Pop-top renovation becomes pop-back plan

July 3, 2013

Pierce, a real estate investor based in Northern Virginia, over the next few months will chronicle his experiences renovating and selling the Temple Hills house.

The pop-top renovation plan to double the size of the one-level, 800-square-foot house in Temple Hills I bought as investment property has dramatically expanded — and become $11,000 more expensive — because of county government requirements.

Prince George’s County regulations forbid new construction within 25 feet of the road. The house sits 20 feet from the road. At first, we were going to seek a variance.  Then we determined that would take too long so we decided to modify the plans so that the new second level would sit back five feet from the front of the house and then extend the back of the home to make up the difference.

Still, we are in a holding pattern waiting for the new plan to be approved.

As I detailed in my last blogpost,  on one of my outings I stumbled across this home with a for sale by owner sign posted out front. I called the number and negotiated a great deal on this diamond in the rough.

This property was one of the smaller homes in the neighborhood. It had less than 800 square feet of living space on the main level and an unfinished basement with no stairs to the main level. There were very few comparable sales in the area for homes this size so I planned to remove the home’s roof and add a complete second level, making it more comparable to the majority of surrounding homes. The initial plans we drew up called for about a 1,600 square foot home with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a fully finished and accessible basement. The initial cost was estimated at around $65,000.

My engineer drew up the plans and submitted them to the county for approval. In the meantime, crews went to work on the clean out and prepping of the home. But everything came to a screeching halt when the county informed us that the home was too close to the road.

After we opted against the variance application, our engineer went back to work and drew up a new set of plans. The new plans set the second level back five feet from the front of the house and then we have to blow out the back of the home on the main level and increase the rear foot print by five feet to get enough room upstairs for a full floor.

We submitted new plans with the county that now calls for five bedrooms and three bathrooms and more than 1,800 square feet of space. This gives us a bigger home but it also increases the total costs to around $76,000. We hope the additional bedroom  and bathroom will increase the value enough to offset some of the added costs.

We were expecting quick approval, but as of the time of this writing the county engineer has not even looked at the plans. Officials informed us that they are two to three weeks back logged on plan approval.

I was hoping to proceed quickly with this project but I’ve now owned the home for nearly two months and almost nothing has been done on the project. This is not a surprise and can often be the case when dealing with a government entity. I’d hoped for the best but was prepared for this problem.

I’m now getting a little worried that we won’t have the home completed by fall.  Selling a home in the dead of winter is not an ideal scenario.

Follow Pierce on Twitter at @justinpierce1

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