Can you Renovate and Stay?

By: Janice Clements


For many, January brings plans for the coming year and questions about what changes you might need in your home.  Concerned about whether your current space still meets your living needs?  Join the club.

Clients often say to me, "I'm trying to make a decision about whether to stay in my home and renovate or to sell and look for something better.  How can I make such a hard decision easier?"  It would be nice to have a simple answer to such a tough question, but the decision is generally an emotional and complicated one.

For those of you struggling with this same predicament, consider doing what I call a space-inventory of your home.  How you ask? 

Make a list of all the rooms in your house (including closets) and how you currently use them…and be honest.  If your dining room table hasn’t seen a guest in years and is more about homework, write that down.  If an extra bedroom acts as a toss area for out-of-season clothes or the kids’ toys, make note of it. 

The purpose of the exercise is to define the true use of each space and will help you begin to determine what your real needs are.  The space-inventory might simply help you realize it's time to purge!

Next, make a wish list of the rooms you would ideally like in your home.  Again, be honest and prioritize each of the wishes in order of importance.  Do you use your living room?  Would a study or music room suit your needs? Do you have enough closet space?

Once you’ve completed your inventory, compare your two lists. Determine if a renovation or simply a room-reallocation can give you the priority items you’re looking for. 

The creative part of planning a renovation or a reallocation of your space demands outside-the-box thinking.  It requires that you accurately identify how you live in your home and that your mind remain wide open to the possibilities that already exist in your space.

We’ve all stuck a desk in a small bedroom and called it an office.  It’s an easy and inexpensive way to quickly get what you want.  If you think moving is still in your plans, this quick fix does not limit your home from a resale perspective.

But if you really want to personalize your space and make it your own, consider pushing the envelope.

Is there a large closet in your home that could be converted into a work surface or even better, a walk-up laundry room?  Particularly on the same floor as your bedrooms, a laundry area can simplify this weekly task while making your home desirable to future buyers.  Does your home have a large landing in a stairwell?  You may find this area ideal for a spacious storage closet or a homework station.

Depending on the size of investment you’re considering, you can move walls, re-plumb, add electricity and change the flow of traffic through your home.  As one of my contractors says, “Anything is do-able.  What gets done depends on how much you want to spend.”

But that doesn’t mean money (or the lack of it) needs to limit your options.  Simply moving furniture from one room to another or removing doors can quickly redefine a space.

Consider making a large bright dining room into a new family room.  If you’re planning to stay, buck the conventions of the living room/dining room combination.  Add doors to one of those spaces to create a central main floor office.

I’m a firm believer that if you’ve found your forever home, (or even a 10+ year home) you should personalize and enjoy it.

And if you’re thinking about spending some money, I encourage you to ask yourself questions both obvious and not:  Do you love your neighbourhood? Does your home or property have physical room for a renovation or addition?  Can you add on to your home without out-valuing the other homes in your neighborhood?  Do you think you can tolerate living though a renovation, large or small?  Can you afford it? 

You may need help answering some of these questions so don’t be afraid to consult with a mortgage professional, a Realtor, a contractor or a designer to sort out your options.

Join me in my next column where we will explore why you might choose to move and how to effectively sell your home during the cold winter months.



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