High-End Vegas Home Renovations
by buck wargo
Thornton’s kitchen now features stacked slate stone accents and granite slab countertops
When Roger Thornton moved to Las Vegas from Northern California in 2009, his search for the perfect luxury home had only just begun.
A chief technology officer at a software company, Thornton thought it would be easy to find a high-end home through the foreclosure market that was starting to creep up on Las Vegas. It wasn’t: Competition was fierce, and Thornton was selective. He eventually found a 3,600-squarefoot, three-bedroom, 4.5-bath home with a casita facing the ninth fairway in Red Rock Country Club. It was here that he wanted to call home—after he put on his own touch.
Thornton is one of the many savvy buyers scooping up foreclosures across town and extensively renovating them. Many of his neighbors are longtime homeowners who are remodeling their homes instead of moving. All of this has created a booming luxury renovation industry that is taking off in this unique post-recession real estate environment. According to the BuildFax Remodeling Index, remodeling was already up 14.6 percent in the first two months of 2012 compared to 2011.
“Vegas built some gorgeous homes during the boom time, but they were building them so fast that they didn’t have the greatest layout,” Thornton says. “And they didn’t upgrade their interiors very well.”
Thornton opened up the first floor of his home by removing walls and columns and integrating the living room, dining room, and kitchen. It’s a common design in residences today, but that wasn’t the style when Thornton’s home was built in 1999. Thornton also replaced French doors with sliding glass doors and made the back wall largely glass to look out into the courtyard. He replaced tile with marble and took out aging carpet that didn’t fit the upscale home. He also installed hickory floors throughout the house, upgraded the kitchen with new appliances, and installed a dry sauna in an upgraded master bathroom. No room was untouched.
Las Vegan J. Christopher Stuhmer, CEO of Christopher Homes Renovations, which handled Thornton’s renovations, says remodeling across the country has reached its highest level in three years, and he doesn’t see that trend changing. Many owners have lost equity in their homes and view them less as an investment now, instead focusing more on their quality of life. The renovations done by Christopher Homes have ranged between $25,000 and $1 million and average about $100,000, he says. “People are appreciating the roots they have in their houses. The overriding request from clients is to update their home because their tastes have changed over the years.”
That includes everything from putting in new kitchen appliances, flooring, and plumbing fixtures (introducing features you would see at a resort spa, such as walk-in showers and free-standing tubs and massage tables), to bigger changes such as adding a second level, building a casita, creating a home theater, removing walls, and adding glass for a more seamless transition.
“We’re doing a lot of work in the kitchen,” Stuhmer says. “It’s about creating an environment. The kitchen is now the place to gather in the home, and it’s being designed to accommodate more than one cook.” John Segler, showroom manager for Ferguson Enterprises, which sells plumbing and lighting fixtures and appliances, says some of the more popular purchases are in-wall coffee makers, steam ovens, and Sub-Zero refrigerators. “We’re seeing a lot of people who have bought foreclosures,” Segler says, “where the previous owners took out the doors, ranges, and refrigerators.”
Steve and Lisa Kurtz recently remodeled a four-bedroom home in a gated community in Summerlin North. The couple bought the home, which increased from 4,400 to 4,800 square feet (including a separate casita) in the renovation, in part for a view of the Strip— a view they wanted to take full advantage of by adding a loft on the second floor. They also added a balcony to what is now their family and entertainment room. To enhance the view on the first floor, they removed the back wall and installed glass doors. In total, their renovations, which also included creating bathrooms for each of their two children, cost $110,000. They even put in a home office as part of a separate project and are now redoing an outdoor barbecue.
Lisa Kurtz says buying a home that required renovations rather than building from scratch allowed them to take advantage of the drop in prices in the housing market but still have exactly the home they wanted. “We saw all the potential,” she says. “That’s why we waited and did a short sale. It took some time, but we got the price we wanted. It took a year to do the renovations, but now we have our dream house with a dream view.” Christopher Homes Renovations, 702-233-3449
photography by bryan hainer (backyard, new thornton kitchen and kurtz loft, stuhmer); courtesy of christopher homes renovations (pre-renovation, kitchen and loft pre-renovation)