By Roger Hazard
As the housing market continues its gradual recovery, families seeking more space and nicer appointments are weighing their options. Selling and moving to a larger home might offer a more immediate solution, but many are opting instead to stick around and renovate their current house.
Hidden costs of moving
In addition to down payments, closing costs and agent commissions, buying a new home carries a number of additional expenses that should be included in your budget.
Preparing your home for sale. As we all know, it's important to bring your house into order prior to listing it. Many homeowners are comfortable performing simple fixes and touch-ups on their own, but you might want to consider hiring a professional stager to aid with identifying trouble spots, decluttering and maximizing charm. The fee for a home staging varies widely according to home size, level of service provided and the stager's experience. In addition to rearranging your furniture and suggesting inexpensive changes, many stagers have "props" - furniture, artwork, and accessories - that can be rented.
Necessary renovations and updates. The "perfect home" doesn't exist. When you purchase your next home, you will likely want to make a number of changes. This is often true even of new houses. We all want to personalize a space with our favorite colors and styles. Take time - preferably prior to moving into your home - to think through the alterations you would like to make and sketch out a schedule. Start talking with designers and contractors as soon as possible to estimate costs and identify a project sequence that minimizes disruptions to your daily routine.
The furniture challenge. We've all had this experience: The furniture that works so well in one home seems ill-fitting and awkward in a new space. Maybe the two houses have opposing styles or rooms with dramatically different dimensions. Whatever the reason, plan out in advance how each of your large pieces will be used. Draw out an approximate floor plan and test out furniture arrangements.
If you have pieces that will not be reused in the new house, sell or dispose of them prior to the move. This might seem obvious, but many people will spend money to pack and move furniture they don't want, only to immediately get rid of it. Sell the items pre-move and reduce your moving costs and stress level.
After considering the true cost of moving, perhaps renovating your current home looks more attractive. There can be distinct advantages to staying put: Your children won't have to change schools, you won't need to start over with a new set of neighbors, and you can skip the upheaval.
If your current house is in a desirable neighborhood and isn't out-priced compared to the surrounding homes, investing money in renovations might be a wise decision. Your family will have a nicer space to enjoy, and when you do decide to sell, your home will fetch a higher price.
Take time to familiarize yourself with your renovation options, and be sure to walk through nearby open houses to get a sense of what kinds of renovations your neighbors have undertaken.
While it's important to make design choices that work best for you, understanding what buyers want can aide in the decision-making process.
Adding on. If you're running out of space, look into an addition. Popular projects are first-floor master suites, kitchen expansions and media rooms. When contemplating an addition, consider how the flow through your house will change, if there is an opportunity to make improvements to adjacent rooms and how the additional space will blend into the house. Consult with an architect and an interior designer to identify structural, design and consistency challenges.
Repurposing rooms. A lower-cost option for those unable to add square footage is to assign new tasks to existing rooms. Many homes have spaces that get only occasional use - formal living rooms, guest bedrooms and dining rooms. There's no need to use these rooms as they were originally intended. You might even find that swapping rooms makes more sense for how you live in your home.
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