/or plans they need. These documents will help your designer to provide a blueprint and related plans for your new space.

Once your space has been designed, it’s time to submit your application and drawings. Your designer can take care of this process for you.

commercial tenant improvement

tenant improvements has helped many business owners such as auto repair shop, auto body shop, barber shop, retails, restaurants, pharmacy, manufacturing, warehouses, medical offices, and general offices to apply for their tenant improvement, rezoning and development permit applications from different municipalities like Vancouver, Burnaby, City of North Vancouver, District of North Vancouver, District of West Vancouver and city of Surrey.

You can view some of tenant improvements project we completed by clicking HERE

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Do You Know Your Design Style?

Do You Know Your Design Style?

You may be wondering…

Design style? I just want to put in a new kitchen or add another room to my house. What does style have to do with it?”

Style is important. If you are renovating, it is important to know the style of your existing house; even if you don’t want to use the same style for your additions or renovations. By taking what you do like about your home, your designer can help you incorporate those into your design plans.

What if I don’t know what style home I like or know what style to use?”

Again, your designer can help. However, to help you determine what your style is, a quick search on the internet yields a number of sites that can help you with that.

One website that has a fun quiz you can take is Houzz is also a great place to find professionals in your area to help with your renovation or building your house; you can find us listed there too.

Another source with a quiz that can help you determine your style preference is Southern Living, but where did these different styles come from and how long have they been around?

Better Homes and Gardens (BHG) has a blog post, House Styles, that talks about ten different styles and a little of the history and influences for each style. They also have pictures that help you get a sense of what makes that style unique. (If you need help determining your decorating style they have a link for that too.)

What are some of the home styles that are out there?

BHG lists ten styles of homes in their blog post. They include Cape Cod, country French, Colonial, Victorian, Tudor, Craftsman, cottage, Mediterranean, ranch, and contemporary.

One of the styles that has been popping up around the Lower Mainland in recent years, is contemporary. With lots of glass, open floor plans and a mixed use of contrasting materials a typical contemporary home has a lack of ornate features and needless details but instead focuses on the flat-faced facades that are distinct in appearance. They make use of different elements such as “materials and textures, exposed roof beams, and flat or low-pitched roofs.” according to Better Homes and Gardens.

The DIY Network website, in their blog post, 26 Popular Architectural Home Styles, has a similar list of different styles of homes, adding such styles as log homes, Art Deco, Mid-Century Modern, Neoclassical and they go so far as to differentiate between the different styles of Colonial homes.

The DIY Network’s description of a contemporary home adds a little more to what we have already discussed by saying “Some folks consider contemporary and modern architecture to be essentially the same. However, contemporary refers to today’s building styles, which can vary in design and appearance. Both styles are similar in that they look to connect indoors and outdoors, but contemporary homes tend to emphasize energy efficiency, sustainable materials, lots of natural light and the use of recycled non-toxic materials.”

Have you decided?

There is so much to choose from so to keep things simple, take a drive through your neighbourhood and see what the local styles are; what do you like, what don’t you like and write them down. Cut out some pictures from magazines and put them in a folder or make a ‘dream board’. The key is to select a few ideas and sit down with your designer and get their input.

To make things even easier for you, we have some ideas right here on our website that might help you with your style choice. Have a look and let us know if we can help in anyway.

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