By: Dona DeZube
Published: August 24, 2010
When your house no longer suits you, you can move or remodel. Find out which big change is the right investment of your housing dollars.
Just about everything else—remodeling costs, the hassle of living in a construction zone, or the ability to live happily without one more bathroom–is a personal preference. After all, your home isn’t just your largest investment; it’s also the place where your family lives.
1. Will remodeling make your home better than everyone else’s?
To make the right move-or-remodel decision, you have to know:
Your home’s value. Easy. Just ask a REALTOR® to estimate it and tell you how it compares with the value of the other homes in your immediate neighborhood. Ask her what she thinks your house will be worth after the improvements, too.
Your neighbors’ home value. Hit some open houses. Seeing the inside of area homes will inspire you; help you make good choices about finishes, room sizes, and how much to spend; and, admit it, entertain you.
Your remodeling costs. Once you’ve got your renovation vision, get a quote from a home improvement contractor or, if you’re remodeling it yourself, tally the costs of the items on your supplies shopping list.
Then add the remodeling costs to the value of your home. If the number you get is more than 10% above the average value of homes in your neighborhood, you’re over-improving and probably won’t be able to sell for what you put into the remodel.
Here’s why: No one wants to buy the most expensive home on the block (your home) if they can spend the same money to get a similar home on a block of higher-priced homes. Would you pay $200,000 to live on a block where all the other homes are valued at $100,000? We hope not.
Make home improvements that are typical for the neighborhood. Don’t put granite countertops in a trailer, and don’t put laminate countertops in a Trump Tower condo. Your tour of open houses gives you a chance to verify that your planned remodel isn’t an over- or under-improvement for the neighborhood.
2. Do you love where you live?
Want to keep your kids in the same school district, but can’t find or afford a bigger, better house? Love the neighbors? Have an easy commute to work? Stay put. If you’ve soured on the traffic, the neighborhood’s crime rate, or the nosy neighbors, move on.
3. Do you have room to expand?
If your remodeling plans include increasing the overall size of your home, the size of your lot may be the deciding factor in whether to move or remodel. If you live in a 1,500 sq. ft. ranch on a 3,000 sq. ft. lot, you might be able to add a second story to turn it into a 3,000 sq. ft. two-story, but you’re not likely to add 1,500 sq. ft. at ground level. And if you have a septic tank and well, the location of those will limit how and where you add onto your home (or cost you a bundle to move).
4. Can you afford to move?
Consider these moving costs: sale costs for your existing home, shipping your household goods, buying window treatments and possibly furniture for the new house, costs to fix up your existing home before sale, higher utility costs (if your next house is bigger), insurance cost differences, and property taxes.
More from HouseLogic
Q&A: Author Sarah Susanka Talks Budget-Smart Remodeling
Should You Move or Improve?
Other web resources
Find your local remodelers
Average project cost
Dona DeZube, HouseLogic’s news editor, moved across the same street twice when she remodeled two houses in Columbia, Maryland, before she moved to a house in Clarksville, Maryland. She remodeled that house and then moved back to the same street in Columbia. She despises moving, but her husband loves remodeling.