​When to Renovate — and When to Buy New

Jul 22, 2014

Maybe you’ve always been a DIY’er, dreaming of the day you’d have a fixer-upper to take to, renovating, rebuilding and ultimately crafting your perfect home. Or maybe the thought of picking up a paintbrush is too much—new is for you. But most families fall somewhere in the middle when it comes to buying a home, and they plan to put some of their own special touches into the architecture, interiors, landscaping or other core features. So when is it wise to tackle those renovations, and when does that fixer-upper become too much for the average homeowner to handle? Here’s our roundup:

Scenario: inexpensive and in a great neighborhood…or already at the top of your budget

Inexpensive and well-positioned is the signal of a (potentially) great renovation project. You’ll have less required at closing, so can put more into the initial remodeling—but, again, be sure the house is structurally sound and free of those sometimes invisible issues that can add up fast.

On the flip side, if the home you’re eyeing already maxes out your available funds, a new house may be a better choice. While it’s possible you’ll get slightly lesshouse, you’ll have something that’s move-in ready versus having to find thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars more to get your space where it needs to be.

Scenario: you can’t live in a construction zone…

Buying a home that needs renovation can often mean you’ll feel like you’re living in a work zone for several weeks or even months. Can’t live with your kitchen out of commission during the fast-approaching holidays? If you can’t put the renovation off for now, think new home. Have a large family and multiple bathrooms out of commission could mean trouble during the AM rush? Or planning some major event out of your home such as a wedding, family get-together or other celebration? If the move has to happen and the renovations are MUSTS right away, give pause—now might not be the right time to renovate. While a timeline helps, don’t expect everything to be done exactly on time—so if you’re butting up to that big day,

Same goes for families whose members have major allergies to dust or other construction cast-offs. Contractors will provide an estimate, but until they get in there and get working, it’s tough to provide an exact time, and you don’t want to needlessly suffer through weeks of coughing and sneezing while the remodeling happens.


Scenario: it’s justoutdated

Some buyers simply can’t look past a dated exterior or interior—but on the flip side, some prospective homeowners don’t like the “cookie cutter” look that can sometimes permeate new neighborhoods. Buying an older home that’s structurally sound with more recent updates—think plumbing, electrical and roofs—can equate to more home for your money, with the added charm of “vintage” construction, such as beautiful arched doorways and rich hardwood floors. With a little investment, creativity and elbow grease, your “final” home will be a true reflection of your family with countless conversation pieces from “I can’t believe you did that yourself!” to “When this home was originally built…” That’s worth a little cosmetic work!

And beyond all of this, whether you choose the fixer-upper or the brand new property, moving to a new town is hard work. Your time, energy and resources may be better spent getting your family settled versus picking out door handles!

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