Should You Sell It Or Save It?
By Claire Hannum
One morning you wake up and your home just feels off. The kitchen feels too small, or the floors too dated, or the same four walls that seemed just fine the day before are just…stale.
If this has happened to you, you’re far from the only homeowner to experience itchy feet. Some crave a move because their lives have shifted to a new chapter, but the house hasn’t grown along with them. Some long for a change of scenery: a new layout, a decor refresh, a new view out their living room window.
So how do you know whether to list the house and move on, or to give your abode a second try? We asked three industry pros – an interior designer, a mortgage lender, and a realtor – how to make the call. Here’s what to ask yourself to guide your decision…
What do you really want out of your home?
A home is more than just walls and furniture, and it means something different for everyone. Is your house a launchpad for a busy family on the go, a cozy haven where treasured memories unfold, or your full-time remote office? A home is shaped around the owner’s lifestyle and priorities.
Some of these priorities can be met with a few simple changes to your home. Others are only possible with a move, especially if you’re looking for an external change like better schools or a bigger backyard. “You can change the look of a home, but you can’t necessarily change the location of it,” says Rebecca Snider, agent at ReMax of Grand Rapids. On the other hand, if you’re the nostalgic type and see your home as the place where your warmest memories live, it might be better to make changes to your current house rather than sell. “Sometimes there’s a sentimental value to the home that would make homeowners want to stay,” Snider explains. A new home might be fantastic, but if it’s important to you that your old home is the place where each of your kids took their first steps, you’ll probably be happier staying put.
Your personal priorities for your home aren’t just about your lifestyle – they extend to your finances too. Jen Aalderink, mortgage banker at Stockton Mortgage, keeps homeowners’ individual preferences at the center of their decision-making. She encourages homeowners to look beyond any outside noise when choosing whether to sell or stay. “I try to help people identify their own personal goals vs. what they’re seeing on the internet,” she says.
“The internet puts a lot of teaser ads out there for certain rates. But lending is very oriented around the individuals’ own lending profile.” Your credit score, equity, income, and other factors make your decision far from one-size-fits-all, no matter what everyone else seems to be doing.
“Lending is always going to be a customized service,” Aalderink explains. “When you take the blinders off all the fancy ads of what general consumers are seeing and you identify your own financial goals, then you can view lending with the right perspective and make the right decision for you and your family.”
What chapter of life are you in?
If your life has shifted in the last few years – think growing your family or retiring – there’s a chance you’ve simply outgrown your current house. If you’re looking for more bedrooms or a new layout, renovations can do the trick.
But sometimes, a new life phase demands a more radical change to suit your new day-to-day life. Maybe you’re an empty nester who wants a more low-maintenance house, or a new parent who is ready for more outdoor space for growing kids to play. “There are a lot of factors in whether someone would want to stay in their house or leave,” Snider says, pointing to buyers with priorities like “taking the equity and moving up into a different bracket of a home, having different features, or a backyard.”
What fits your finances?
You’ll want to look at all your financial options for each possible decision. “When it comes to considering saving your home and remodeling, people can do a cash out refinance to pay for the upgrades, but there are certain limitations within mortgage lending,” Aalderink explains.
Those limitations can make all the difference when deciding whether to update your current home or put your energy into a new one. “You can only borrow so much of your equity. When you sell your home you’re taking out 100% of your equity, when you refinance your home you’re taking out up to 80%.” Speaking with a lender about how much cash equity you have, and what your monthly payment might be, can help you weigh your options.
What about a design refresh?
A modern design glow-up can make an old home feel like new – and maybe even toss the idea of moving right off the table. “It’s about the home, not necessarily the stuff in it,” says Jessica Crosby, lead designer and owner of Delight in Designs. “Anytime I talk to a family about whether they should sell or stay, it really invokes those emotions on why they like the house that they’re in now, and we go from there.”
According to Crosby, homeowners who crave a change usually share a particular gripe: dated kitchens. “We typically start out with golden oak kitchen and trim, and all those things from the 90s that were so popular.” Crosby works with homeowners to decide whether repainting or ditching those features altogether would help them fall back in love with their homes. “What are some things we can do to either embrace it or get rid of it? That actually fixes quite a few things when somebody’s really itching to move,” she explains.
Another common facelift? Updating walls and flooring. “Back in the 90s and as late as the early 2000s, every room in the house was a different color,” she says. “That has obviously gone by the wayside as you see all the grayscale and people are painting their walls more of a neutral color.”
Is the market in your favor?
Grand Rapids homes are in high demand, so now is a great time to sell. The market is only expected to get even hotter, so once you make your decision, you’ll want to move swiftly. Now is not a time to just wait and see, because prices are showing no sign of going down. “This is the time where you’re going to renovate or remodel or you’re going to move,” Crosby says.
At the end of the day, it’s about you.
Remember: what matters most is the decision that makes you and your family happy. “I think that it is a very personal decision and there isn’t a right or wrong,” Snider advises. “This isn’t a cookie cutter experience because there are a lot of factors to those decisions as individuals,” Snider. Whether you plan to save your home, sell it, update it, or keep it exactly as it is, the key thing is to make the decision that best fits your needs as a homeowner.