As our lives change, so must our homes.
But one thing that seems to remain constant in homeownership is the age-old question: ‘should I remodel my home, or find something new?’ It’s the common remodeling vs. moving debate.
The tricky part about this particular question is there isn’t a definitive, right answer. It’s a complicated proposition with a lot of nuances to mull over. Our goal in this post is to help you consider some of the biggest factors in the decision to either remodel your home, buy new, or build custom.
What to Consider
1. Loyalty to Location
Location, location, location.
Where we live plays a huge role in our overall satisfaction with a house. We’re sentimental creatures that develop deep emotional ties to our homes and our neighborhoods.
In our experience, location is the biggest factor in a person’s decision to remodel their home. If you love where you live and cannot build or buy a new home in your current area, a remodel is probably your best option if you need a change
2. Understanding Your Finances
Go get a pen and paper and map out everything you want in a home. Note how many of those changes can be achieved with a remodel of your current house.
If you’re left with a couple of big-ticket items that aren’t doable with a remodel, it’s probably time to start considering the financial implications of moving.
Finances vary for everyone — but a hard and fast rule here is to never make renovations that are disproportionate to the value of your home.
3. Seeking Professional Help
We can’t say this enough, but you should consult a professional before making your final decision to remodel or build new.
A creative contractor will see possibilities and potential setbacks you don’t, potentially saving you from sinking your money into a remodel that doesn’t make sense financially. With the right builder overseeing your renovation or build, you’ll get the home you want, in the form you need, in a place you like living.
They’ll also ensure your paperwork is in order. Depending on where you live, certain home upgrades and renovations will trigger the legal need for permits and/or other documentation.
4. Considering the Footprint of Your Current Home
Does your current home have good bones? Can it support the types of changes you would want without serious structural renovations?
For example, not all homes can support a second story if you want to build up. While at the same time, a spacious 3 bedroom home might be perfect for a renovation that turns it into a 4 bedroom home.
A general rule for home renovation is: it will always cost less to renovate if you leave your home’s structural elements in tact.
5. The Value of ‘Big vs. Small’ Changes
Extensive remodeling jobs make it difficult to recoup your investment in a home. But you’d be surprised how much value a less-involved upgrade can add.
‘Smaller’ remodeling upgrades to the windows, kitchen, or bathrooms in your home often make good financial sense and increase your home’s total value.
6. Accounting for Construction Time
This one’s pretty simple. Do you want to live through a renovation?
Project-times on a remodel vary widely, but there are stories out there of families living without a usable kitchen for anywhere from a week to a month (or more). It’s a matter of convenience, really, but if you’re truly considering a home remodel, you can’t ignore the time involved.
If you’re considering building a new home, an average sized project (for us at least) can take anywhere between 4 and 6 months once construction has begun.
7. Unforeseen Labor and Hidden Costs
What will you find behind your walls? You might start renovating only to uncover a lot more work.
There’s always the potential to find issues such as rotting wood, termites, or things like joists spanning too far. Additionally, you could find electrical wiring, plumbing, window openings or insulation that are no longer up to code, which quickly adds a lot of money to the final cost of your renovation.
8. Curb Appeal vs. Value
On a regular basis, we encounter remodeling work that adds curb appeal to a home, but not much value.
Elaborately tiling your bathroom or adding porches and decks, for example, add a lot of ‘wow-factor’ to your home and might draw interest from potential buyers, but they don’t add much value financially.
9. Chasing Energy Efficiency
Unless you do what we in the industry call a complete “gut job”, it is difficult (and expensive) to make an older, inefficient home energy efficient. And at the end of an extensive energy efficiency upgrade, you’ll still own an older house in terms of value and comps.
If you can buy or build a new home for the same amount of money it would take to make the necessary changes to your home (and you’re willing to part with your current location) — do it. You’ll save substantially in the long-term on gas and electric in a new home with foam insulation, a new HVAC, and energy-efficient windows and doors.
The #1 Renovation Scenario to Avoid
We encourage you to avoid any scenario where the cost of your home renovations approaches or exceeds the cost to build a similar, new home. That’s a battle you’ll lose almost every time.
But, at the end of the day, your reasons for remodeling, renovating, or building are your own. As long as you’re making informed decisions, everything will work out.