Feeling restless in your home? Maybe you don’t have enough bedrooms and living space for your growing family, or adequate storage for your things. Or perhaps you’re yearning for a bigger backyard with an outdoor kitchen, an open-plan main floor, or an extra garage.
But in a red-hot real estate market, is it better to jump into a competitive market for a new home that fits your needs, or stay where you are and upgrade your property instead? Here’s how to figure out what’s right for you.
Evaluate whether to love it or list it
REALTOR® Jody Tindill often helps homeowners decide whether to move or to renovate.
“The first question I ask is, ‘What do you love about your home, what made you fall in love with it in the first place, and can we work with it to make it more functional?’” says Tindill, broker/owner of The Loft Realty in Prince George, British Columbia. Tindill is also business manager and co-owner with her husband Dave of Belledune Homes, a construction company.
If you’re not attached to your current home or the neighbourhood, then it’s time to consider moving, she says. But understand that in a seller’s market, it might take a while to find the right place.
“In every market in Canada, folks are unsure: They’d love to move up in the market and buy a different house, but many are struggling to buy because supply is low, or everything seems out of their price range,” explains Tindill.
Moving up and moving out
Moving can be a great investment opportunity and could offer you more space. Sometimes, the best way to upgrade is to start from the ground up with new construction. Keep in mind when building a home, timing is important, says Tindill.
“If you don’t have a lot of equity or you cannot get financing to carry two mortgages, you can’t be stuck with two homes,” she explains. “You need a plan B, because in this market, you cannot put in an offer that’s subject to the sale of your home. It will never work.”
That means looking into a short-term rental while you wait for the new home to be finished or an existing home to become vacated. You can also negotiate with your buyers to remain in your current home and pay rent to avoid moving twice.
“Moving can be very stressful on families,” adds Tindill.
With the added hassles of packing and relocating, some families may opt for staying put.
Reconfiguring and maximizing your space
For many homeowners, it makes sense to invest in your home to make it work, notes Tindill.
“If you love the location of your current property and you have a good-sized lot plus a house with good bones in an established neighbourhood, then look at the benefits of renovating,” she suggests.
Often, there’s hidden potential in our homes, and an experienced designer can transform nooks and crannies into bonus living space. Or, homeowners may choose to open up their floor plan by taking down walls to make the space feel larger and brighter.
Building on to what you have
Of course, if you’re in a small home, you won’t suddenly find space for a new principal bedroom and ensuite. If your lot is large enough, though, you can build an addition; just be aware it can be an expensive project.
“People are often surprised by how much an addition costs–it’s essentially adding on a new building to your existing house, with siding, roofing, windows, and insulation,” she explains.
Depending on whether you choose a one-, two- or three-story extension, it can cost more than new construction, because crews have to demolish parts of the house, she adds. Also, if your home was built earlier than 1990, you may need dangerous hazardous materials removed, such as asbestos or lead paint.
“We are required to test for it and remediate it if it’s there, and that can be very, very costly on an older building,” says Tindill.
Investing in your ‘forever home’ pays off
Tindill’s crew is currently working on a second addition for a family that loves their location. The first renovation two years ago included a triple garage, a new mudroom, a refreshed basement, and a kitchen remodel. Now, the homeowners are investing in a two-story office at the back of the house.
“They work from home, so they can pay themselves that rent; we did the same thing with our own home,” says Tindill.
The decision to renovate or pack up and move homes is a personal one. There isn’t a right or wrong answer—it all depends on what works best for you and your family. However, just because it’s a personal decision doesn’t mean there aren’t people who can help. When you’re trying to decide whether to move or renovate, speak with an experienced REALTOR® to get a big-picture view.