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  1. Introduction
  2. How Do You Want to Live?
  3. Can Your Current Home Handle the Renovation?
  4. What Would Remodeling Cost?
  5. What Would Moving Cost?
  6. Other Considerations for Renovating vs. Moving
  7. The Bottom Line

The first step in figuring out whether it makes more sense to move or stay put is to clarify what you’re unhappy about in your current home and how you’d rather be living. Putting it down in writing can help you organize your thoughts. Here are some things to consider, along with questions you might ask yourself.

Factors to Consider

Total square footage. Do you need more space because you’re feeling cramped – or less space because your home’s maintenance costs are too high? Are you planning for retirement and wondering if downsizing might be a good idea?

Number of bedrooms or bathrooms. Are you tired of fighting over the bathroom in the morning? Do you have bedrooms that have been sitting empty since your kids moved out 10 years ago? (See Cheap Home Renovations That Pay Off for more on remodeling bathrooms.)

Modernization. Is your home so outdated that you’d practically need to gut the entire thing to modernize it? If so, moving might make more sense. Would a few renovations bring it up to date and make it worth staying? Or do you prefer an older home that doesn’t have granite countertops, an open floor plan and stainless-steel appliances?

Layout. Do you wish you had an open floor plan so you could watch TV with your spouse while she’s working on her laptop on the couch and you’re making dinner in the kitchen (or vice versa)?

Light. Is your home depressingly dark because it’s not getting enough natural light during the day? Are city lights keeping your place aglow at all hours?

Noise. Do you prefer city sounds over the quiet of suburbia? Are you tired of living near a university, where frat parties go to all hours and lively students wander the streets late at night? Do traffic noises intrude when you’re working in your home office, which is alongside a congested road?

Privacy. Do you no longer want to share walls, hallways and common areas with neighbors in a condo building? Do you long for a single-family home that sits on a large lot, giving you plenty of space? (For more on condominiums, see Does Condo Life Suit You?)

Independence vs. HOA. A well-run homeowner’s association (HOA) can remove a lot of the hassle from home ownership by taking care of your landscaping and overall building maintenance, but if it’s poorly run, it can cost you a lot of money. You’ll also have to follow community rules that can run the gamut from the kind of window coverings that are allowed to how you dispose of your trash to whether you can rent out your property. (For more on HOAs, see 9 Things You Need to Know About Homeowners’ Associations.)

Amenities. Do you wish you had a pool to entertain your kids and their friends during the summer – or that you didn’t have a pool because of its ongoing costs? Would you enjoy living somewhere with a community gym or a golf course, or would you never use them and hate paying for them?

Maintenance. The smaller your home and the newer it is, the less time and money you’re likely to spend on maintenance. But maybe the trade-offs are worth it to you on that historic charmer or that palatial house where everyone has their own space. Or maybe you’re exhausted (not to mention your bank account) from the endless upkeep on an ancient house or having to clean 3,000 square feet every week.

Lot size. The bigger your lot, the farther away your neighbors will be, but the more land you have to maintain and the more wildlife you may have to deal with. Your property tax bill could also be higher than it would be if you had less acreage. And if you live alone, you might feel safer with neighbors closer by and the ability to easily detect an intruder on your property.

Location/school district. Do you prefer the convenience of being able to drive or walk to the nearest grocery store in minutes if you run out of milk, or the tranquility of living farther from a commercial area? If you have school-age children, school district is a major consideration. You want them to be in the best one you can afford, but if they’re already in school and you’re thinking about moving, your kids might protest about being yanked away from their friends.

Parking. Living in a condo can mean insufficient parking for you and your guests; so can living in a neighborhood where the homes are so small that everyone uses their garage for storage and parks on the street. A larger home with an ample garage protects your vehicles and can prolong their life, and lets visitors park in your driveway; an HOA with rules against street parking can give a neighborhood a cleaner appearance – or drive you crazy.

Safety. There’s really no way you can enjoy any home if you don’t feel safe there. If the neighborhood has declined since you moved in (or hasn’t proved to be the up-and-comer you thought), moving might be the only answer.

Sense of community. Some people want to be left alone; others want to be able to pop in on their neighbors to chat, arrange playdates for their kids and have community garage sales and fourth of July potlucks. If you’re feeling like a fish out of water in your current community, moving might be your best bet; you can’t remodel your neighbors.

Convenience. As great as the views are up in the hills, do you want to be 20 minutes from the nearest freeway? Do you live close enough to things like doctors, movie theaters, gyms and shopping malls relative to how often you use them? And how long a commute can you endure before it takes a toll on your personal life and mental health?

Next, we’ll consider whether your current home’s characteristics make remodeling an option.

Can Your Current Home Handle the Renovation?
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