Master Plans for Every Property Owner

Master Plans for Every Property Owner

Why would a homeowner or small property investor need a master plan?

Have you ever been walking through the neighborhood and suddenly you're struck by one home's odd addition off the top of a roof that looks like a UFO just landed? Or maybe you note a bad garage conversion that invites cars to drive through someone's new game room? Perhaps it's a yard that seems off. Some sidewalks don't connect well or get used, or a garden plot was built in such a far corner that no one remembers to tend it.

Not only does lack of planning often complicate a home's efficiency, but it can be very costly to remove a bad addition or impulsive yard project and install it correctly. It is very probable that those items become the reason you don't sell your house. You may have to settle for a lower price because the prospective owners know that they will have to tear out the poorly-planned projects when they buy the property.

For the sake of both the best use of your space and maintaining your investment, all property owners need a master plan. Few of us are financially able to throw down the cash to fully install the dream landscape or complete a renter-proof investment property up front. We have to do things in stages as money becomes available. Phasing your interior projects, building additions, and landscape with an overall goal in mind will always save you time and money. A few hours invested in designing a master plan today will set you up for a smoother road as long-term owner or investor of any property. While the examples reference owner-occupied properties or rentals, this is just as applicable to commercial properties and businesses.

"We shouldn't have planted that tree next to the house right there. Now it's tall and full, but we have to take it out. The only place where we can add another bathroom to the house is right there."

"This would have been a perfect place for a garden, but we blocked the sun with the shed and didn't think about additional irrigation lines when we installed the lawn."

"If I knew that I would have to replace the front stairs on my rental, I wouldn't have replaced the porch railing next to it. Now I'll have to tear it out to match the new stair railing. That's $400 and a couple Saturdays I could have put into another project."

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You can't foresee everything. Maybe in eight years, you decide to have another baby, and that wasn't in your long-term plan. Perhaps you get transferred to another city, and you choose not to sell your property, but choose to keep it as a rental. If you had known that the house and yard were going to be maintained by renters, you might have made different decisions about the yard and interior finishes. Things change. You can't know the future. Expect that. However, you're still at an advantage if you have a master plan in place.

Ask yourself how you will be using your space in 5 years. And then ten. And then twenty. In my case, I might say that in five years, I'll still be improving this place in a series of small projects as I save up money for each one. In ten years, I'd like to move to a condo with less maintenance and turn my house into a rental property. In twenty, I might be gone, but I'd like this place to remain an excellent investment for my surviving family members who may choose to keep it as a rental or sell it.

With the projected goals in mind, the next step of your master plan is to determine how you will use the property at each stage. Beyond the broader goals of what this property will be for you in future years, you now plan the literal us of each area of the property at each phase. How do you use this shed? What will that bedroom turn into over the years? Do you see the city widening the street and taking out a few feet or yards of the front yard to install a sidewalk as the area develops? Who are the occupants of this property and how will that evolve over time? Will you allow renters to keep pets and what impact will that make on decisions regarding your yard and interior finishes?

Once you have pinned down your goals and projected use, then you can plan your projects and stage them in order of installation. It is also great at this point to attach a dollar amount to each one of these projects. Break them down into a series of smaller projects, if your budget demands. It is helpful to update these costs each time you review your plan or install a few projects. If you haven't studied your plan in a while, looking for the rate of inflation over the period since your master plan was created will offer a quick update on your projected costs. So date your plan.

This article may be enough for you to jump in and have the information for any property you own. Do you understand spreadsheets and columns of numbers? Then creating your Master Plan may make more sense for you in Excel. If you are more visual, noting projects on a plan or map with costs listed in the margins may be most useful in your case. If you want a Master Planning guide already formatted for you, we offer one through our design studio here. If this is something you have a handle on and want to do yourself, find your preferred medium and go for it.

Regardless of a purchased guide or creating a unique Master Plan on your own, investing a few hours now will allow you to confidently tackle the latest project and efficiently manage your property over the next few years or decades. You will be prepared for the majority of property-investment concerns as they arise, saving you time, money, and frustration.

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