Tough Question for Members: Remodel or Move?
SUNNYVALE, Calif. - Picture this: Two members are talking in a credit union lobby. One insists she'll never move again. "Six months after our last move I still broke out in hives when I saw a moving van. It was such a hassle. I swore if we need more space or something, we'll remodel." "I don't know," the other member says. "We remodeled, and I got so tired of the confusion, the dust and the constant coming and going of carpenters and other people. I'm not even sure we'll get our money back if we sell." Whatever a member decides, for the credit union it's a win-win situation. When a member wants to remodel, a home equity loan can help. If a member moves, the credit union can write the new mortgage. But can the credit union help the member choose the best option? One answer may be referring the member to a new book, Remodel or Move?, or the companion Web site, www.RemodelOrMove.com. The site asks questions to help determine the cost of moving versus remodeling. It also deals with the emotional factors beyond the dollars. How do you feel about your current home and neighborhood? Are you prepared for the decisions and upheaval that accompany remodeling? Dan Fritschen, who wrote the book and founded the Web site, explains the whole project was sparked by a family conversation. "I was talking to my brother-in-law about two and a half years ago. He had a house in Fremont, Calif., and he and his wife were expecting their first child. He said the house wasn't quite big enough for them and a child, so he had gotten a quote from a contractor for about $200,000 to add a good-size family room. "It seemed pretty expensive to me. Then he said, `You know, that is awfully expensive. I think it would be cheaper to move, because it's free.' I raised my eyebrows at that, too. I started talking to him, and what it came down to is he really had no appreciation of the cost of moving and he had gotten a (remodeling) quote that wasn't realistic." Fritschen wondered where someone could turn for information to help make decisions like this. He could find no book on the subject. When he searched the Internet he discovered what he describes as "a number of four-paragraph articles that were about useless." So Fritschen researched the subject and wrote a book. As for his brother-in-law, "He did what most homeowners do, neither move nor remodel. I think a majority end up postponing the decision." Life changes typically drive people to look into remodeling or moving. Young growing families may need more space or seek a better school district. Empty nesters ponder whether to remain in the large two-story family home that was ideal for 20 years or more, or to move to a smaller single-story house with lower taxes and better suited for the day the stairs become serious hurdles. Fritschen says one purpose of the book and Web site is to arm people with enough information to let them talk intelligently with real estate agents or contractors. There are regional differences, he continues. If you could move across the street to a home better suited to your needs, you can avoid the remodeling hassles and still retain the same neighbors, schools, clubs, commuting distance and other amenities you enjoy. "But in a lot of cases, especially in the more populated areas, to get a new house you have to move out to where they are building new houses. Here in California, we have Proposition 13. If I moved to the house next door, it would cost me $6,000 a year more in property taxes." A revised calculator that will be introduced onto the Web site in late June or early July will help users take into account the property tax implications of remodeling versus moving. The Web site will recommend the best move. When the Web site was launched last fall, about half the people logging on were interested in remodeling and the other 50% were looking into moving. Recently the majority are interested in remodeling. "If you own a house, you've already moved once," Fritschen notes. "You know how that works. I think more people are nervous about remodeling." He suggests there's a great fit between his consumer advocacy organization, Remodel Or Move, and lenders. "We're eager to work with credit unions and banks to provide content from our Web site," Fritschen says. "We can offer content to them jointly or independently. We're pretty open to viable ways to provide information and still let us stay in business. "Between remodeling and moving, U.S. homeowners are spending about $300 billion a year. Ten to 15 percent of homeowners are scratching their heads trying to decide. It's a major issue for 15 million homeowners. They don't have the information they need. It's a great opportunity for lenders," he says. -