- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2005

Unless you’ve taken a new job in a new location, the decision to move up may involve deciding whether to remodel or move altogether.

Homeowners nationwide will spend $192.8 billion this year to either remodel or repair their homes, according to U.S. Census figures.

The Remodeling Index, provided by National Association of Home Builders’ Remodeling Council, considers alterations at $25,000 or below to be minor; major alterations are above that amount.

Where do you stand?

Is it worth $25,000 or more to remodel, or should you move up?

There are reasons in favor of either choice. Let’s deal with the remodeling first.

• Your community is great, why move? Some homeowners already live in the best community for their family and lifestyle. The schools are great, it’s near their worship center and shopping. They are plugged in with neighbors and the community. So, instead of moving, it might be best to expand or remodel.

• Sometimes, it’s just time to upgrade. Even if you’re planning on selling in the future, if you bought a home with 15-year-old appliances and decor, it may be time to switch them out. I always get frustrated with homeowners who want to remodel right before they move. They’ve never had the opportunity to enjoy the house they’ve just remodeled. Upgrades may include flooring, bathrooms, kitchen, exterior facelift, paint, curtains, furniture, not just the house itself.

• It might be cheaper than selling. If you need more space, remodeling might actually be cheaper than selling, especially if you’re looking at finishing or remodeling the basement. Finishing the basement is the easiest and most affordable remodeling project for most homeowners because the exterior walls are in place and plumbing and most wiring usually already have been run throughout.

• You’re a do-it-yourselfer. You love those Saturday-morning programs on public television or Home and Garden Network. Living in a dust-ridden environment with tools and power cords strewn throughout is your vision of heaven on Earth. Go for it.

• You’ll have to remodel the new house anyway. Most new homeowners spend up to 30 percent of the value of the new house they just bought fixing it up the way they want. So why move? Just spend that money where you are.

There are just as many reasons to move instead of remodeling.

• The move could take less time and hassle. Depending on the condition of your local market, you may be able to list, sell and move in a shorter period of time than it would take to actually remodel your current home. Time is a major factor in our busy lives, and many times it would be quicker to just move.

• Remodeling is disruptive. You have to hire a designer, then a contractor, move furniture from one area to another in your house, find storage for the rest, live with dust and workmen for several months and then hope you like what you get at the end of it. Better to buy the house that’s already finished the way you want it than betting on a finished product you’re not sure about.

• It’s hard to get it right. The challenge for remodeling contractors is that they are being told by a remodeling-challenged homeowner what they want and then they try to create that environment. If the homeowner doesn’t like the end result, there’s no going back without significant expense.

• Remodeling could cost more than moving. For some people to get what they really want, they would have to double their mortgage, anyway. It might be better to check out what’s available in new construction or even in a move up in the community. Plus, builders in some markets are starting to offer free upgrades — rec rooms, decks and other add-ons — that usually are the subject of a remodeling job.

• Your family has grown. You just may need a larger home because you have more children or your parents/au pair/adult children have moved in with you.

When it’s time to remodel, look over the local real estate market before making your final decision. It might be in your best interest to make that move instead of knocking down a wall.

M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate since 1989. He is the author of “Real Estate Investing Made Simple.” Got a personal real estate issue? Post questions or comments on his Web log (https://[email protected]).

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