Can I Demo an Old Home and Build a New One?

It’s a daunting task, finding a lot for your new home that checks all the boxes: the right school district, an easy work commute, a neighborhood that suits your family. You may have found the perfect locale, with one huge problem standing in your way—your dream spot is already occupied. Tear downs are a great option for homebuyers looking to invest in new construction without sacrificing location. Tearing down an old, dysfunctional, unsafe, and energy-sucking home makes way for up-to-date green home construction; the perfect home in the perfect location. Considering a tear-down? Here’s the 411:

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When to Demo

When deciding if you should renovate or tear down, first consider the condition of the home. Some older homes are extensively damaged or downright dangerous, meaning starting with a clean slate is the best option for both your wallet and your family’s safety. Renovatinga home that has been condemned may suck more funds than it’s worth. Homes with heavy infestations such as mold or pests, a rotted roof, or a compromised foundation due to factors like water damage are all good tear-down candidates.

A suitable tear-down candidate will foster new home construction that is valued at two to three times the price of a demolished home, lot included. So, if you purchase a tear-down project for $250,000, your new home should be valued at least $500,000. When the brunt of a home’s value is stored in the land it’s built upon, the home may be a great a candidate for a tear-down.


Starting fresh means getting exactly what you want out of your home without support walls and ductwork getting in the way of your open floor plan. Building a brand new home in place of an existing one can lead to less maintenance in the future, perfection in the details, and will likely save you money on utility bills in the long-run; not to mention, new home construction allows you to dress your home for the digital age.

Sustainability is a trend shaping everything from what’s on your dinner table, to what kind of fuel is powering your car—and your home is no exception. An energy-conscious buildercan help you dial-in your new home and customize the most important sustainability options to your specific climate. New homes combine new insulation products such as fiberglass doors, energy-efficient windows, and attic insulation to reduce energy loss through poorly insulated walls, windows, and doors. Using green building materials cuts your home’s waste from the get-go. Incorporating recycled materials into your roofing, countertops, flooring, or cabinetry means you can worry less about harmful off-gassing andVOCs, while feeling good about giving old materials a new life.

New homes can implement contemporary appliances ranging from dishwashers to refrigerators, to hyper-efficient heating and cooling systems that emit fewer greenhouse gasses and reduce natural gas consumption. Aging ductwork is known to displace 20-40% of generated heating or cooling through duct leaks and conduction, while running toilets can waste up to 26 gallons of water every day! WaterSmart showerheads, toilets, and faucets cut flow rate by 30%, helping your family save water without even thinking about it.

Personalization is in the little touches as much as the big picture. A customized floor plan will set the stage for details such as that subway tile backsplash in your dream kitchen, and that steam shower your master bath has been missing all these years. As the world has become firmly positioned in the digital age, old homes lack the electrical work necessary for the modern way of life. A new home’s electrical work can be tailored to the digital age, with outlet USB ports and lighting that can be controlled from your smartphone. Is technology not your priority? Customizing your new home could mean penciling in that breakfast nook you’ve always pictured, or a bonus room that can provide endless uses to suit the constantly changing needs of your family.

Peace of mind comes with knowing your appliances are new and under warranty, and your new home is free from infestations often inherited when purchasing old homes. You can be sure your new home is free from lead paint, while contemporary furnace filters and heat pumps will trap any future air pollutants like mold, allergens, and dust. A trustworthy contractor will conduct soil tests to ensure a stable foundation that will set the stage for a safe, low-maintenance, home.

Where to Start

Even before evaluating a home, read up on local legislation regarding historic preservation and land-use codes in the neighborhood; that way, if the home is legally not a candidate for demolition, you can it rule out in your home search before putting in the extra effort of an extensive evaluation. There are separate codes for One and Two Family Dwellings, commercial buildings, as well as overall fire code regulations. Many older, coveted neighborhoods are tied to regulation meant to protect historic preservation or the existing character of the neighborhood. Some historic preservation districts, however, may not ban teardowns completely.

All 15 designated Historic Neighborhoods in Portland, Oregon, for example, are listed under the National Register of Historic Places and are subject to a Demolition Review. A review of the historic home will be undertaken by the Bureau of Development Services that will determine whether a full or partial teardown, or renovation of the existing structure will be permitted. If a teardown is approved, the Bureau may impose strict regulations on architectural style and size that will ensure your new home construction fits with the character of the neighborhood. A good builder will work with these strictly enforced guidelines to give your new home’s exterior a charming, traditional look without sacrificing the modernity of an open interior, sustainable building materials, and electrical work fit for the future.

Once you’ve been approved for a teardown, the fun starts! Consider partnering with a builder that specializes in hyper-efficient ENERGY STAR construction. Choose a builder that will meet with you to determine which floorplans will best suit your family, restrictions, and property, and then work with you to customize every corner until you’ve arrived at your dream home.