Space Craft

Many homeowners are choosing to add on to their houses whether it be for additional space, because their family is expanding or perhaps because they have money to spare and simply want more room. In the past, homeowners who wanted more space were likely to sell their house and buy a bigger one. But Reneau Londot, owner of Londot Design Build, said recent events have made adding on a more appealing option. With higher interest rates, many homeowners are reluctant to buy or build a new home. 

“There’s too many unknowns right now,” Londot said.

Chris Kornman, owner of and broker with Entablature, said the most popular type of add-on in the New Orleans area is the camelback. For readers unfamiliar with the term, a camelback is a variation of the classic shotgun house that features a partial second floor over the back of the house. Since so many New Orleans homes are shotguns, this addition is a good fit for homeowners looking to expand.

“It makes sense because a lot of people (in New Orleans) don’t have the room to expand left or right,” Kornman said.

While projects vary depending on the home and the owners’ needs, Kornman said nine to 10 months is a good ballpark estimate for how long a camelback addition can take. He also warned homeowners that costs have dramatically increased in recent years due to supply chain and labor issues. He added there is no clear indication when prices will drop again.

When asked about pricing, Kornman said again it will vary, but that a simple camelback addition is likely to cost in the $400,000 to $500,000 range. However, he said many homeowners also choose to renovate existing parts of the house when building their add-ons. Updating kitchens, bathrooms or bedrooms as well can bring the project into the $800,000 to $900,000 range.

“There’s a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done for the camelback addition to work,” Kornman said. “Don’t think you can just stick a camelback on top of your existing structure.”

Kornman said any contractor will need a highly detailed plan from a licensed architect before they can even offer a realistic quote to homeowners.

Londot cautioned homeowners that they will need approval from the city before they make any add-ons to their home. There are a lot of variables, like the neighborhood, that can determine whether or not someone gets the green light. 

“Just because someone else can do it doesn’t mean you can,” Londot said. “Things are grandfathered in, there’s zoning and unique site conditions.”

Kornman said anyone doing an addition, especially a camelback, should realize they will not be able to live in their house while the work is going on. He said in order to work safely, the workers will need to shut off both the A/C and the water. So you need to add rent money for an apartment for nine to 12 months to your budget or honestly assess whether or not you could live with in-laws or relatives for that length of time.

Adding on to your home can increase the house’s value, but there is no simple formula to determine how much value it will add relative to how much you spend. The value add may not necessarily exceed the construction cost.

“There are a few variables in how much value is being added,” said Matt Davis, franchise owner and associate broker for 1 Percent Lists Legacy. “The most important would be how much square footage is being added, and then the quality of the finishing work makes a huge difference.”

Before making a final decision on an add-on project, Londot recommends interviewing different contractors and architects. Add-ons will take up a lot of time and money, so you want the final product done right. You need to be sure the people you hire understand your wishes and can clearly explain to you how they will get the work done.

“Make sure it’s someone you can communicate with,” Londot said.