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Making the decision: Remodel or sell?

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The house's value, even without remodeling, was going up, up, up. That escalating market priced them out of buying another house in the area. Still, the plain fact was that the house was too small for them and their growing family, which now includes two children. Their solution was to refinance, taking advantage of lower interest rates and cashing out some equity to pay for adding an extra wing and refurbishing their 1850s farmhouse.

In addition to getting just the house they needed in the area where they wanted to stay, they boosted the appraised value of their home from about $300,000 before the remodeling to $500,000 afterward.

But remodeling is not always the answer, even if you love the home. Take the example of Shannon Wilkinson of Portland, Ore.
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Several years ago she was living in a house that was built in 1906. It badly needed a second bathroom. Although she knew from the financial end that any remodeling would add to the home's value, "I wasn't really interested in surviving a remodeling while living in the house," Wilkinson says.

The house had never been remodeled before but it had some of those baling wire and duct tape fixes that would have to be addressed during a project and make it drag on.

Remodel or move checklist

Things to ask yourself when deciding whether to remodel or move:

Do we have the finances to make a change?
Do we want to stay in this location?
Do we like the general shape of our current house?
Will a remodeling job hold its value and enhance the value of our current home?
Will we get more house for the money in another location that we like as much as this one?
Are we willing to live in our house during a remodeling project?
If not, do we have the means to live elsewhere while we're remodeling?

"I didn't want to move out, remodel and then move back in, so I decided to buy another house that had more of the features I wanted already in place," she says.

Her experience offers proof that there are times when you can find such a house in the area where you want to live. In fact, the house she bought is just blocks away from her former house.

The "new" house, built in 1925, featured two bathrooms, a master bedroom and a bigger yard that better accommodates her two large dogs: a boxer and a Great Dane.

"I absolutely wanted to stay in the neighborhood," she says. "And if I couldn't have found the house I wanted, I probably would have moved out of the neighborhood, but that was really my last choice."

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."

"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.

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