When I was growing up, our attic was good for two things: storing Christmas decorations and scaring me silly. It was dusty and musty and filled with dread. One of the rooms had been finished about 70 years beforehand and its peeling wallpaper and broken tile only made it seem more haunted. That’s what attics were for, I thought. It never occurred to me that they could be turned into nice rooms and add a great deal of value to a house.

But they absolutely can. Attic renovations provide some of the best long-term return on investment numbers of any project, which makes them ideal for fix-and-flippers looking to sell after getting a hard money loan for upgrades. Attics make a valuable addition to a house, whether for a bedroom, a whole suite, or additional living space like an office or workshop. Banish those attic ghosts and consider these renovation ideas when embarking on your next real estate project.

The Attic Bedroom: At Home on Top

Despite the risk of ghosts, a renovated attic is a great place for an additional bedroom, for both aesthetic and economic reasons. It is about making do with what you have and using the existing space in your favor.

As far as aesthetics go, attics are often full of sharp lines and corners. They can incorporate a modern look and oddly-angled windows can become ideal skylights. As a function of design, attics often have a peaked shape due to the roof. This can actually be a dramatic addition to a room, giving it a romantic and gothic feel. While attics rarely have room for huge windows, you can take advantage of this space by installing a cozy desk or reading nook under the eaves or the smaller windows.

Economically, this is often an expensive project, costing anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000 for the bedroom, but it does offer a 77% ROI. This is because you are essentially adding another story to the house without having to build an addition. For the most part, this means you don’t have to worry about zoning regulations or excessive permits. Always check local regulations, but renovating an attic is almost always less onerous than a full addition.

Other Ideas for Attic Renovations

If the attic is spacious enough, you don’t have to stop at a single bedroom. Though this is a more expensive project, the top floor could be developed into a suite, possibly for kids moving back home or for parents moving in. Depending on the size of the attic, you can add a bathroom, a second bedroom, and an office, or possibly a small kitchen space.

Indeed, the upstairs space can be turned into a home office or it can be transformed into a great playroom for the kids. It can even be an extended den, a TV room, an art studio, or a workshop. Growing families in the market for new homes are looking to maximize their space and a home with a renovated attic fits the bill.

What to Watch Out For

Obviously, renovating an attic requires a bit more than a snap of your fingers. Because few attics were built with modern residency in mind, they might not fit the code. Here are a few things you need to know before you start spending money:

  • Ceiling requirements: The International Code Council has some regulations on ceilings. They need to be at least 6’8” for areas like laundry rooms and kitchens, and at least 7’ (over at least 1/3rd of the area) for bedrooms, offices, and the like. Not all attics have this, as storage was their primary intent.
  • Electrical concerns: Make sure that the breaker in the home can handle running electricity to one more floor. While there might be some outlets in the space already, most attics can’t handle the demands of modern living without some help.
  • Adequate exits: The ICC requires two exits, which can be tricky in an attic. It will have to have a window and an exit to the floor below. It is possible to build an external staircase, especially if it is designed to be rented out, but this is even more expensive and not always useful.
  • HVAC: It is best if your existing HVAC system is up to the task of heating and cooling another floor. If not, you’ll have to figure out another way, such as baseboard heating. This might not make it worth your while.

An attic renovation brings so much to a house. It adds a full story without changing the exterior. It can open up unexpected space. And best of all, it can provide you with an excellent return on your investment. Getting a hard money loan for a fix-and-flip or other renovation project means making good choices on how to spend it. An attic renovation just may be the best choice for your project.

Your real estate assets are your best investments for the future. At Socotra Capital, we’re proud to be the premier direct hard money lender for California real estate. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.