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©2013 Trina Knudsen
BEFORE: A good remodel can turn a home's most glaring deficiency into its greatest asset.

The only constant thing in life is change.

We move through life in stages, phases and segments. Each period of life requires something different from our houses. There may be times when our homes feel too small or too big. For whatever reason or current circumstance, our house suddenly doesn’t fit our needs anymore. This is the point when people contemplate the options of moving or remodeling.

The typical American family purchases a small starter house for its first real estate venture. However, when the children come along, the house is often no longer big enough. While the family might stay for a few more years, they feel the walls tightening as those children grow. If circumstances allow, it is time to move on to a larger home or make significant changes to the one that has been outgrown.

The years fly by and the next challenge hits: the empty nest. When the children move away, the house may suddenly feel too big. Again, the house isn’t meeting your needs. It is time to downsize or repurpose the empty rooms into a new office, recreation room or your new personal hobby lobby.

In another situation, some couples face the prospect of becoming caretakers for an aging parent or relative. Or perhaps a family member is ill or becomes disabled, and the home needs to become more accessible. Time for yet another change.

There isn’t always an external circumstance that motivates a need for a change in your living situation. Sometimes, it is more of a psychological desire. You may have reached a point in life or in your career where you want more out of your house. It may be time to finally live in your dream house or a version of it.

Whatever the motive, there comes a time for a change. There are essentially two ways to accomplish this change: move or remodel.

In the remodel vs. move debate, there is a good question to start with: Do you like your current location?

A lot comes with the location of your house. Your commute, neighborhood, schools and your local church congregation are all predicated on where your house sits. The proximity to your favorite stores, getaway spots or family and friends also impact your decision to move or remodel. Are you happy with all these elements of your current location? Is this where you want to stay? Can you and your family handle everything that will change with moving?

What about your lot? Does the piece of property itself leave something to be desired or do you love your land? If you love your location and everything that comes with it and just have some wishes and dreams for the house itself, then remodeling may be the right answer for you.

In looking at your property, you have to determine if your land allows for a remodel. Some homes are built to the capacity of the lot and need to be remodeled within the original footprint. An architect can help you go over zoning details to determine what can be done with the design of your house, and a real estate agent can help you determine if remodeling or adding on will be a good financial move considering the market and resale value for your neighborhood.

It is even possible that the answer to the dilemma results in a combination of both moving and remodeling. You are not likely to find the perfect house waiting for you on the market; most "new-to-you" homes will need some updating and remodeling. Often a client will find a new house that lends itself better to the remodeling dream than their existing house. An architect can consult with clients who are house shopping and advise as to the potential of a house to aid in the decision-making process.

Moving and remodeling each have their pros and cons. Both will cost you time, effort and money. And, sorry to tell you, you will most likely be packing boxes in both scenarios. At best, a successful remodeling feels just like moving into a new house — without changing your address. That’s known as having your cake and eating it, too.

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