Should I renovate or move?
People ask this questions all the time, and, obviously, the answer is “It depends.” Several of the deciding factors relate to why someone is considering a change in housing. Sometimes, a “life change” leads to a discussion about moving. Marriage/divorce, new baby, retirement, parents moving in–all of these events can render your current home less workable.
If you’re getting married and the location (or something about the neighborhood or house/property) is not acceptable to your spouse, the writing is on the wall for a move. A new child may mean that more space is necessary. Retirement can mean that finances are tighter, so lower carrying costs are important. A smaller mortgage, lower utility and maintenance costs might be necessary. Some older people also move due to physical limitations expected in the future. For example, a home with single-floor living might be appealing. What if your parents need some help and are going to move in with you? Your home must be able to accommodate them.
When you have to move
In circumstances where location is the driving factor, there’s often no way to avoid a move. If you get a new job which requires you to be in a different location, there’s clearly no choice; you’ll need to move. Same thing if you want a certain school district, to be closer to family or if the neighborhood no longer meets your needs (a new apartment building is being built next to your house, it’s not close enough to public transportation you now need to access, etc.).
Deciding whether to renovate or move
In the previous scenarios, there wasn’t much to decide; moving was the only logical choice. However, there are many situations where you might find yourself questioning whether to renovate or move. Is your house/property too big? Maybe you’ve become empty nesters and don’t need the 5 bedrooms anymore. If it’s too much to take care of (or too expensive), it’s probably wise to downsize. Maybe, though, your house is now too small. Can you repurpose any existing space to meet your needs? Is an addition a viable solution?
Often, especially in areas like Philadelphia’s Main Line, where I live, the “renovation” question arises because our housing stock is generally old. Old kitchens and baths, small closets, no family rooms and similar frustrations are common. However, many people love the curb appeal and sturdiness of their beautiful stone homes and well-established plantings and try to determine if updating makes sense. Maybe the heater, roof and windows all need replacement. That’s a lot of cash. Remodeling kitchens and baths is very expensive as well.
Some questions to ask to help you decide
Can you make your current home into what you’re looking for? Does it lend itself to being adapted? You must always weigh the time, energy, finances and size/restrictions of the property if you’re thinking about keeping your current home. Also ask yourself how much staying in the neighborhood is worth. What about the property (yard/privacy), neighborhood, school district, location (amenities, access to public transportation, specialty shops)? Are these features ones you would not want to give up? Or have your needs and interests changed such that a move might improve your quality of life?
Next, analyze the financial impact of renovating vs. moving. Remember that moving includes costs and hassle relating to selling, buying and moving. Also consider the time involved in a rehab vs a move (including looking at properties). Of course, you’ll also need to consider how mortgage and monthly maintenance costs would compare if you were to move.
So, should you renovate or move? While certain circumstances point in one direction or the other, others require a lot of analysis to determine whether renovating or moving makes more sense. I’d certainly go out and look at properties for sale that could be contenders for a move. I’d also talk to some contractors about costs and time frames for renovating your current home so you have data to work with. For more information and another perspective, click here.