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Making the decision: Remodel or sell?

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"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 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 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.

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"Sometimes people have had such headaches with a remodeling job that they say they would never do it again," Appleton 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 her sole regret about the project, which is just about complete.

"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."

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 and her husband, Patrick Nye, of Portland, Ore.

Their house, built in 1906, badly needed a second bathroom. Although they knew from the financial end that any remodeling would add to the home's value, "we weren't really interested in surviving a remodeling while we were 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.

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

This couple 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 they bought is just blocks away from their former house.

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

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

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-- Updated: Oct. 24, 2005


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