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Is It Better to Remodel or Move?

Neither is fun, but which choice will lead to your dream home?

Many homeowners eventually ask themselves: Is it better to remodel or move? The answer depends on your household and needs. As your household shifts and changes, sometimes a dream home can become a nightmare—particularly if your family grows, the kitchen falls out of style, or the home otherwise stops meeting your family’s needs.

When deciding whether moving or remodeling your current home is best, it’s important to consider the impact of your decision, both financially and mentally. Regardless of your final choice, be prepared to put time, energy, and money into either option. Follow this remodeling vs. moving guide to help you decide once and for all.

How to Factor Costs Into Your Decision
The cost of moving or remodeling a home depends on which part of the country you live in. However, the price of selling a house can be shockingly high—and remodeling costs are expensive no matter where you live. Plus, you’ll need to factor in the purchase price of a new place. Here’s how to get started.

Step 1: Decide What You Dislike About Your Home
The deciding factor here will be what kind of renovation your home needs to make it more comfortable for your household. Is the only complaint that the bathroom is outdated? Upgrading your bathroom is a relatively easy fix that will cost much less than moving.

But if there are not enough bathrooms, or you don’t have enough bedrooms for everyone, it might be time to move. Also, additions to a home are notoriously tricky and nearly impossible if you’re in an apartment, townhome, or have a small lot.

You may be able to get creative with your current space to carve a small bedroom, office, or nursery out of a large living room with new walls, but if you need more than that, it might be better to move.

Step 2: Research Home Sale Prices
Look up housing market conditions and sale prices of a new home in your neighborhood or the desired area. If you decide to move, the cost of your new place will be a significant expense. Knowing the estimated prices will allow for an accurate comparison of expenses between remodeling and moving.

To research home prices, use online tools like Zillow, Trulia, or Redfin and government resources like the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). You can also browse local realtor or real estate agent listings for the area and even peruse listings in local newspapers or home magazines.

Step 3: Compare Remodeling Costs to New Home Costs
Once you know the expected cost of buying a new home, you can compare it with the cost of remodeling your current place. This will help you decide which option is best for your budget and family.

Consider the following average estimates for general renovation costs, according to a 2021 Harvard study.

* Adding a bathroom or updating the current bathroom: $3,567 to $23,557
* Upgrading the kitchen: $6,329 to $42,816
* Adding a room: $24,352
* Installing wood floors: $3,349
* Updating insulation: $1,921
* Replacing the roof: $8,207

Your family should also answer the following questions:

* Will paying more now on a house pay off in the long run?
* Will a remodel increase our resale value and make it worth staying?
* Will we need to refinance or use home equity to pay for costs?
* How will our budget be affected?
* Which is more important to our family—short-term or long-term savings?

How to Balance Convenience and Time Needed
Convenience and time go hand-in-hand in deciding whether to remodel or move. It’s also essential to consider the discomfort your household will feel during either process. Here’s what you need to think about.

Step 1: Consider Time Spent Moving vs. Remodeling
If you want a new kitchen, you may have to go months without access to an oven while renovating your current one. Remodeling a bathroom, however, takes between three and six weeks (on average).

A full-apartment renovation takes around four months; it could take longer if permits and approvals are difficult to get. On the other hand, moving can take about five months to complete the entire process, including the home search, making an offer, and moving into the new home.

It’s important to consider the time involved in a remodeling project or move because it affects your daily life. Think about the following to help your decision.

* Does saving time matter to you and your family?
* Will the time to complete a project or move interfere with your current lifestyle?
* How long is your household willing to wait for projects to be completed?

Step 2: Determine Comfort Level
During a remodel (especially if it’s a whole-home update), you’ll likely be very uncomfortable as the kitchen, bathrooms, and other frequently used spaces are rendered unavailable for days or weeks at a time.

With a move, you’re only truly uncomfortable during the actual packing, moving, and unpacking process, though working through a moving checklist (and selling a house) can be incredibly stressful. Which one would be more stressful for you? Does that stress detract from the final payoff?

The Final Verdict
Should you remodel or move? It depends. Renovating a single room in the home certainly outweighs the hassle of moving, but moving can get you everything you need in a home, including more space and possibly a brand-new kitchen or bathroom(s). Can you afford it, though?

Before making the decision, evaluate how your current home works for your current life stage and where you’d like to be in five to ten years. You want a home that can grow and change with you—otherwise, be prepared to move.

Lauren Phillips and Melanie Edwards, REAL SIMPLE