Denver New Construction Home - Feaster RealtyLike many cities, Denver is in the midst of an urban revival, resulting in Denver's huge uptick in brand new construction homes and pop top homes. As a Denver real estate agent that specializes in this, I often field questions regarding scraping and building a new home or popping the top on an existing home.  The answer depends on your priorities, but here a few helpful things to make an informed decision.

Why Pop the Top of a House?

As I see it, the biggest advantage of popping the top of an existing home, is the fact that it allows you to keep part of that home. This is a huge positive for home buyers that love homes with historic charm, but want a larger or more up-to-date version of a home with history.  Building restrictions in historic districts like Denver's Potter Highlands Historic District is another reason people choose or are required to choose popping the to vs building brand new. 

Why Scrape an Existing House and Build a New one?

The greatest advantages of building a brand new home are reliability and the ability to customize.  While cost can be higher than a pop top, you end up with a home where everything is brand new and under warranty, a benefit that should not be overlooked.  In addition, a brand new home built by a custom home builder is typically built to all of your specifications, including the floor plan, square footage, style, finishes, and much more.  When choosing a builder, find a company with a reputation for honesty and quality workmanship along with competitive pricing.  In Denver, we direct our clients to Denver Design Build as they bring that whole package.

Does it save you money to Pop the Top?

When it’s all said and done, a pop top can be less expensive than building brand new, but a contractor's quote can change dramatically after you are committed as there are many unknowns.  Fairly often, the contractor will find unknown conditions such as asbestos or foundation issues that were not planned for in the original budget. This doesn’t normally mean the project is hopeless, but it often means the cost went up. Many folks I’ve talked with ended up at just about the same cost to pop the top as it would have costed to build new, but typically without the benefit of new sewer lines, electrical, plumbing, and foundation. For those with a love for original homes, this cost is absolutely worth it. But, if budget is your main reason for considering a pop top instead of new construction, the unknown final cost should be considered. 

Consider the Condition of the Home

It’s all about the numbers. When I speak with folks about purchasing a potential pop top home, I often find that they do not realize that a pop top candidate is much different from a scrape candidate. A pop top must be in better shape and ultimately have a decent enough footprint so that the home owners can accomplish their square footage goals. Buyers usually have to pay a premium (currently about $50-100k more) for the pop top candidate than the scraper.   Considering this, I always advise my clients that they decide whether they ultimately are looking for a pop top or a brand new home before purchasing a home.

Where Do You Go From Here?

After considering the above, sit down and list your priorities in order.  Here's a few I would suggest considering: 

  • Budget
  • Historic characteristics
  • Reliability/warranty
  • Risk threshold
  • Location / Neighborhood Restrictions 

From here, sit down with your current real estate agent and discuss your options.  If you do not have a broker, contact us and I can help determine what option works best for you.  In the past 5 years, I've partnered with numerous builders to help clients build close to 50 homes and also remodel or pop the top on existing homes.  I'd love to use this experience to help you make an informed decision!

Posted by Jay Feaster on


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