How To Decide Between a Move or Remodeling

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It finally happened. Your youngest child has flown the coop. Whether you are mourning or celebrating, house-wise, you need a change. Perhaps you want to downsize. Conversely, visions of your dream home may be dancing in your head. Should you remodel? Move? Stay put for a while? These are tough question with major financial and emotional implications.

“It’s a big shock to the system when kids move out,” says Dan Fritschen, author of Remodel or Move: Make the Right Decision and founder of “The very concept of ‘home’ changes practically overnight. And too many parents make a knee-jerk decision that really isn’t in their best financial or emotional interest.”

Natalie Caine, founder of, agrees wholeheartedly. “In a way you are grieving,” she explains. “When kids move away, your very identity changes. And like all grieving people, you should hold off on major life decisions until you have a chance to adjust to your new reality.”

Once the initial “shock” wears off, Fritschen suggests you use the Remodel-or-Move Calculator on his website. This free analysis tool helps you calculate the cost of your hypothetical remodeling project versus the cost to move. Then, it helps you determine your “gut feeling” about the decision based on your feelings about your neighborhood, your home, and the remodeling process. Taking all of these factors into account, the calculator makes a recommendation geared specifically to your unique needs.

Here are a few of the questions Fritschen says empty nesters should consider when they make their decision:

Are the kids really gone?
Many parents are familiar with the “boomerang” child phenomenon. “Sometimes, young adults go through one or more ‘false starts’ before they really find their wings,” says Fritschen.

Do you like your neighborhood?
Now that schools are no longer a factor, maybe you’re itching to leave the dull suburbs and settle downtown, or in a mountain cabin, or in a seaside cottage. But, if you really love your neighborhood, you have a strong reason to stay put.

Will you have plenty of space for houseguests or visiting grandkids?
Now that the kids are gone, you have more time to reconnect with long-lost friends. If you’re in “downsizing” mode, be sure to allow plenty of space for houseguests and future grandchildren in your new home.

Will your floor plan be easy to navigate in your golden years?
“Chances are, slowing down is the last thing on your mind,” says Fritschen. “But you must consider the future. Whichever choice you make, you might want to settle on a home with a spacious, single-level floor plan.”

Have you considered the real cost of each choice?
Both choices–remodeling and moving–can be expensive. For novices, a remodeling project can quickly become a money pit. On the other hand, moving is far from “free”: it can cost up to 15 percent of your home’s value.

“The beauty of being ’empty nesters’ is getting to determine precisely what your ‘nest’ looks like,” says Jeanine Herrin, founder of “No longer having to base your home decisions on the kids can be an incredibly liberating experience. This can be the richest, most rewarding time of your life. Make sure the home you live in is worthy of the honor.”

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