August 29, 2022 | home-buying
Remodel or Move? 14 Questions to Ask Yourself
Life is full of change, and your home is no exception. While maybe it was your dream home “once upon a time”, now it may feel too small, too modest, or too far away from your ideal conveniences— especially if it was your first home.
But home is where the heart is, and with that comes emotions, attachment, and memories. Maybe you’re fond of the quirks that give the place character and value the bonds you’ve formed with friendly neighbors.
This is the perfect time to ask yourself “Do we upgrade by moving to a newer, nicer house, or do we stay here and invest in renovations instead?”
Today, homeowners are spending an average of 13.2 years in their home— an increase from 2012, when the average was 10.1 years. But every family is different, and your own answer may require a combination of soul-searching and practical considerations.
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Remodel or Move: What to Consider
This is a major decision, so we’ve outlined the major considerations for you. Grab a pen and write down the answers to these questions. By the end of the article, you’ll most likely have a clear path forward.
1. What do you want to change about your current situation?
Are your main complaints something that can be solved by moving, remodeling, both, or neither?
For instance, if you don't love the neighborhood you live in, only moving can remedy the issue. If you don’t love the wall color, a remodel is a better answer. If you feel like your home is cluttered with too many collector bobbleheads, that is an issue that neither remodeling nor moving can solve.
Write down the issues you have with your home. Will the problems be solved by renovating, by moving, or by taking some other action?
2. Can you realistically afford a new home?
Objectively evaluate current income, expenses, debt load, and overall financial picture. Is purchasing a home feasible? If buying a home will put a financial strain on your family, a smaller remodeling project might be a better option.
Try out our home affordability calculator to clarify your financial situation. Looking at your entire financial picture can give you a better grasp of any changes needed to afford a new home, as well as the budget you’ll have if you start looking.
3. How would your budget change?
A different home comes with different bills: from mortgage payments to property taxes, it’s going to mean some changes.
A bigger home can mean a bigger mortgage payment. You might have to give up some luxuries to save up for a bigger down payment or make larger house payments. A new home might mean you can’t take that family vacation every year or you’ll have to wait on that new car you’ve been wanting.
On the flip side, if you want to downsize, there could be substantial savings waiting for you. A smaller home could mean lower utility bills, lower property taxes, and no HOA fee. Maybe a lower mortgage payment means you could pay it off faster, or have more room for other financial goals.
Either way, take a look at how your current budget would need to change.
4. How much equity have you built up in your current home?
In other words, how much value will you see after you sell your home? If you bought your house a year ago, you might not recoup what you put down to buy it.
If you’re planning to use the proceeds from the sale toward your new house, this potential value affects your future down payment, which in turn could affect your monthly payment, the terms of the new mortgage, and even your interest rate.
5. Is it a good time to buy?
It’s also wise to look at the housing market as a whole.
- What are homes in your area selling for?
- Are interest rates low?
- Is there inventory available?
We don’t recommend trying to time the market. If you need a house now, you need it now! But if the market is tight and you can hang onto your current home, you might be better off. It’s a personal and nuanced choice.
6. How difficult would it be emotionally for you to give up your home for a new location?
Homes are more than just a roof over your head. Whether it’s memories of first footsteps, cookouts with friends, or holidays with loved ones, you may have grown fond of your home. Despite its fair share of issues, it has been your home!
There is also a comfort factor in familiar surroundings. You know that the fourth stair creaks a little on the right side, and that the porch is the perfect place to read a book in the afternoon. Are you looking to move on from these memories and creature comforts, or would you rather work to improve what you already have?
7. How hard would a move be on your family members?
Transitioning to a new house and school may be stressful for children and adults alike.
- Are your kids young and adaptable or in their last years of school?
- Would a new home mean a further work commute for the adults?
- How close are you to your neighbors and family, and how would that change?
8. How much would renovations likely cost?
Are you envisioning a simple paint job or tearing down walls to make structural changes?
Make a list of what changes you want to make to your home and research average costs for those types of projects. If you want a more exact estimate, contact a contractor to provide a quote.
9. What are my financing options?
Renovating isn’t a cost-free option, obviously. If you don’t have the spare cash to remodel to your heart’s content, it’s time to look at financing. Some options include:
- Home equity loans and home equity lines of credit allow you to borrow against the equity you have in your home. Because your house is used as collateral to secure the loan, these types of loans often have favorable terms.
- Homeowner express loans are specialized personalized loans through Amplify. If you're a homeowner, you can quickly get up to $40,000 for your renovation projects without using your equity as collateral.
- Home improvement loans are unsecured and designed for those using a contactor for their renovations.
If you need more information on your borrowing options, contact a loan specialist at Amplify Credit Union.
10. Are the renovations possible?
You think your house would be perfect if you could just move that door or make that staircase a little wider. On paper, your remodel makes total sense—but reality might be very different!
If you’re making major structural changes, you’re going to need an architect or a general contractor. They can advise you on the realities and cost of your renovations.
11. Do you need permits?
Along with the realities of your changes, permitting is also a consideration that an architect or general contractor can help you with. Something you might think is simple might require permits or approval from local organizations like HOAs or the city government.
Don’t be tempted to try unpermitted work; it can make selling your home in the future very difficult for a few reasons. If your renovations aren’t up to code or permitted, those features probably won’t be considered during the buying process.
Unpermitted work can also make potential buyers nervous—is the work safe? Will they lose value on the home when they try and sell? Will they be obligated to get the legal permits? And worse—will they have to remove the work entirely?
12. How long would renovations take?
Some kitchen remodels can take up to six months, while bathroom remodels typically take two to three. Single room additions may require one or two months. But all of these estimates only apply in a regular economy and market, where there are plenty of contractors and an ample supply of materials. Depending on the current market, contractors might be few and far between! Here are some basic questions to evaluate:
- Are there any supply shortages affecting your area?
- Have you gotten quotes and timeline estimates from contractors?
- How uncomfortable and/or inconvenient would the renovation process be for your family?
- Would any health issues such as allergies be a factor?
13. Are there ways of creating more usable space in your home?
If space is the main issue, consider creative ways to add space in your house without adding more square footage, such as removing or adding walls or renovating your basement or attic. Built-in storage and shelving can also give you a place to store your belongings and make your rooms feel bigger.
14. To what extent would your plans for renovation improve the market value of your home?
If you’re looking to get some return on your renovation, you may be surprised at remodels that do and don't pay off. New garage doors, for example, consistently see a high return on investment. Swimming pools, not so much.
You should also be aware that home appraisals rely heavily on the selling prices of other area homes. If you remodel your home to be significantly improved compared to your neighbors, you may be at a disadvantage when you go to sell.
If you’re going to stay in the home for a long time, this might be less of a concern—your own comfort might outweigh possible future value.
Work Toward the Home of Your Dreams
There is no cut-and-dry answer about whether you should move or stay right where you are. Improving your daily environment doesn’t always mean a move—and renovations aren’t always going to get you what you want!
Your decision to find a new home or give your current one a makeover is a major decision. After you go through the considerations we’ve outlined, check in with yourself. Do you feel more at ease with one option over another?
We’re always here to help with financing, whether that means a new mortgage or a home equity loan for renovations. Contact the experts at Amplify today, and get started on the home you want!