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Making the decision: Remodel or sell?

You look around the house and it seems tired. Suddenly, the floor plan makes you feel claustrophobic, and the kitchen looks as old-fashioned as an "Ozzie and Harriet" set. When you flush the toilet and scald your significant other in the shower, you decide, "That's the last straw! Something's got to change."

Homeowners realize they need a change for many reasons: Some have growing families, others need a home office and still others have problems with their home's plumbing and electrical work.

But whatever the reason, the homeowner has two options for change summed up in the simple question: Should I stay or should I go? Remodel or move?

However, choosing whether to remodel or move is not simple. There are many factors both financial and emotional to consider, so where do you start?

"Location is everything," says Mark Brick, a Wisconsin remodeling contractor and past president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

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On the financial end, location determines the value of the property and whether a remodeling project or a move will be worth the money spent, he says.

Location also helps shape an owner's gut feeling about whether to stay or go.

"Some people are willing to live in an older home without the bells and whistles of newer construction because it is in a very desirable school district," says Mary Ann Appleton-Miller, a real estate agent with Keystone Group Inc. in Greensboro, N.C. Proximity to work, shopping, play, daycare and aging parents also may come into play, she adds.

Location also affects your potential remodeling options, Brick says. "You have to keep in mind (community) legal restraints that may prevent you from doing a remodeling job the way you would like to do it."

Still, if owners like the location and general feeling of the current home, it usually can be turned into their dream house.

"Can you find another home with the same features in the area you want to be in?" he asks.

Appleton-Miller suggests that before making that decision, homeowners should explore the housing market to determine whether they can get more house for the money or whether they should stand pat and remodel.

All other factors being equal though, she says owners should trust their feelings.

"People know down deep how they feel about their house, their neighborhood and what trade-offs they are willing to make," Appleton-Miller says. "If you love the neighborhood and the skeleton of the home, go ahead and remodel. If you are tired of the house or feel that you won't get your money out of fixing it up, then I would suggest looking at newer construction or remodeled homes in areas you do like."

Kevin and Melanie Peyton of San Jose, Calif., trusted their feelings, deciding six years ago that they loved their neighborhood so much that they would rather remodel than sell.

"We didn't really want to relocate," Kevin says.

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