Q: My family is growing out of our current home and we’re desperate for more living space. My house can also use a major face-lift. I’m wondering: should I move to a new house, or make some major improvements to my current home?
A: Choosing to move to a new home or to make improvements to your current home is a big decision. The right answer will depend on your general financial situation and other personal circumstances. Here, we’ve outlined the pros and cons of each choice so you can make the decision that is best for you.
Moving to a new home
For most people, a home is the largest purchase they will make during their lifetime. It can take years to save up for a down payment on a home, and many months of planning and wise decision-making before a home purchase is finalized.
Pros of moving:
- Opportunity for a fresh start. You can choose a new location that better suits your needs, such as a superior school district, proximity to family or work or a more desirable community.
- More living space. This is especially beneficial if you have a growing family or want to add more amenities to your home, such as a home office, designated playroom or gym.
- Potential for appreciation. If you buy a home in an area that is experiencing growth, your property value may increase over time, resulting in a return on your investment.
- No dealing with renovations. If you purchase a home that’s already in move-in condition, you won’t have to deal with the headache of renovations at all.
Cons of moving:
- Exorbitant upfront costs. Moving to a new home doesn’t come cheaply. You’ll need to spring for closing costs, a down payment, the actual move and for any new furniture you may need to purchase for your new residence. Selling your current home will also cost you in renovations, agent fees and title insurance.
- Emotional attachment to your home. Did your son take his first steps in the kitchen of your current home? Did your dog have her puppies in the garage? If you’ve been living in this home for many years and it holds lots of happy memories, you may be reluctant to leave.
- Difficulty finding the perfect home. You may need to settle for a home that is less than perfect in many ways. That may end in more stress and regret.
- Stress of selling your home. The housing market is unpredictable, and you may not be able to sell your current home for the desired price. Of course, if you don’t own your current home, this does not apply to you.
- Potentially higher interest rate on your mortgage. If rates have increased since you bought or refinanced your current home, or your credit score has slid, you may end up with a higher interest rate on your new mortgage. That could mean paying much more over the long run.
Questions to ask before deciding to move
Before you go ahead with the decision to move to a new home, ask yourself these questions:
- What are the market conditions like in my current neighborhood? Will I be able to get my asking price on my home within a short amount of time?
- What are the market conditions like in my desired neighborhood, and how are they trending? Will I be able to find a home that suits my needs and is within my price range?
- Do I have enough money saved up to pay for the move? Will I need to wait until I sell my home or take out a bridge loan to cover the gap?
- Is this a good time for my family to move?
Improving your current home
Now, let’s take a look at the option of improving your current home with a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). A HELOC gives you quick access to cash by using your home as collateral. You can withdraw the funds, as needed, over a period of time known as the draw period. When this time is over, you’ll no longer be able to advance funds and will repay the loan, with interest, over the repayment period.
You can also take out a Home Equity Loan (HEL), which will provide you with one lump sum, generally at a fixed rate and payment, and you start paying back immediately.
Pros of improving your home:
- Completely customize to fit your needs. When you design your own home, you can have it customized to perfectly suit your family’s needs and your own tastes. Think trampoline floors in the playroom and built-in bookshelves in the family room.
- No stress of relocating. When you renovate your home, you can continue to enjoy the same home and neighborhood you’ve lived in for years.
- Increase the value of your home. Home improvement projects increase your home’s value, increasing your net profit when you do decide to sell in the future.
- Save on moving costs. Why pay thousands of dollars in closing and moving costs when you can have a beautiful new living room for the same price?
Cons of improving your home:
- Stress of renovations. Dealing with a home improvement project can be super-stressful. There are loads of decisions to make, an endless mess and workers in your home at all hours of the day.
- Risk of foreclosure. Taking out a HELOC or HEL puts your home at risk of foreclosure if you are unable to make the payments. This can have long-term consequences on your credit score and financial stability.
- Additional debt. A HELOC or HEL adds another debt to pay each month, which can be a burden on your budget.
Questions to ask before deciding to improve your home
Before you go ahead with the decision to improve your current home, ask yourself these questions:
- Can I afford the monthly payments on a HELOC?
- How much will a home improvement project cost me?
- Will I be able to handle living in a construction zone?
- Do I want to continue living in this neighborhood?
Your Turn: Have you chosen to move or to improve? Tell us what drove your choice in the comments.