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Making use of a homes good bones
Rather than tearing down an older home on a great lake lot, some buyers are choosing to renovate
After renovations, the Millers' home on Lake Lanier includes a new master suite and a media room, bar and pool room in the basement. - photo by Michael Phillips

One sunny afternoon, while enjoying a cold one and sitting on his deck gazing over Lake Lanier, Steve Miller said he decided to stop looking for the perfect lake property.

Miller and his wife, Betty, had spent years looking for the perfect piece of lakeside real estate. But they realized they were sitting on a gem that just needed a face lift.

"We couldn't find any land that we could afford to live on," Steve said. "We looked and looked and tried to find a lot but the lots that we found ... were either too steep or the water wasn't good enough. Or even if we did find something that we wanted, it was too expensive. So we were sitting trying to figure out what we were going to do so we decided to add on."

Rives Doss, co-owner of CBC Construction Co. in Gainesville, said an addition to an existing home really does cut out many costs associated with new construction.

"The new lots are limited, so taking a house that is existing and remodeling it, not only do you get the ideal location but you get the benefits of probably a better lot," he said. "They are better built, so you certainly are going to save money in that respect."

He said the company recently finished a home off Browns Bridge Road that was another example of remodeling an older home rather than tearing it down for a new one.

"This was a home that was built back in the 1960s as a cabin," he said. "These people bought it ... and they paid like $400,000 for the house - they paid for the lot, basically."

Doss said the total renovation cost between $150,000 and $160,000.

"When they got through they had a beautiful place," he said. "The home next door was built new and they probably have $800,000 in that house."

Another benefit of remodeling an existing home is that home owners can have input into the final design.

"It makes you think about the space and how you are going to use it," said Kim Gray, an interior designer with CBC Construction. "What do you want to change for function rather than just looking for a house plan and building it?"

The Millers had moved to Gainesville from Stone Mountain and found a modest home on the lake, but they had big dreams for the property and wanted certain amenities.

So in 2002 a full-scale addition was under way. Builder and friend, Emmett Chupp from Alpharetta was called to add 1,600 square feet to the home.

"The addition includes their master bedroom, a beautiful bathroom and then a basement that includes a media room, a bar and a pool room," said Bev Knight, Lake Lanier specialist with Keller Williams, Atlanta Partners. "It's always less than what you think, it was $200,000 ... (and included) a sprinkler system, tile, tub, terrace, hot tub, re-landscaped. And for $200,000 they probably added $500,000 to the value."

The home now has 6,400 square feet, according to the Hall County government Web site, with four bedrooms, an office, four full baths and two half baths.

Along with the extra space, the couple was able to add a gourmet kitchen, a Koi fish pond, a double-sided fireplace that is placed between the living and master bedroom, a new roof, new siding, carpet, appliances, some plumbing, new wiring and heating and air.

The entire project took about 10 months to complete.

"We debated on moving out or staying there and we actually stayed here during the whole thing, and that was interesting to say the least," Miller said.

Doss said it is important to his business to keep the homeowners in the home during the construction phase.

"We set it up to function and we built dust walls," he said. "We do all kinds of things to keep you in the house and we will pre-order everything ... instead of going in and gutting the kitchen and letting it sit for eight or 10 weeks, we keep the kitchen functional. We work very hard at that."

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