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Remodeling may be better option to selling in down market

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Once upon a time you were considering selling your house and looking for something with a little more square footage, a new kitchen, an additional bedroom, a spectacular master bath. You had good equity in your home and you would use it to buy a bigger, better place. Then the market changed, your equity stabilized or even went down, and you decided that it was not a good time to sell. But all the reasons for putting your house on the market in the first place -- the desire for more space, another room, a more modern kitchen and bath -- still exist.

"Once you decide to move," noted Scott Murfey, vice president of GDC Construction in La Jolla, "you become a little less tolerant of the flaws in your current home. It's only natural. What seemed perfect yesterday seems less so once you begin looking ahead."

The change in the real estate market, though, has caused many people to step back and look at options other than selling their home. Now people are recognizing that they can transform their current property into the vision they had for a new property with some strategic remodeling. Ultimately it will cost less, and they may get a lot more for the money they do spend.

Here are just a few reasons, Murfey said, why remodeling your current home may be a better investment:

Remodeling may be better for your budget. In today's market, it's a challenge to get significant value out of selling your home and leveraging the equity it to buy another. A down market affects both buyer and seller. And there are financial and emotional considerations in the mere listing of your home. Also, in today's world, your house is unlikely to sell quickly. It may linger for months, with far more homes on the market competing for far fewer buyers.

Even if you are able to sell, it may not be as easy to find a house you want. Depending on where you live, a new mortgage may lead you to tighten your belt for a while until you are able to get payments under control, and lenders are making it more difficult for potential buyers to qualify for loans.

"When you remodel your current home, however," Murfey said, "the budget differential may work to your advantage. Most times, it costs far less to renovate a home than it does buy a new one outright, and most contractors and construction companies offer different ways to finance a home improvement project."

With remodeling, you have control over what you want. You get far closer to your dream property if you sit down with a contractor and discuss your specific needs and desires, map out a plan and determine costs. Remodeling the kitchen area, cabinetry and counter space can revitalize the very heart of where you spend your time. The same is true for the master bedroom, where you can add some square footage, increase closet space and transform the master bath into an elegant sanctuary.

Buying into a new home may give you newer appliances and fixtures, yet you may not immediately find exactly what you want in a new living place. Even a new home often requires a good deal of added and sometimes unexpected expenditures to get what you want. When you consider renovating what you have, you are in control of the decor, and not subject to what you are offered elsewhere.

"If you're interested in energy efficiency, you don't need to move," Murfey said. "So much can be done with windows and appliances, walls, plumbing and electrical. You can go green with your entire remodel, inside and out, if you wish."

Contractors may offer suggestions with regards to fixtures and cabinets, he noted. "At GDC Construction, for example, we work with a large number of manufacturers and have a wide variety of styles and options at our disposal, from lost-cost to pricy. Ultimately, when you remodel you have more freedom in designing the home of your dreams."

Remodeling can improve the value of your home. Once you decide to remodel, you can remain confident that the work you do will pay off once you do decide to sell your property. Updated fixtures, floors and cabinets are definitely more attractive to a prospective buyer who will not need to hire help to renovate once the papers are signed.

Some quick advice for quick-fix remodels to live with or to better leverage your property:

Flooring considerations: Hardwood floors, as well as faux hardwood options, are always popular in San Diego. The more wood the better, and costs have come down over the years. If you're remodeling, hardwood floors can add a freshness and elegance to the environment, and they work well for keeping a house cool and clean.

New carpets can revitalize a home. If you're fixing your home for sale, make sure the carpets are either new or look new.

Paint ceilings and walls: Buyers spend more time than you think staring at ceilings. They are looking for signs of a leaky roof, but what you don't want them to see are stains from grease or smoke and ceiling cracks. The same goes for walls. Nothing says freshness like new paint, and it's the most cost effective improvement.

Kitchen improvements: Kitchen remodels return nearly 100 percent. According to Remodeling Magazine, high-end kitchens don't return as much as the mid-range or minor kitchen remodels. Most buyers won't pay extra for a built-in Sub Zero refrigerator and professional eight-burner stove.

Ellman is founder of Beck Ellman Heald Public Relations.

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