According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, homeowners are now staying in their homes an average of 10 years, as opposed to historically lower tenures of six to seven years.
With more people choosing to stay put, the need to make home updates and modifications is also increasing. Whether it’s making room for a growing family, an adult child who needs a place to crash, or elderly parents needing assistance… more homeowners are looking for ways to make their current home work better for their changing lifestyle.
A popular, cost-effective way to add space without actually adding on is by going up into the attic. But while this project may seem like a breeze, it might not be practical or even doable in your particular home. Here are some things to consider to determine if this project is right for you.
First, let’s talk numbers. NAR’s 2019 Remodeling Impact Report shows that the average cost to convert an attic into a living space is $80,000 with an expected return of $45,000 (56 percent).
Like most home renovations, you won’t get a dollar-for-dollar return. But, if you’re in your long-term home, that extra space may be priceless.
Beth Graham, owner of Beth L. Graham Appraisals, says when it comes to value, a finished attic may nudge you up a little compared to a house that doesn’t have one, but she warns that, as with any renovation, it’s important to keep updates in line with the neighborhood comparables.
“The space should be functional and finished well, in the same quality and style as the rest of the house,” she said. “And, to be included as livable square footage, it has to meet all building codes and requirements.”
Graham says because of the specialized requirements, it’s important to check with your local municipality before you start any work.
“There are usually additional requirements governing windows, stairs, structural support, electrical work, and windows,” she said. “And your attic needs to sustain certain temperatures, so your heating and cooling system may need to be extended and you’ll need to ensure there is adequate insulation.”
Once you determine if the project is doable, you can focus on how you’ll use the space and what finishes you’ll select. Attics are used for a variety of purposes, including recreational rooms, television or movie rooms, workout spaces, home offices, or guest or master bedrooms.
Fortunately, there are no specifications when it comes to style. A lot of homeowners like to use an attic’s sloped ceiling as a focal point, applying beadboard or wood paneling. When it comes to flooring, think about it in relation to the other areas of your home. If you want to keep upstairs noise to a minimum, wall-to-wall carpet is a great choice.
The attic is also a great place to get creative with storage. Many attics have knee walls (short walls typically under 3 feet), but you can maximize space in these areas with built-in shelving, cabinets, drawers, and even seating.
In the end, while this project may not work for everyone, the attic can be a great way to add some usable square footage without changing the footprint of your home. What was once a rarely seen room full of spider webs and boxes, could actually be a beautiful, functional living space for your family.