Should You Renovate Your Home, or Move House?

It can be difficult to decide whether to renovate your existing property or move to a new one, but our expert feature will help you to plan your approach

If you’re one of the thousands of homeowners who are trying to decide whether to move house or to improve your existing property, you will know that all sorts of factors come into play, and the decision is rarely easy.

Sometimes it’s forced on you – such as if you’re moving for a new job – but in other cases, such as making room for a new child, there can be pros and cons to both moving and renovating.

So what are the main points to consider?

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For many people the most important deciding factor will be cost. A renovation project such as an extension, loft conversion or basement conversion will normally be cheaper than moving house, but not necessarily once you have factored in professional costs of surveyors, architects and builders. Projects can easily go over-budget. Yet sometimes, depending on where you are moving from and to, you can actually make money on a house sale, rather than it costing you anything.

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Obviously, meticulous planning of a renovation project should give you a good idea of the cost, but things can change; you may find structural problems with the property once the work starts, you may have problems with suppliers or materials, or you may decide to enhance the renovation in mid-project. Remember Cheops’ Law: “Nothing ever gets built on schedule or within budget.”

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If you are renovating your home with a view to selling it, be sure that your money is well spent; there’s many an anecdote of a house with a brand-new kitchen or central heating that was demolished because the buyer really wanted the land.

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Always remember the hidden costs of renovating or moving; if you have to move out of your house for extensive rebuilding you may have to pay for temporary accommodation or storage, and if you are buying a new house, there are all sorts of costs to consider on top of the price of the new house, such as fees for mortgage arrangement, valuations and surveys, stamp duty, conveyancing, and land registry. All this, plus the actual moving costs, and any redecoration you may want to do in the new house.

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Location, location… and, oh yeah, location

Don’t underestimate the value of the location of your current home. If it’s convenient for your work, for your kids’ school, for the shops, for nearby family, or for local facilities, can you really do better? You could move for one reason, but find that your new location is less good for loads of other reasons. If you are inclined to move, make sure that you aren’t taking a step down in terms of convenience.

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On the other hand, if you are nowhere near a school, but are thinking of having children, making a move to an area more convenient for schools would be a good investment for the future.

Martin Roberts’ Tips

“If you are thinking of buying a property in need of renovation as an investment, in most cases you do find that a home that has been extended or improved to a high standard will command a higher asking price than its neighbours. Alternatively, if you want to live in the property, you may send up spending a similar amount in total, but you will be living in exactly the property you want rather than having to compromise.”


Some people get very attached to a house, either for family or other reasons, and just find they aren’t happy once they have moved. If you think that you might always be pining for your old home or area, put more thought into renovation. There are often ways to solve potential building problems that you may not have thought of at first.

You may be full of great ideas for renovating your property, but are they practical? Internal changes normally require no planning permission, but structural changes such as knocking down walls or adding doors, not to mention building extensions or converting lofts, may well require planning permission, which can be an expensive and long drawn-out process. You will need professional legal and planning help if you plan to do anything substantial, and in some cases, such as listed buildings or those in conservation areas, you may be limited in what you can do.

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While renovating your home makes it really work for you and your family, it can also add value should you decide to sell at a later date. Be aware of the ‘ceiling price’ – the maximum amount a similar property has sold for in your area.

On the other hand, if you move to new home, you could find one which overcomes the problems of your old house, and offers more modern and attractive features – such as better energy efficiency and more modern fittings. ■

See also: How to Negotiate a Better Mortgage Deal

This feature was first published in Property & Home with Martin Roberts, Winter 2020 – read more here.

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