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Reclaimed attic space adds value to a house when done right

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This article I am quoted in appeared in the Dallas Morning News Real Estate section...


Movin' on up expand your horizons by reclaiming the attic

Dallas Morning News
January 22, 2012

Your home may have a valuable, yet underutilized piece of real estate. The attic.

Attics are generally regarded as dark, dusty spaces plagued by extreme temperatures. Used as storage areas for items you think you may need, attics can go decades without being visited except to retrieve and drop off luggage or deposit more potential treasures.

In truth, attics can be versatile areas full of light and activity, where homeowners can increase their usable square footage at a fraction of the typical cost for enlarging a home.

"Attics give you a large space to do with whatever you wish," says Maribeth Messineo Peters, senior vice president and realtor at Allie Beth Allman & Associates. "I look at it as a bonus space."

"Attics are bonus space. Finish them out with quality craftsmanship and they add value to your bottom line"

Peters, who also renovates historic homes, recently updated an older home in Charleston, South Carolina, by turning the unused attic into a bedroom, study room and bath. The renovation added 1,400 square feet of space, a 30 percent increase, without altering the exterior of the home.

Peters liked the home's historic neighborhood but knew that the floor plan didn't offer what today's homebuyers want. The home had a good floor plan, but no guest room or third living space that could be used as a study or game room. With a third-floor conversion, she felt she could meet potential buyers' needs. And she was right. The family who bought the home said that the transformed attic was their deciding point.

More homeowners are converting their attics when they need extra square footage. And the advantages are striking. You can avoid leaving a neighborhood and school district your family enjoys.

Increasing your square footage doesn't require that the floor plan be altered. The most cost-effective option for extending your home is an attic conversion.

A conversion requires adding a staircase and plumbing, electricity, flooring, insulation, sheetrock, windows and heating/cooling. In contrast, building an extension onto your home requires all of the above plus pouring a foundation and adding a brick or wood facade and a roof.

According to Remodeling magazine's 2011 Cost vs. Value Report, "adding an attic bedroom jumped {resale} value from seventh to third place overall, with an average return on investment of 72.5 percent at resale."

Part of the attraction is that attics are blank slates. They can be used as media rooms, guest bedrooms, craft of play rooms, studies, private master bedrooms or home offices.

But not ever home has an attic with usable space. Before starting a project, consider whether the available headroom is adequate. For the additional square footage to be included when selling your home, it must be seen as a viable room. Tudor-style homes with high-pitched roofs are good candidates while typical ranch style homes are not.

During construction, ensure sufficient insulation is added since an attic is usually the temperature buffer for the rest of the home. Finally, for your addition to be an integrated part of the home, ensure that the finish out is consistent with your home's style.

Alford Homes assumes that its new-home buyers want to eventually extend their homes. Electricity, Sheetrock, flooring, plumbing stubs, insulation and stairs are often added to their attics during construction.

"in ever home, we always try to include a future space," Greg Alford says. "If you have the structure in place it is easy to remodel. The room is basically there. All you have to do is the finish out."

Attics can be converted in one or two-story homes. Alford Homes hides the stairwells behind doors in their homes or installs a dumbwaiter-like lift in garages. Existing homes can have stairs added by removing a closet or altering a bath. Dormer windows can be included in the attic to ensure that there is sufficient headroom when entering through the stairwell.

"Attics give you a large space to do with whatever you wish," says Maribeth Peters. "I look it as a bonus space."

An architect will be able to tell you what is and isn't possible and help you design the attic space.

"I'd like to encourage people to consider it, particularly if they want to stay in their home," Peters says. "It is easier to go up than out."

Written by Carin Hughes, Dallas Morning News


I have 15 years of experience in remodeling homes and work closely with many of my real estate clients to envision what can be achieved with the homes they buy and sell.

Maribeth Messineo Peters, Senior Vice President, Allie Beth Allman & Assoc., Dallas, Texas cell 214-566-1210