“To move or to remodel” may as well be the homeowner’s equivalent of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be.” It’s an eternal question, and with good reason. There are several factors that go into determining which course of action is best for you, your family, and your immediate and future needs. These factors include a careful assessment of the current housing market position, the stress involved with each course of action, a detailed cost analysis of both options, the location you want to live in, and the reason why your current home isn’t meeting your needs. Today we’ll briefly review each of these topics to help you make an informed decision.
What’s Happening in the Boston Housing Market?
If you’re considering buying a new home, you need to be aware of the current market situation. Right now, it’s definitely a seller’s market. Demand is high, and availability is low. In fact, one recent Wall Street Journal article reported that the U.S. is almost four million homes short of buyer demand. Since 2018, there has been a 52% increase in home shortages nationwide. For the Boston market in particular, the situation is no different.
You might think that the current market demand means it’s a good time to sell your home, and you’re right. But you need to be aware of the stress and competition that comes on the flip side of the equation when you’re trying to find a new home. A recent Boston news report shows that the housing market is aggressively competitive, with homes selling for well over the asking price (we’re talking $100,000 over the asking price in many instances).
Not only are bidding wars skyrocketing, but prospective homebuyers are also being forced to make rapid-fire decisions on weighty financial purchases, often site unseen. As an example, one home in Newton was listed at 2 am on Wednesday and had three offers by lunchtime on Thursday, and all offers were made by people who hadn’t actually seen the house!
So if you’re considering buying, the first question to ask yourself is whether or not you’re prepared for the emotional roller coaster of competing in an aggressive housing market. On the other hand, if you opt to remodel, you may feel more confident in expecting that your house will continue to appreciate given the current market trajectory.
Which option is more expensive: moving or renovating? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is very nuanced. No two homeowners’ situations will be apples to apples, but there are general cost considerations for each option that you should keep in mind as you assess which direction is more cost-effective for you personally.
The more straightforward cost to calculate is remodeling. In this instance, all you have to do is contact your remodeler, explain your project, and request a quote. For buying a new home, you’ll need to do some research to calculate specific costs. Don’t forget to take into account costs associated with preparing your home to sell (you may need to make small repairs or hire a contractor to help you make minor improvements to boost curb appeal). You’ll need to factor in agent commissions (unless you plan to sell by owner, prepare to pay approximately 5% on a commission); evaluate the cost difference between what you’re likely to sell your home for versus what you’re likely to spend when buying a new house); and, of course, consider the costs associated with moving itself.
Of course, cost isn’t the only consideration. The other major consideration to add to the remodeling versus moving discussion is location. Do you like where your current house is? Do you want to retain easy access to your place of employment, your social touchpoints, and your children’s schools? Do you get along well with your neighbors? Are you pleased with your property? Do you feel safe and fulfilled in your current environment?
If you answered yes to some or all of these questions, keep in mind that none of these conveniences should be sacrificed lightly given the competitive nature of the current housing market. Assuming you are happy with your current location, one strong benefit of remodeling rather than moving is that you can change what isn’t working while retaining all that is good. In other words–build on the positive elements.
A Space that Meets Your Needs
Now let’s address the heart of the matter. If you’re considering moving, it’s because something isn’t working about your current home. Maybe you feel that your layout isn’t functional, or that you need more space. Maybe you need to upsize to accommodate a growing family or downsize to live more simply. Perhaps you’re planning for the future and want a home that will enable you to age in place. Or perhaps you want to move from an older home into a newer space that will require less upkeep and allow you to make improvements related to energy efficiency.
Whatever your particular situation, you might be pleasantly surprised to learn that even major alterations to your home can be accomplished with creativity and skill by an experienced design-build firm. In undertaking a renovation, you have the opportunity to completely reimagine your space to accommodate your needs. If you opt to sell your home and move into another existing home, on the other hand, you will be moving into someone else’s vision rather than customizing your own. By choosing to renovate, you are choosing to craft a space that truly meets your needs.
What Kind of Issues Can a Renovation Actually Solve?
When you’ve lived in the same home for years, it can be hard to visualize it drastically different than it is now. Issues that you may think can only be solved by moving into a new space–such as aging in place or adding energy efficiency to an old Victorian home with many stairs and needed repairs can indeed be addressed by an experienced design-build firm.
Old homes can be made into new homes, retaining their charm while adding efficiency. One outstanding example of this concept is the net-zero energy Victorian home in Cambridge that was recently featured in Harvard Magazine. The sustainable construction trend is gaining momentum all around the world– but usually, its practices are applied to new buildings. This Cambridge home broke stereotypes by adhering to Passive House Principles in an architecturally stunning and historic Victorian home.
So the answer is that a renovation can solve extremely large-scale issues, giving you the best of both worlds. The caveat to that answer? Large-scale remodels as the one cited above require innovation and expertise. At NEDC, we’re proud to say that we have both, and we have a portfolio and level of client care and goodwill to prove it. Don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss your personal renovation needs. Together, let’s reimagine your home.