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Article - home improvements

Should You Move or Improve Your Property?  

by Chris Cates

In pursuit of the American dream more Americans than ever have selected to become homeowners. Throughout the years the desire to own a home has remained constant but the way we perceive the good American dream of property ownership has changed. During the days of our parents and grandparents most homeowners bought a home where they raised their families, lived life, retired, and left the property to their heirs upon death. It was not uncommon to have a family living in a house that had been passed down for generations.

Homeownership is still a major component of the American dream but the present trend tends to suggest that the era of "generational homes" and one 15 -30 year mortgage are becoming things of the past. Today phrases such as "starter home" leads us to believe that others are to follow and the time will come when most homeowners will be faced with the dilemma as to whether to move or improve their property.

The memories made over the years serve as the glue that binds us to the property emotionally and are part of the reason that makes the decision to move or improve a difficult one. Therefore, the decision as to leave our property or improve it cannot be taken lightly, should include the entire family, and brings with it many challenges. Thus, because of the magnitude of its impact, much reflection, care, and factual information must be considered.

If you've lived in your home long enough improvements have been made. Why now? What has motivated you to think of moving from a place that has served as your home? Why not make the improvements, as you've done before? These are essential questions you must ask and be able to answer. The answer to this question will set the foundation and clear the path for the conversations to follow. Reflecting on your motivation is very important in this decision making process. Why at this point are you entertaining the notion of moving versus improving? There are various motivations that could be responsible: obsolete features, cost of repairs/renovations, change in familial/economic status, proximity, and neighborhood concerns.

Features become obsolete when the intended needs or purposes are no longer met. As time passes family needs change and the property that was once perfect no longer meets that description. For example, a property bought years ago with 1.5 baths could have been more than adequate but now it may seem someone is always in the bathroom and someone is always waiting. Adding another bathroom or two will alleviate the need but what about the value of your property? There is no guarantee improving a property will add to its value. Therefore, if your motivation to renovate includes the hope that the value of your property will increase-- proceed with caution. Improvements should be made to make the home functional not solely to increase the value. Questions to be answered: By improving my property, do I expect the value to increase? How much will it increase? What proof do I have to support this?

Another issue to reflect upon is the cost of repairs/renovations. Improvements can be expensive. Repairs alone usually are not enough to motivate most property owners to move but coupled with other issues could prove to be more than enough. What begins as a leaky pipe could lead to the replacement of an entire plumbing system and a floor. Before you make a decision become armed with facts by contacting at least three contractors who provide free estimates. Then ask yourself a few questions: How much am I willing to spend? Is it worth it? Would it be more economically sound to move or improve? What is best for my family and me?

In today's world of companies downsizing and hiring, it's almost the norm for families to experience a change in economic status due to a decrease or increase in salary. Thus, impacting how much property can be afforded. This change as well as a change in familial status could influence the move or improve debate. Life happens and with it comes marriage, children, divorce, and death. These situations can modify our economic status and leave us with too much or too little property. Either situation can make us reconsider our living accommodations. Reflect: Has there been a change in your familial or economic status? If so, what action does the change warrant? Should you move or improve? That is the question.

Location, location, location!! Location is the word believed by some as the most important thing to consider when deciding where to buy a home. However, the best location is relative to time. Change is inevitable. Surrounding construction can change the location. People change and so do the activities they wish to engage. The decision to move or improve could be directly related to the changes that have occurred in the proximity that you live. Maybe the area has been rezoned bringing businesses that you may or may not support. Creating a situation that rules out one of the choices.

It is also possible for your house is still the perfect home but the neighborhood is not the same. If the change in the neighborhood is positive then the "improve" option would look promising but if the change is not favorable moving would appear very attractive. The fact is houses can be chosen, neighbors can't-- for they come and go. The attitude of the neighborhood can serve to influence your decision.

Finally, the decision to either move from or improve your property can be exciting and requires much care, reflecting on and understanding the motivation and the gathering of facts. Remember: The decision is yours.