We've all watched the afternoon renovation television shows, and the remarkable transformations that they seem to pull out of nowhere on a shoestring budget. While this magic appears relatively problem-free on television, renovation seldom is as fun or inexpensive as they make it appear to be. After all, they have the help of designers and contractors who may or may not have donated their time and materials in exchange for the exposure of being on the show, and of course, they can always cut from the final edit that occasional trip to the hospital with a bloody finger if they want. The rest of us occupy a place called the real world, where project costs are rarely exempt from overruns, the weather doesn't always cooperate, and people doing the work aren't always at their peak performance. That’s what makes the decision between renovating and moving such a big deal- It can be just as expensive to upgrade your existing house as it can be to simply buy the house that will best suit your needs.
Sometimes the decision isn’t so cut-and-dried, though. You may not always be able to move due to a dip in the value of your home, or zoning restrictions may limit what you can do to your home. This happens particularly often in historical neighborhoods where you aren’t allowed to change the footprint of the house, and sometimes, even the interior layout. What may be more problematic is if you’ve found a really nice neighborhood that you love, and your family has outgrown your house.
One of the first considerations you have to think about is the cost versus benefit. You’ve probably heard that most renovations don’t return you what you put into them, and some renovations are much worse for home resale value than others. For instance, swimming pools are one of the worst additions you can put on your home if you’re expecting to get a return on your investment. Bathrooms are one of the best, but even a well-planned and executed bathroom renovation won’t return you what you paid for it! At best, you might get only 80 cents on the dollar. For updates that will return you what you pay for them, consider ripping out old, dated carpeting, getting rid of that tacky wall paper, and painting rooms in neutral colors rather than more vibrant tones that might suit your personality, but won’t appeal to everyone.
Consider whether you're planning to stay in the house or not. If you aren't planning to stay, then the extra value you put into the update/upgrade will likely be lost, as well, so why put money into a home for someone else’s enjoyment? The simple answer is “don’t.” However, if you're happy with the house and the location, if you can see yourself enjoying your retirement in the house, than really, the only question is "why not?"
If you do decide to update, then it's important to keep in mind those updates that add the most value to a home, while at the same time addressing the needs you have that have to be addressed. Generally speaking, kitchen updates and bathrooms are the best investments in a home's value that you’ll enjoy using, while pools and hot tubs, as well as "trendy" updates are the worst, since chances are you’ll want to change them quickly when you tire of them. If you plan to stay with the house for the long haul, though, go ahead and put in that sauna if it makes you happy. It is, after all your house, and if it’s got good bones, is in a good neighborhood, and suits your lifestyle, then you’ll probably just end up regretting moving, so why not renovate? At the end of the day, it all comes down to how you feel about the house!