Six years later, though, the Tremains felt the time was ripe to move on.
In that period, their household had grown to include three children, an au pair and a handful of pets.
“The thought of major construction was scary to say the least,” said Sandy Tremain, 43, a sales manager.
But when she and Jeff Tremain, 39, began searching for houses, the sticker shock hit.
“Ultimately, after looking at dozens of houses that were substantially more expensive and easily needed over $100,000 worth of upgrades, we decided to pull the trigger and renovate,” she said.
After all, they loved their neighborhood and location, their property taxes would still be lower with the renovation than they’d be with a bigger, newer house — and with a renovation, they could create the home they always wanted, Tremain said.
The couple completely gutted and reconfigured the house. They built an office/bedroom, another bathroom and 1,000 square feet of additional living space, making the kitchen, family room and master suite more spacious. They also replaced the exterior with new siding and incorporated new landscaping, along with other improvements.
“We have our dream house now, and the cost proved to be less than buying something new,” she said, declining to reveal what the couple spent on the renovation.
Choosing whether to renovate or to move — essentially, in the words of HGTV, whether to love it or list it — is a complicated decision. Before forging ahead, you need to weigh multiple factors. Experts suggest you ask yourself these questions.
— How long have you been in your home?
Consider waiting three to five years before selling, said Joshua Lybolt, president at Lifstyl Real Estate in northwest Indiana.
“Typically, at three years is when you break even, as one should consider costs like real estate agent commissions and moving expenses,” Lybolt said. Property values also can change during this time, which could improve your home’s value, he said.
— Did you think about the reality of renovations?
“Renovating is time-consuming: waiting for permits, inspectors, communicating with your general contractor and picking out finishes and fixtures,” said Evelyn Clifford, a broker with @properties in Chicago. Along with being drawn-out, the endeavor can be expensive — Clifford advised that those considering a remodel should budget for 20 percent more than the estimated cost to allow room for unforeseen expenses.
— Are you going to over improve your home?
The best investments you can make are upgrades to the bathroom, kitchen, landscape, carpet, and paint, Lybolt said. Your home value is in part based on comparable houses in the neighborhood, he said, so if there’s a chance you might sell your home down the line, be careful not to renovate so extensively that your home’s value far outpaces homes in the area — you’ll be less likely to recoup the costs of the remodel when you sell.
— Do you like your location?
“Location is and always should be the first consideration,” said Robert Boudreau, a certified home inspector with Metro-West Appraisal and Home Inspections who’s based in Detroit. If you love your current location, then you may want to renovate to stay there, rather than move to a better home in a less desirable location.
— How much can you get for your home?
Talk with a local realty agent who knows your neighborhood well, said Jonathan Self, a real estate broker with Center Coast Realty in Chicago. “They can give you insight into homes that have recently sold, and what the demand was like for those homes,” he said. Depending on what the market is for homes like yours, the agent will tell you whether now is a good time to sell your home — and whether you’ll be able to find or afford the home you want, Self said.
— Would you be happy with a face-lift?
Megan Clancy, Glencoe, Ill.-based owner of Orderly Manor, organizes and stages homes to get them ready to be sold. But often, after she preps a house by painting it, changing light fixtures and getting rid of the clutter, clients change their mind about selling. “Then we get new tiles and spruce it up to cosmetically look even better,” Clancy said. “We basically put some makeup on it to make it look a little prettier.” Clancy suggested that before you go through the effort of moving, think about whether you’d rather spend a little money to organize, declutter, and redo a few aspects of your home to freshen its appearance.
— Have you truly outgrown your space?
If you need extra bedrooms and can’t split one in two, then you may have outgrown your space. Or if you’re always feeling cramped in the common areas and have no more walls to knock down, then perhaps it’s time to seriously consider a move. But if your issues can be resolved with renovations, you can expand the backyard to allow for more outdoor space and you’re fond of your neighborhood, you are probably better off staying where you are, Self said. The cost of moving combined with house-hunting time and effort won’t be worth it, especially if you haven’t lived in your home for long. “If you’ve been in your home less than five years, haven’t outgrown the space, and are dreaming of living in an upgraded space in your current neighborhood, chances are you’d be better off going through some renovations,” Self said. But when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of renovating, he warned: “Just know that this is not going to be like an HGTV show.”
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