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The question: Remodel or move?

Published: Friday, June 28 2013 3:05 p.m. MDT

If there is something about your location  like a great view  that would be hard to duplicate, then remodeling may be the right solution for you. (David Price, Renovation Design Group) If there is something about your location like a great view that would be hard to duplicate, then remodeling may be the right solution for you. (David Price, Renovation Design Group)

Deciding to remodel does not happen overnight. The decision usually takes a lot of deliberation. We discussed last week how each client who comes to us has a problem to solve. Something about their house is not working for them. Maybe it is too small for their growing family. Maybe it is too big now that the kids have flown the nest. For whatever reason, their house no longer fits their needs. It might be time to take the necessary steps toward creating the dream house. It is safe to say most of us don’t live in our dream houses — yet. In order to get there, there is usually a remodel or a move in the future.

To remodel or to move is a hard choice. Though remodeling is generally less expensive than building an entire new house, it is not always an inexpensive option. We recommend taking time to do some house shopping to see what is out there. Take your wish list and see what a house with those features would cost in the area where you want to live. Understand that it is rare to find your dream house sitting there waiting for you at the right price. Even if you don't find another house, you will know the market rate, which will help you evaluate how much you can reasonably invest in your home.

If you find a home that is interesting but would need some work, you can then decide if you want to make that effort on the new house or your existing one. Remember that moving involves a lot of expenses and stress that will be added on top of your remodeling project.

We tell our clients it comes down to location. If you choose to remodel, you can change anything about your house except where it is. If there is something about your lot or your situation that can’t be duplicated, then you may want to consider staying put and remodeling. Many of our clients choose to remodel based on emotional aspects of their house. It may have sentimental value. For example, one of our clients inherited the house where she grew up. The house was built by her grandfather and was the house where her mother was raised. That is a hard house to sell! For her, no amount of money could ever equal the amount of sentimental value in those walls. She ended up doing an extensive remodel to make it a house where she wanted to raise her family and where she could live for the rest of her life.

Another client came to us torn about whether to move or remodel. Their current house was not working for them. It was a multiple-story house and they wanted a rambler. The rooms were small and the kitchen was charming but tiny. Even if they tore down the house and rebuilt it, the lot wouldn’t allow for what they wanted in their “forever house.” After they honestly analyzed their wants and their needs, it became clear that their current house would never work well for them. They knew they needed to start looking for a new house. After months of house hunting, they found one they loved in a great place. With a few upgrades, they were happy they decided to move instead of remodel.

The bottom line is that remodeling gives you the advantage of being able to customize your home to your family's wants and needs. Despite the attendant mess, noise and inconveniences, it can also be fun, exciting and emotionally satisfying.

Basically, in the move vs. remodel debate, it commonly comes down to the emotional costs. What are you willing to do for a house that works for you? Are you willing to give up your current location, neighbors, schools and local congregation to move into a better house? Or, would you rather take on the challenges of remodeling and keep your current location and remain in your existing comfort zone? Only you can answer that, but make sure you do your homework and talk to professionals like architects, real estate agents and contractors to get the true story on what is possible and how much it will cost. These pros will help you accurately weigh your options and make an educated decision.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the Principal Architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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