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Making the decision: Remodel or sell?

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Financial considerations reinforced their feelings.

"By remodeling, you can fit the house exactly to your lifestyle," Kevin Peyton says. "We found that we would get much more house than we could afford to buy."

Their project produced a virtually new house with 800 extra square feet, a formal dining room, a larger kitchen, a breakfast nook, a finished basement and a new facade.

The 63-year-old house had been remodeled a few times before, "so it presented a number of electrical and plumbing challenges," Peyton says. Many of the earlier changes were "held together by baling wire and duct tape."

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"You quickly find that one thing leads to another," so they installed new wiring, plumbing and insulation in ceiling and walls. The improvements helped improve the home's fire safety and produced an annual $300 savings on the Peytons' homeowners insurance premium.

The Peytons knew the changes would hold their value because their neighborhood was desirable and that's proved true.

"For every dollar I put in here, I got two dollars back," Peyton says. The appraised value of the house just about doubled, he says.

He gives a great deal of credit to his remodeling contractor for helping them realize what was possible. That echoes advice that both Appleton-Miller and Brick give about consulting contractors who can help you to visualize exactly what you want rather than impose their vision upon you.

In researching whether to move, Appleton-Miller adds, you should consult with potential new neighbors to find out what living in that neighborhood is like.

When considering the remodeling route, she says, talk to friends and family for firsthand information.

"Sometimes people have had such headaches with a remodeling job that they say they would never do it again," Appleton-Miller says. "Others are so thrilled with the end product that they say all the inconveniences were worth it. These people are a great resource. They will bring a reality check to prospective remodelers who may be looking at the project through rose-colored glasses or they can help those on the fence with the push to move ahead."

One piece of advice that John and Beth Fuller of Reading, Mass., got was to avoid living in their house while it was being remodeled, but they didn't follow it and that's Beth Fuller's sole regret about the project, which was completed two years ago.

"Friends who had been through remodeling projects told me it would be stressful and hard on our marriage to live in the house while it was being worked on," she says. Living with the rubble, dust and workmen entering your private space takes a toll on every relationship. "I found that whatever your friends tell you about how tough it is you have to multiply by a hundred."

The Fullers' reasons for remodeling rather than moving were much the same as the Peytons'.

"We had bought our house at the right time," she says. "It was the last bargain in Reading."

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