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Renovate or Relocate?

Are you starting to feel that the perfect house you bought a while back is no longer quite meeting your needs? Maybe the kids are getting older and they need more space (or their own space). Maybe there are more on the way, or they’ve left home and by knocking out a wall or two, those vacant bedrooms could be turned into a much more appealing room? Or is it simply time to find somewhere new and avoid all the hassle?

These are the questions many of us ask, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of going down one path when the other option would have been better. So what are the pros and cons of the renovation versus relocation conundrum?


Pros: Staying put and making alterations to your existing home does mean you won’t need to worry about changing addresses, utilities, neighbours, and all the other things you and your family have become familiar with. You also don’t need to worry about getting the timing right financially, as you’re not selling one home to buy another. And unless the renovations are huge, the chaos of packing up an entire home, moving and unpacking it again can be generally avoided. A major appeal of renovations is being able to tailor the new constructions to meet your wishes – placing features where you want them, and choosing the styles that you like - not someone else.

Cons: It is very easy to overcapitalise on your ideas. While renovations can certainly add to a home’s value, there comes a tipping point where the cost of the renovations can exceed the added value – and this can be very hard to predict and an easy trap to fall into. It’s also not unheard of for bad renovations to actually devalue a home. Is your home actually up to it? Structural issues, out-dated wiring and plumbing, rotten timbers and the biggest fear of all – finding asbestos – can all turn a simple reno into an expensive nightmare. If your home is more than 20 years old, make sure you get it professionally inspected from footings to roof-caps before planning any new works. Then there’s the disruption and the mess. A major renovation project can take months. Depending on your plans, you could easily be without a bathroom, kitchen or even a roof for an extended length of time. And these are often replaced by dust, mud, a devastated backyard and the ear-splitting sound of power tools early in the morning. Trying to lead a normal life in the midst of renovations can be almost impossible.


Pros: Moving to a new home allows you to see what you’re getting up front. We’re lucky in Melbourne with plenty of variety in local real estate markets – and often with the bonus of only having to move a few streets away. If you have a growing family, children often like to feel part of the selection process, giving them a sense of ‘ownership’ and excitement in the move. This is not so easy (or interesting) if you’re simply renovating. The house you buy may be a lot newer overall than the one you’re leaving, which means that fittings, fixtures and amenities should already be up-to-date and functional. This is not limited to electrical and plumbing, but also the roof, the door seals, wall tiles and sewerage. Depending on the age of a home, it may still be under structural warranty, as may newly fitted appliances – especially if the kitchen has been recently refreshed. Even older houses often feature modern upgrades or additions, which means you get the renovation without the hassle of living through it. Forecasting the value growth of your new home is also simpler as you’re not substantially changing it. Finally there’s the excitement that always comes from moving into a new home and making a fresh start.

Cons: Moving address does mean changing routines – especially if you’re relocating to a completely new neighbourhood. If school zones are a factor, then these also need to be considered, and you may need to find new local doctors, childcare, transport routes and vets etc. Generally though, if you’re still staying in the same general region, keeping your old contacts will be fine. Moving day can cause headaches not to mention organising mail redirection, utility connections etc. Thankfully, there are companies in Victoria who can arrange all your utility transfers with one call, and most removalist companies offer a full-service move so you don’t even need to pack. Last but certainly not least, are the memories contained within an old house, and these can be hard to leave behind. For many, particularly down-sizers, this can be the toughest art of all, but most people overcome this simply by setting up their new home to subtly reflect the one they’ve left, for example, hanging a particular painting in spot that is similar to where it was in the old home, or positioning furniture, photos or nick-nacks in such a way that the new place already feels familiar from the day you move in.


Only you can decide which is the best option for you and your family. But consult widely, discuss with friends who have renovated or recently moved, and do your research on the real cost of each.