To move or improve: That is the question

Spacious Living: a commodity sought by more and more American families!

Rather than move from familiar surroundings and purchase a new home, however, more and more Americans are opting to remodel their current abode.

In fact, for the last several years Americans have spent more on home remodeling than on new construction. One reason for this is the increasing reluctance of people to take on the additional trouble and expense of a full-scale relocation when, for substantially less money, they can remodel their homes to fit their current desires and needs.

The median American home was built some 34 years ago, when homes were considerably smaller, and the design of kitchens, baths, etc. were not as “family-friendly” as they are today. An estimated 55 percent of those surveyed by the Roper Organization used the word “spacious” to describe their dream home.

A recent survey called USA Remodeling Trends asked 1,900 homeowners who had recently remodeled to list their reasons for doing so. The results were very telling:

  • 50% wanted to add more amenities
  • 47% percent wanted to update
  • 33% decided to remodel instead of purchasing a new home

These days consumers prefer hardwood or ceramic floors in rooms that are well-designed, bright, and spacious.  Soothing natural light can often be gained by taking down walls, creating openings between dining rooms and kitchens, and adding skylights, windows, or sliding doors.

“The Cost vs. Value Report”, conducted by Remodeling Magazine and Harvard Business School, reported that a well-planned and executed project continues to pay off as a smart investment. The report, which reflects the ideas of 250 real estate professionals from around the country, estimates costs and payback values for 11 popular remodeling projects in 60 cities. Topping this list is a kitchen remodel. 

  • Real estate agents estimate that homeowners will recoup 104% of the money spent on a new kitchen if they sell their house within two years.
  • Another great investment is adding a second bath; that payback nationally is 95%. And the same is true for remodeling a bath in a one- or two-bath home.

There are many factors which come into play when deciding whether to move to a new home or to improve the current home. All these factors fit into three categories: location, current home circumstances, and finances.


A family’s ties to the community, the proximity to local services and, especially, their jobs and schools are factors strongly influence a person’s decision to move versus remodel. Below are a few questions to consider when trying to decide.

  • Do you like your neighborhood and neighbors?
  • Do you have children enrolled in school?
  • Does your family have a regular doctor, dentist, house of worship?
  • Is the commute to your workplace a reasonable?
  • Are the values of other homes in your neighborhood rising?

Current Home Circumstances

The condition of the current home is another serious consideration. Obviously, most people won’t move solely because they don’t like the way the kitchen is set up, but some homes are more adaptable to improvements and expansion than others. In general, the biggest resale returns come from improvements that bring the house up to the value of other houses in the neighborhood while adding living space. Kitchens, baths, and master bedroom suites are the rooms where personal preference has the most impact and, not coincidentally, the rooms where remodeling is most common. Below are a few questions to consider.

  • Do local building codes allow you to build an addition either up or out?
  • If not, can space be rearranged and used more efficiently inside the existing home?

The latter option is often a more reasonable choice when considering the most do-able design use and dollar investment use. Skilled interior space planners and designers can sometimes work magic with existing spaces. This solution can also eliminate the months of hassle with zoning and planning boards; septic, sewer, and water problems; and increased real estate taxes associated with adding on. A few other things to consider are:

  • Is the kitchen, bath, or master bedroom one of the first places you want to change?
  • Is a lack of space one of your chief complaints about your current home?
  • Is your current home in the low to middle range of the other homes in your neighborhood?
  • Have you already invested time or money tailoring other parts of your home to fit your tastes and needs?


Finances are, perhaps, the most influential part of the “move vs. improve” decision. Federal tax laws are favorable with respect to home ownership and financing. Homeowners may have a nest egg or the home equity to make the necessary changes to transform their current home into their dream house, or at least a more comfortable and practical home.

One of the biggest attractions of remodeling is that the money that would have been spent on moving expenses, closing costs, and agent’s commission when buying a new home, can be allocated to making your home more comfortable and personalized.  This can sometimes amount to 15 percent of the value of the home! In addition, people who are remodeling don’t have to worry about selling their current home. In the different surveys which rank the stress levels of various life experiences, moving always is ranked toward the top.

  • Is your home undervalued when compared to the assessed value of the lot?
  • Have other houses in your neighborhood stayed on the market for more than 6 months?
  • Would you have to sell your current home before closing on another one?

Sometimes the circumstances will dictate a clear choice. More often than not, however, homeowners need to do their homework and weigh the options. Whatever the decision, it is important to use a professional. Remodeling can often increase a home’s value as well as making it more livable and enjoyable, but no potential buyer will be impressed by poor design, cheap materials, and sloppy craftsmanship.

  • When tackling a major project – kitchen, bath remodel or addition, etc. – everything from interior space planning to design and installation is best done by a professional planner/designer/remodeler if you want a first class remodeling job on time and within budget.
  • Visiting a design/remodeling showroom and seeing photos of completed projects and getting names of satisfied clients is important
  • Feeling comfortable with the firm you are dealing with – i.e., do they have a place of business, showroom, insurance, any Better Business Bureau complaints? Will they fill out necessary permit and all applications necessary for you to visualize and understand what you are getting? – is also critical.

Professional remodeling of your house into your dream home is a good investment, and it’s important it be done by the right firm. If you are considering a renovation. please fill out either our kitchen questionnaire or our bathroom questionnaire, and a representative will be in touch ASAP.  We look forward to hearing from you!