Selling Your Home: Should You Move or Improve?

It’s almost impossible for one home to meet your needs completely as you age, grow and change. Eventually, you’ll need to either buy a new home or improve on what you have to better suit your lifestyle, especially if you’re not happy in your place. But how do you know if you should relocate or improve your home so it’s a better fit? There are a lot of factors to consider, and it’s about more than just whether or not you like your house. Before you make a final decision about selling your home, make sure you’ve looked at it from every angle.

Living room filled with moving boxes.

Don’t love your location? Moving might be best. Image: New Africa/Shutterstock

When you should move

Your home heavily influences the way you and your family live your lives. From the room to roam to personal factors and location, you want your home to feel comfortable and convenient. If your home isn’t fulfilling your needs or you could find a better fit elsewhere, it’s worth considering a move. Here are some signs that it’s time to pull up stakes and say adios to your abode.

You have specific needs

If you have a checklist of “needs” for your home, it might be best to buy a different place or design your home from scratch. While you can renovate and improve on your current home, there are some things you simply can’t add to an existing house. Consider mobility issues, for instance: if your current home has a lot of stairs, you can’t remove those. A ranch-style home makes more sense. Think realistically about whether or not your current home can be modified to meet your needs. If not, selling your home is most likely the answer.

You need more financial options

Improving your current home might be cheaper than moving, but it can be trickier to finance. A home equity loan or line of credit might be your only choices if you need an extensive renovation. When buying a new home, you’ll have more options on financing and down payments.

You’re looking to invest

In short, a new home is usually a better investment than renovating your home. If you love your place and don’t expect to sell, you might not be as worried about getting your investment back on pricey improvements. If, however, you consider real estate an investment, a new home is usually a better bet. You’ll know exactly what you’re spending and comparable property in the area helps you understand the return on your investment.

You like your home but you hate the location

Remember that you can always spruce up a bathroom or paint the walls; you can’t fix a high crime rate or busy traffic. Even if you totally love your home, a less-than-desirable location can really affect your lifestyle. It’s better to settle on a great location and then find a home that suits — or can be modified to suit — your needs.

You have a strict budget

Know exactly what you can spend on getting the home of your dreams? Renovations can be wildly unpredictable based on market and labor prices, delays and unforeseen issues. Buying a move-in ready home means you know you’ll get a place within your budget (as long as you’re a savvy shopper, of course!).

Modern industrial kitchen

A kitchen overhaul is cheaper when you DIY. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

When you should improve

Moving might not be the best choice for everyone. Your current home can be improved to fit your lifestyle and you can stay put if these factors align.

You love your location

Love where you live? You’re one of the lucky ones. Don’t sacrifice a great location just because your home isn’t the right fit — yet. As they say, it’s always best to be the cheapest house in a great neighborhood because you can always improve your home.

Your gripes are minor

Be realistic about what you love and hate about your home. Is your list of grievances really enough to merit a move? A kitchen can be reconfigured and a backyard can be improved so you can get past some of your little annoyances. What’s more, some of your gripes might really be a cheap or easy fix. If, however, your pain points won’t be solved by a renovation (say, a lack of bathrooms or not enough square footage), then you can consider a move instead.

You’re handy with a hammer

You can save a ton of money by doing some of the improvements yourself. If you’re handy with a hammer, a renovation adds value to your home on the cheap. Paying for the materials and doing the work yourself builds up plenty of sweat equity. You can also ensure you get exactly what you want and can renovate on your own timeline, which is (obviously) much less stressful than a move.

You have a connection to your home

While we’d love to say that home and financial decisions are completely objective, the truth is that they’re pretty emotional. Homes can feel like they’re a part of the family and there’s nothing wrong with having an emotional connection to your place. If you look around your house and it truly feels like home, you can overlook some of its minor flaws. Selling your home could mean missing out. Don’t get caught up in swapping the memories and emotions of your home for a shiny new place that won’t bring you as much joy.

In the end, deciding whether to move or improve comes down to being realistic about your situation. Selling your home and buying a new one or undertaking a major renovation are both huge decisions. We’ve all been at a point where things about our houses drive us crazy, but that might not merit a move. Weigh out the pros and cons to come up with a decision thatu can live with — and love.