Solved! Is It Better to Remodel Your Home, or Move to a New One?
When homeowners find that their house is no longer meeting their needs, there are two options: remodel or move. These considerations can help homeowners choose wisely based on their long-term needs and budget.
Q: I live in an older home, and the space just isn’t working for me anymore. Remodeling could help, but I’m wary about living through construction and am considering moving into a newer home instead. Should I remodel or move?
A: Deciding whether to remodel or move is no small choice—on one hand, enduring a months-long renovation can be a major disruption to daily life. On the other hand, packing everything up and moving into a new space can be similarly daunting. With this type of dilemma, there is usually no standard answer; the final decision will depend on whether the current space has staying power but could benefit from a major update or is no longer suitable and needs to be sold to someone else. Factors such as budget, scale of renovation, time commitment, and the current housing market are all considerations when deciding what’s best. These factors will help homeowners choose whether to embark on a home remodel or start saving for those moving costs.
When contemplating moving versus remodeling, it’s important to consider the scale of renovation necessary to make the home functional. For example, if the house is too small, moving may be more practical than building a large addition.
Before taking a sledgehammer to the walls or saving for a move, it helps to take a minute to consider why the home isn’t working in the first place. If the current home is big enough to grow into and just needs some updating, remodeling may be a better option than moving. However, if the space is already feeling cramped and would only be livable with major updates, moving to a new home would likely cost less and be more beneficial. It’s worth considering the specific projects that would bring the home up to date—would a kitchen remodel be sufficient, or would it be necessary to completely redesign the home? On average, the cost of renovating kitchens is typically the highest, with bathroom remodel costs being a close second. Each additional room that needs updating will increase the total cost to remodel the house.
|Room||Average Cost to Remodel|
|Attic||$4,600 to $16,400|
|Bedroom||$1,500 to $5,500|
|Garage||$1,500 to $50,000|
|Kitchen||$14,550 to $40,400|
|Living room||$5,000 to $10,000|
For homeowners who love their current home’s location and size, remodeling can tailor it to their lifestyle and increase the home’s value, which may be a better option than selling it and moving to a new home. According to home builder Carney Properties, it’s a good idea to undertake new home renovations every 15 to 20 years to keep the home functional and up to date. However, if major upgrades are needed, or homeowners are not content with foundational aspects of the home, the costs associated with moving may be worth it.
The decision will also depend on a homeowner’s budget and financing options—remodeling often comes with a higher initial expense, but a new house is likely to cost more overall.
There may be a significant up-front cost for a home remodel, but the cost of moving can be higher overall. Depending on factors such as the type of remodel being planned or the current housing market, the option that is most cost-effective will vary from one homeowner to another. Knowing the major costs associated with moving and remodeling can create a clearer picture for homeowners as they decide whether to research a remodeling contractor or start updating their home to sell.
When it comes to remodeling, some of the major costs include:
- Financing: Taking out a loan to remodel means paying for closing costs and the added expense of interest on the loan. These costs will depend on the type of loan, the interest rate, and the loan amount. One option is to take out of the best home equity loans (U.S. Bank or Bank of America are top options) which will allow homeowners to finance their remodel by taking out a second mortgage.
- Materials and labor: Home renovation costs will depend largely on the materials being used and how labor-intensive the project is. It’s a good idea for homeowners to research the average costs of remodeling major rooms in order to know what to expect beforehand.
- Permits: Depending on city or state requirements, major changes to the structure of a home can require approval from officials, which includes obtaining and paying for permits.
- Unexpected costs: Going over budget is a very real possibility with remodeling projects. It’s a good idea for homeowners to build a contingency budget in case there are unanticipated expenses.
Alternatively, there will be different costs to buy a new home and move:
- Agent commission: Typically, the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent both take a 3 percent cut of the sale of the home, so it’s important to factor that into the cost of selling the home and buying a new one.
- Cost of a new home: Not only is there a down payment to consider, but there are also closing costs, which are usually 3 to 6 percent of the loan amount.
- Moving costs: Homeowners who choose to pay for a professional mover will want to keep in mind that the costs can escalate when relocating to a different state or moving out of the country. It’s a good idea to contact the best moving insurance companies to get a quote on insurance for a potential move.
- Repairs: Once a home inspection is complete, the buyer may ask for problem areas to be repaired before the sale is finalized.
If time is a major consideration, it’s important to note that the remodeling process is likely to be a longer-term commitment than moving.
They say time is money, which is why some may be hesitant to embark on a long-term remodel. However, some rooms may take much less time to redo, so long as they don’t involve ripping everything down to the studs or relocating entire rooms. Remodeling can last anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 months, depending on the room and the extent of the project. A small bathroom remodel, for example, can take 2 to 3 weeks, while a full kitchen remodel may take several months to complete, especially if it involves relocating wiring, plumbing, or knocking down walls. The right remodel contractor will stay as close to the projected timeline as possible and have homeowners back in their spaces in a reasonable amount of time.
Completing a renovation in a particular order can reduce the timeline and make the project go more smoothly. Most experts recommend starting with the room that is the highest priority, which is often the kitchen. From there, it will be possible to tackle adjoining spaces such as living and dining areas, followed by bathrooms, offices, or basements.
It’s also a good idea to research the current housing market to determine whether it is a good time to relocate.
To understand the cost to move, it’s wise for homeowners to factor in what the area’s housing market is like and whether it’s competitive, what interest rates are like, and if there is plenty of inventory available. It’s worth speaking with a trusted source in the real estate industry or doing a bit of independent research to get a better idea of the state of the housing market and whether it’s a good idea to move. Some relevant questions to ask include:
- Is it a buyer’s or seller’s market?
- What is the inventory like for single-family homes?
- How are mortgage interest rates trending?
- How long are current listings staying on the market?
- What are home prices in the area like compared to labor costs?
The ideal situation would be a buyer’s market with low mortgage interest rates and plenty of inventory, but that’s not always the case. Knowing the current market can make it easier for homeowners to answer the question: “Should I remodel or move?”
Lastly, if the home or its location has sentimental value, this may factor into the decision of whether to leave or stay.
It’s possible to change almost anything about a home with the right budget, except for its location and its meaning. Maybe a home has been passed down for generations or sits on the perfect plot of land that’s within walking distance of great restaurants and shops. These factors can impact a homeowner’s decision on whether to move or improve their home and will need to be considered carefully before a choice can be made. If the home has sentimental value but would require major remodeling, homeowners can take comfort in knowing that updating a house does not have to be done all at once.
If remodeling is the right fit, finding a trustworthy remodeling contractor can save homeowners time, money, and stress.
Once a homeowner has decided to remodel their home, it’s time to find the right people to make it happen. For those who are not sure who to hire for a remodel, a licensed, experienced remodeling contractor can make the process run smoothly, especially if the lines of communication are strong throughout the renovations. When speaking to contractors, it’s important for homeowners to understand the difference between what it means to renovate vs. remodel. Remodeling can mean repurposing or changing the intention of the space. To renovate a home means to make cosmetic changes, such as new paint, furniture, and flooring. For this reason, it’s worth clarifying the nature of the remodel or renovation project so that everyone is on the same page.
The best home renovation contractors will pay attention to the details of the project; that way mistakes are avoided and homeowners aren’t forced to spend more money correcting errors or purchasing more supplies. It’s a good idea to hire a contractor that can provide proof of insurance and warranties their work, which can provide great peace of mind. While homeowners may consider acting as their own general contractor to save money, leaving the project in the hands of an experienced professional can greatly reduce stress and keep the project within the anticipated budget and time frame.
For homeowners who decide to move, getting help from a reputable moving company can make for a smoother transition to the new home.
Moving can be cumbersome—all the packing, loading, moving, and unloading is no small feat. If it’s possible to make room in the budget to hire one of the best moving companies like United Van Lines or Mayflower, this can make the process much less of a headache and can reduce the workload. A reputable moving company will likely be able to pack up all belongings, move them into a truck, and deliver them to the final destination. If full-service moving isn’t in the budget, another option is to simply pay for movers to transport everything from Point A to Point B, which is especially helpful for those without access to a truck with a trailer or other means of transportation.
If the move is 100 miles or less, the cost to hire movers could be anywhere from $911 to $2,514 depending on the home size, the distance, and how many movers are needed. Long-distance moves, on the other hand, will cost about $2,649 at the lowest and $6,978 at the highest when homeowners are paying for professional movers.