Should You Move or Remodel?

5 questions to ask yourself when deciding whether to renovate or relocate

By Jan Soults Walker

The old homestead needs some new configurations, but should you shell out the dough to remodel or simply move to better digs? Here's help deciding.

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Relaxing Transitional Outdoors by Darwin Webb
Darwin Webb

What's to love?

Rather than only focus on all the things you dislike about your home, make a list of everything that's right. Is your "like it" list longer than the "gotta go" list? "You have to decide if it's worth the fight, because remodeling requires hard work and energy," says Washington, D.C. architect Glenn Chen Fong. "Part of the reason we decided to remodel our own home was that we are passionate about our neighborhood and we've known our neighbors for twenty years. We also loved our schools. These were 'known' elements for us."

How's the overall condition and layout?

"Ask yourself if your home needs major plumbing or electrical work," says Chicago-area interior designer Brooke Kelly. "Or is the floor plan especially poor? Are the rooms even oriented to maximize sunlight during the times of day you're in them? These are all important questions, and if the answer is 'no' to most of them, you may want to rethink remodeling and opt to move instead."

What's happening nearby?

Light Transitional Outdoors by John Mills Davies
John Mills Davies
"You also want to think about if there's enough value—or future value—in the neighborhood to make remodeling worthwhile," says Kelly. "It's okay to remodel to be one of the more valuable homes in your neighborhood, but only if the trends indicate that the area you're in is up-and-coming. Ask local realtors for opinions about neighborhood values and projected values.

"And also simply observe: Are there are a lot of other homes being fixed up around you? If so, it could be a good idea to invest in remodeling yours."

See which investments have the greatest returns:

How long do you plan to stay?

"Many people get caught up in remodeling for resale value," says Los Angeles architect Christopher Ward. "I say, that with few exceptions, if you are planning to live in the house for a long time, do what you want to do—not what you think would influence a potential buyer. Chances are, if you do sell in the future, the things you want will appeal to buyers."

What's the bottom line?

"It's still a good idea to use this simple equation as part of the process in deciding whether to remodel or relocate," Ward sums up. "If you will have more invested into your home than you could sell it for after remodeling, then financially, it's probably not a good idea to remodel."

Gauge whether to take the plunge into a full-fledged home or room renovation or instead do a simple space makeover: Should You Replace or Remodel?
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