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Shall I buy a new home or remodel?

Or maybe I should tear it down and start fresh?

A process to help decide…

When your home is too small for you, or no longer suits your needs or wants, or you know it needs some work, most people think about whether it’s best to remodel, put on an addition, or buy a new home. It is often the first question to come to mind. And it’s a good question too, because remodeling is not cheap, and when one compares the costs of a major remodel and how much you may have spent purchasing your home, sometimes it can cost as much or more to remodel than it did if you purchased the home ‘way back when’!

Initially, to answer this question, one must understand the feasibility and costs of remodeling or adding on, i.e. what are the potentials of the house? What are the costs of the necessary re-construction? If the house’s location is good, and the potential to reconfigure it can produce something wonderful, something that meets your needs and wants, and the added cost is equivalent or less than buying another house (which you must consider may need work itself!), then it certainly makes sense to remodel or add on to what you have instead of buying that other house.So a formula to keep your house and fix it: your house + work is equal or less to new house + work.

The challenge here is to figure out if the new work to your house will get you what you want. Often homeowners are in the position of not being able to see the ‘forest through the trees’.This means that homeowners are often so close to the problem that they can’t clearly see the options; or, they may see so many options they can’t decide on how to proceed.

Ideally one would approach this as any other problem: lay out the issues, brainstorm on the problem, and then come to a solution. In building and design this works by:

    1. measuring and drawing the floor plan(s) of the house on the site (all to scale);
    2. researching the zoning codes to see how these might limit or enable what you might propose to do;
    3. understand the structure of your building and how it affects what you can reasonably do;
    4. re-work the floor plan(s) to get what you want – ideally, you will come up with several options;
    5. understand what these reworked plans will look like from the outside; and
    6. finally, take this work to a reliable contractor who can rough price it and talk to you about construction feasibility.


If you get stuck in this process, which can certainly happen when you’re trying to do everything yourself, a professional designer can help guide you through it; and in fact should be able to come up with options and prices much more quickly because their experience and expertise. This means that they might be able to see potentials you don’t see, and will more intuitively and quickly understand the ramifications and costs of making changes. This is no different than going to a lawyer to help you with your will: if it’s easy, you can do it yourself; if it’s more complicated, you are far better off with an attorney at your side.

However you may choose to go through the process, once you have this information in some sort of tidy package, i.e. when you know what you can do and how much it might cost, along with how long it will take, you can then go back into the market place to see what’s available to purchase and how that compares to your old house all fixed up! Now you’re finally in a position to make an informed decision.

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