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Homeowners: Should You Stay or Should You Go?

Should I stay or should I go? Its not just an anthemic line to a classic song from The Clash. It’s also an age-old question of homeowners everywhere. When your home’s not so perfect, you get the wandering real estate eye. But can another house really compare to what you’ve got going on?

It’s a conundrum. So much so that it’s even spawned the popular show on HGTV called Love It or List It, where owners of a problem pad fight over whether to remain in their home (with the help of a sizable budget and a skilled reno team) or move to something else.

“Families evolve, whether through the birth of children, the acquiring of possessions, or an increase in job rewards. That charming little cottage two lovebirds started out in often becomes an overstuffed matchbox with too few bedrooms and too many toys, tools, and tricycles, with people stumbling over one another in the course of daily life,” said Money Crashers. “Privacy is nonexistent, noise and tensions regularly escalate, and stress is a frequent guest at the dinner table. The only solution is more room.”

So how do you know whether to renovate or move?

CNN Money asked the same question, and has come up with “5 smart fixes” to the stay or go question.

“Happy with where you live but not so hot on your living space? Now might be the perfect time to address your abode’s architectural flaws,” they said. “With real estate prices on the rise, it’s safer than it has been in years to invest in your home.”

Especially when “remodeling away your house’s shortcomings can cost tens of thousands less than trading up to an already remodeled house, which commands a major premium now. In addition, you avoid realtor fees, moving costs, and the inevitable expense of making a new place your own, no matter how ‘turnkey’ it is.”

Here are a few of their “cost-effective solutions to the issues that most commonly force people to move.”

1. Doubling the space in your kitchen

If your home was built before the 1980s, chances are your kitchen is small and closed off from the rest of the home. Removing a wall between the kitchen and dining room or kitchen and family room is an easy and affordable way to create “a feeling of spaciousness — and also clears room for an island or peninsula that can become a key workstation or a place for family and guests to congregate,” said CNN Money.

Expect to pay a minimum of $5,000 “to remove the wall and refinish the surrounding floor, ceiling, and walls,” and more if you need to add a structural beam or relocate any plumbing.

2. Adding a powder bath on the first floor

Older homes that don’t have a bathroom on the main level are not just difficult to sell — they’re difficult to live in. CNN Money says you can solve this issue by renovating existing space. “You can squeeze a powder room into a space as small as four feet by four feet or even three feet by five feet,” they said. “One option is to repurpose a large coat closet, pantry, or under-stairs cubby. Keep in mind that the closer you put the bathroom to existing plumbing, the less it will cost.”

Expect to pay a minimum of $10,000 if you use what you have and up to $25,000 if you’re building a room from scratch.

3. Turning the master bedroom into a master suite

If your master bedroom is adjacent to another room, you can take over the space. “A lot of people do this when the kids go off to college,” said CNN Money.

Remember that lowering the number of bedrooms in your home can also lower your home value, so consider the equation carefully. “You always want to keep your bedroom count on par with the neighborhood,” they said. “So, in a four-bedroom house area, dropping to three may not be a good idea. But in a predominantly two-bedroom neighborhood, you’d still be way ahead of the Joneses.”

Expect the cost to range from $40,000 to $80,000, depending on if you are adding a master bath and exactly how spa-like you intend for it to be.

4. Converting the attic

If you’re short of bedrooms, you’ve probably thought of adding on. But home additions can be very costly. A great solution can be moving into the attic.

“For growing families, the number of bedrooms is often the biggest factor motivating a move to a bigger and more costly home,” said CNN Money. “The ideal place to add bedrooms is the square footage you already own up in the attic.”

Expect to pay $20,000 and up depending on the space allotted and whether or not you need to add windows or a staircase.

Houzz has some great questions to ask yourself if you are trying to decide between moving or remodeling:

  1. “How do you feel about your neighborhood?
  2. Is there some intangible quality to your house?
  3. Does renovating make economic sense?
  4. Does the existing house have good bones?
  5. How will the latest zoning restrictions affect the project?

For more pointed questions that will help you determine if you’re willing to stay, or ready to go, see Houzz.

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