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Most of the people who call us have considered whether to improve their existing home or buy and move into another — usually new — home to accommodate their needs.
Typically, these potential clients are in some state of transition. Life brings change, such as an adult child or elderly parent moving in, a new at-home business venture, a chronic disability to be accommodated, or the last child moving out. Any such reason prompts homeowners to evaluate their housing options as they consider new lifestyle needs and household formation.
Of course, our preference and perspective as remodelers is to improve and adapt an existing home. Business bias aside, however, we also encourage prospective clients to carefully evaluate the costs — both financially and otherwise — between remodeling and moving to another house. We’ve found this exercise to be more effective and convincing than our professional advice alone. Consider the following:
The process of selling a home and moving can cost up to 10 percent of the value of the current home, according to the National Association of Realtors. That 10 percent does not include the costs associated with finding, securing, and purchasing another home, including myriad professional fees for realtors, mortgage brokers, and title agencies.
The homeowner may also need to consider costs for making small repairs or cosmetic upgrades to the “new” house, including new furnishings, window coverings, and perhaps appliances and landscaping.
In addition, most homeowners admit that getting everything they want and need in a new or different house is likely to be both difficult and costly. This is especially true if the owners have been in the current home a substantial period of time so that its value — and that of the prospective new home — has gone up, even despite recent economic conditions.
Here’s a formula we often use to help potential remodeling clients make a financial comparison: A house purchased for $160,000 needs a $250,000 investment to upgrade, expand, and improve it to a level that meets the owner’s needs. That’s a big number, but buying a house that would compare to the remodeled home, usually farther out-of-town and perhaps of lesser construction quality, would likely still cost more. It’s a calculation that any homeowner can do using the price of their home when purchased, cost estimates from remodelers to improve it, and the sales prices of homes they are considering.
Of course, “cost” is not exclusively defined in financial terms. When an owner chooses to move, probably out of the current neighborhood, there’s the cost and labor of transferring, perhaps opening new utility accounts, and registering for different schools, among other expenses in both money and time. The highest cost may be the lost connections the homeowners have made in the current community.
A larger or more accommodating existing home somewhere else may serve some or all of the homeowners’ new needs, but fail to look comfortable or homelike without extensive change. The homeowner must consider, also, that most new homes today are prebuilt or at least based on a handful (or less) of available floor plans. This practice forces the buyers to wedge their circumstances and tastes into a predetermined program set by the builder. When owners make the decision to remodel an existing home they know that they can get exactly what is wanted in both design and finishes to suit the needs of their new lifestyle.
Remodeling certainly has its costs, but unless the owner needs extensive improvements that affect the systems and structure of all or most of the house, remodeling almost always pencils out to be a more affordable, less stressful, and typically a more satisfying option than moving.
Todd Allen Miller, RA-PP
QMA Design+Build, LLC
5000 Boardwalk, Suite 2
Ventnor, NJ 08406
NJ New Home Builder License #037561
NJ Home Improvement Contractor #13VH01107300
(609) 822-4949 – phone
(609) 822-4429 – fax
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