The Renovation or Relocation Dilemma for Modern Families

The Renovation or Relocation Dilemma for Modern Families

Report prepared by Max Lagacé

The dilemma: Renovate or Relocate  –  Which is Right for You?

Smaller homes are an ideal place to start a family. Unfortunately, there comes a point in life, where homeowners are realizing they have outgrown the amenities and usefulness of their houses. For some people, this signals that it’s time to move out. However, this may be easier said than done for many, as issues of housing affordability is a tough reality for many. Land values in the City of Toronto have increased exponentially in recent years. Many people are looking to move into Toronto, as many studies have ranked our fair City as one of the best places to live in the World. This is driving the high demand for housing in our City, and consequently, prices are going up.

These smaller homes are often located in established neighbourhoods that are now sought-after addresses. These residential areas may have recently been gentrified, old areas that regained popularity, or other places that always were popular and in demand. In many cases, these smaller homes are built on lots that can accommodate much larger houses, where land demands and prices are at a premium, the dilemma intensifies with complexity.

The assessment

Before even attempting to answer the question as whether should you move or renovate, one must seriously do a true and honest gut check. To do this, one must answer these questions first: How much space do we truly need? Do you need more rooms or more storage? Can the kids share a bedroom? Do you have underutilized space? Have you ever toured an older home that has not been restored? It’s amazing to look at the size of closets of older homes, and wonder how many pieces of clothing people would have actually had back then. It’s true that the more room you have; the more stuff you’re likely to collect. We are definitely collectors compared to our predecessor. At least, they were certainly not subjected to the same level and constant bombardment of advertising this generation has been subjected to.

The point that I’m getting at is this: Whether you ultimately decide to renovate or relocate, the bottom line is that it’s going to cost you money. Before you incur anymore expenses, you should make sure that you’re doing this for the right reasons and that you have also exhausted all other options. Making the most of what you currently have is the first step.

The purge

Sometimes a thorough de-cluttering exercise may be all you need to gain some perspective. It’s easy to get caught up in the fever of what we should have rather than what do we truly need. It’s amazing how we get attached to this stuff we collect for years with the promise that someday, this stuff will come in handy and besides, we had a great deal on it. De-cluttering is the first line of attack whether you decide to stay or relocate. Unless you’re adamant about moving that junk (or precious keepsakes) to the next house.

The reorganization

Once the cleaning is done, you may determine that you have enough room after all, and conclude there is no need to build or move. You may need some assistance with the reorganisation. There are many professionals that specialize in storage and reorganization systems.

Moving on up!

Sometimes it’s best to pack it up and start fresh elsewhere. I’ve done it many times in my life and come to appreciate the cleansing feeling of beginning a new chapter in a new place. The cost implication for the upgrade consists of the price differential between your current house and the price of the new one. Depending how much more space you need, this upgrade in Toronto could be in the order of $200,000 to $300,000 or more subject to the chosen neighbourhood. Keep in mind that most people may also spend some money to personalize or upgrade that move up house, whether you’re looking to repaint or remodel a bathroom or kitchen.

The addition

Adding more space to your existing home has many benefits. If you love your current neighbourhood, you’ll get to enjoy that much more and won’t have to move the kids to new schools. I would definitely encourage you to seek the services of a professional designer or architect to assess the renovation potential of your home. Hiring a design professional should be done separately from the builder. Many builders rely on drafting technologists that can provide the required sets of drawings for the acquisition building permits, but generally lack the design skills or flexibility to work directly with the clients to effectively go through the entire process of designing a home.

Some homes may have the renovation potential to be built up; while others build out to the side or rear. A design professional will review the existing zoning regulations and help you determine the best design options before proceeding with the final design of the addition. It may be necessary to seek a minor variance to the applicable zoning standard for your property. In some cases, you may have to wait up to 6 months for the hearing to take place. Great care should be used in the selection of a reputable builder that will collaborate on the project. It is recommended to seek out at least 3 different quotes with references. The builder should be involved in the design process so that he or she can raise any potential construction concerns early, or suggest alternative ways to achieve the intent of the design.

Cost implications for an addition to an existing property can vary widely subject to the overall scope of work. For example, a 1200 sq. ft. addition could range in the $300,000 to $400,000 or more subject to the quality of material, number of rooms and complexity of the integration with the existing structure. You may have to relocate while the work is being completed, which will also have to be factored into the overall cost.

The New Build

Starting the design process with a blank slate is an exciting prospect. The possibilities are endless. There are so many opportunities to customize your new home to suit your needs and personal style. There are still limitations to work with, such as the zoning by-laws and local market conditions to name a few. A home needs to reflect its local context; otherwise your resale value could be negatively impacted. House designs that are overly unique or too highly personalized can later be much more difficult to resell or even be able to recapture the cost of the construction. Similarly to building an addition, great care should be observed in selecting and hiring the designer and builder.

Obviously, the cost of constructing a brand new home will be the most expensive of all options. Subject to the scale of your project, a new home can take up to a year to build or more. You will consider alternate living arrangement while your new custom is being constructed.

Construction cost will again vary subject to the scale of the house, quality of finishes, specific features and complexity of the design. Generally, construction cost would range from $200 to $300 per square foot. Based on these unit rates, a 2,500 sq.ft. home could be constructed for approximately $500,000 to $750,000.

In conclusion

I hope this report provides some useful guidance that you are able to apply in your future conversations about whether to renovate or relocate. If you have any comments or further questions with regards to the content of this report, please feel free to contact me to discuss. I would like to thank you for your time and interest. You may contact me directly at

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