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Renovate or Move: Our Flowchart Will Help You Decide

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Sixty percent of Americans agree that moving is the most stressful life event — but is living in a construction zone any easier? If you’re a homeowner and you’re antsy about your current living situation, you have two options: to renovate or move. There’s a lot to consider when making this decision, from your financial situation to how it impacts your home insurance.

When given extra funds and a choice between the two, 76% of Americans said they would rather upgrade their current home than put a down payment on a new one — but that doesn’t mean renovating is always the smarter option. A number of factors impact whether scheduling renovations or buying a new home is the best financial and emotional decision for you and your family.

Below, we’ll review the pros and cons of both renovating and relocating, and we also feature four questions to ask yourself before you call in a realtor or contractor. You can also jump to our flowchart below to help you decide in three minutes or less.

4 things to consider before you decide

Both moving and renovating can be stressful, costly, and time-consuming. Consider your answer to the four questions below before you decide what the best decision is for your family.


1. Cost: Is it cheaper to renovate or move?

For many Americans, cost is a major factor in home improvement decisions. Whether or not it’s cheaper to renovate or sell depends on your current mortgage situation, as well as how much money you have in savings. Renovations come with immediate, out-of-pocket expenses, whereas moving can put money in your pocket now but cost you a lot more down the line.


2. Emotional attachment: What will you miss about your home?

You and your family may be even more attached to your home than you realize. It may be the place your daughter took her first step, or the last place you saw an ailing grandparent. Consider these emotional implications, both on you and your other family members, before you decide whether you are ready for the stress of moving (and it will be stressful!).


3. Real estate market: Is it a good time to sell?

Even if it is cheaper for you to move as opposed to renovate, will you be getting the most out of your investment? Do some research about market conditions before you list your home. There are also seasonal house selling trends to consider. Homes typically sell faster in spring and summer, and they’re more likely to sell at or above asking price.


4. Timing: Is the timing right for you and your family?

Not only is moving stressful, it also isn’t always feasible or rational given other life events happening to you and your family members. Consider that moving may mean changing school districts, commute routes, and mortgage costs.

Keep in mind that renovating your house comes with immediate expenses, with the average home remodel costing $46,503. If you are setting money aside for college savings or other finances, can you afford a costly renovation right now, or would it make sense to take advantage of your equity and sell for extra cash?

Moving

Most Americans don’t want to move, but if you’re ready for a big change, it may be your best option. Whether you’ve outgrown your current property, see a good sales opportunity, or simply think the grass may be greener on the other side, there are plenty of reasons to consider putting your home on the market — but check out this list of moving pros and cons first.

Pros of relocating


Purchase a new investment

Selling your current home and purchasing a new one can be a great opportunity to upgrade your portfolio if you’ve got equity on your side. If your home is now worth more than what you owe, it may be a good time to sell. You’ll want to have enough equity to pay off your mortgage, cover your closing costs, pay moving expenses, and put down a new (possibly more expensive) down payment.

Or maybe your current investment is no longer affordable, and you are looking to downsize. If so, you’re not alone. A study found that 53% of Americans have struggled to make housing payments and been forced to make trade-offs to make ends meet. Downsizing can help alleviate financial strains and let you kick outstanding debts to the curb.


Gain a new perspective

Are you feeling stuck or complacent in your current home? Sometimes the grass really is greener on a new lawn. A change of perspective could be an exciting opportunity to expand your horizons and improve your mental health and wellbeing (once the stress of moving subsides.)

Jot down a list of things you like and don’t like about your current neighborhood, so when you do start looking at new houses you can be mindful of amenities you’ll enjoy.


Avoid the stress of renovations

Moving allows you to get a house that fits the needs of your lifestyle or growing family without requiring you to live in a construction zone. For some, that’s reason enough to start packing up the boxes and saying your neighborhood goodbyes. With the average renovation in the U.S. costing $46,503 and the average gut and remodel a whopping $150,000, moving could save you a headache — and save your wallet.


Cons of relocating


Pay for moving costs

While selling your home helps build equity and can improve your investment portfolio, it isn’t free by any means. There are tons of selling and moving costs to consider on top of the cost of the new house you will ultimately purchase. Hiring movers, home inspection costs, real estate commission, and home repairs are just some of the expenses you could face once you put your home on the market.


Add stress to your search

Six out of 10 people find moving to be the most stressful life event — beating out divorce or a break up. You should take this added stress into consideration if you’re still on the fence about moving. Do you have work or family obligations that need your attention first? Could you juggle the stress of moving along with other upcoming life events? If not, it may be a good idea to delay the move and consider a remodel instead.


Compromise or spend more time looking

Just because you want to move out of your current home doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy to find a new one that meets all of your standards. It can be incredibly difficult to find a house that is in a desired location that also fits your budget and needs.

Renovating

While renovating is Americans’ preferred method of home improvement, it does require sacrifice from the homeowner and residents. Below, we break down what makes this such a popular option, while also identifying some risks that come with a remodel.

Pros of remodeling


Customize to fit your needs

If you already have a house that you love, doing a remodel is the simplest way to live in a house that fits your needs. Remodeling lets you customize your current home without the hassle and stress of a big move (although you will be living in a construction zone.)


Increase the value of your home

Renovating is one of the best ways to strategically improve your home value, which means more money in your pocket when you eventually sell. Grow your house’s worth with smart projects and additions, and your net profit could skyrocket down the line.

Keep in mind that renovations do require up front costs, but if you have money in savings (or are willing to take out a loan), these immediate costs are often worth it.


Save money on moving

Moving is stressful — and it’s expensive. Why spend $10,000 on moving costs alone when you could renovate your living room and bedroom for the same price? The cost of moving is especially wasteful if you are only gaining minimal equity from your home sale.

 

Cons of remodeling


Risk losing money on your investment

Spending money on construction is always a risk, because not all home renovations pay off. If you are renovating solely to increase your home’s worth for an eventual sale, do your research on what renovations have the biggest return on investment. A garage door replacement or minor kitchen remodel can recoup 80 to 100% of costs, but major kitchen or master suite renovations tend to have much lower returns.


Face hidden costs or delays

Renovations rarely cost what the contractor originally quoted you for. Structural changes, building codes, and pest and rot damage are some of the common issues homeowners run into during a remodel. Plan to set aside more than the initial quote, and be careful when choosing a contractor: look for someone whose referrals include keywords like “good communicator” and “timely deliverer.”


Live in a construction zone

Much like hidden costs, the time renovations take often lasts longer than what’s initially expected. During this time, you’ll be living in a construction zone, or possibly living offsite (which costs even more.) You may also be boarding pets, eating takeout, and sharing bedrooms with family members as the remodel takes place. This can be costly on both your wallet and your mental health.

Before you decide whether to move or remodel, it’s a good idea to sit down with other household members to discuss all of these considerations. Even if you are the ultimate decision-maker, including your loved ones in the process will make the decision easier for everyone.

No matter what option you decide, the work is only just beginning. Don’t forget to contact your homeowners insurance agent during this period of transition to make sure that you stay covered no matter what. For more insights into whether or not you should relocate or renovate, check out our flowchart below.

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