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Most homeowners don't need a calculator to determine if moving out or fixing up is their best decision.

Seventy percent of those who have completed home improvements say they have the work done to enhance their quality of life and to obtain personal enjoyment, according to a recent Wells Fargo & Co. survey.

Baby boomers preparing their homes to retire in place, young families expecting their first child, or maturing families sending kids to school all experience a change of life that warrants reconfiguring the home to fit their new lifestyle.

Buyers who avoid the old adage to start small and move-up later, but instead take more contemporary advice to buy a home now that fits future projected housing needs, also avoid making the move or remodel decision.

And, for others who believe their home is not an island, but part of a greater community they've grown to love, moving simply isn't an option.

For some, the decision isn't always so clear and even for those who believe they've sidestepped the issue, a little second guessing can't hurt.

That's where Sunnyvale, CA-based Dan Fritschen's RemodelOrMove.com comes in.

It's the Remodel-Or-Move calculator, the centerpiece of the online support system for fix-it-up-or-buy-something-else challenged homeowners, that really makes the website sing.

The site's free digital analysis offers 40 questions to determine your best financial-based decision by calculating the cost of a remodeling project and comparing it with the projected cost to move. It also taps your emotions asking questions about how you feel about your neighborhood, your home and the remodeling process.

The calculator then gives you a brief recommendation, and some estimates -- the net cost to remodel; the payback (in value returned to your home) on the remodel; cost to finance the remodel; a total cost to remodel; a net cost to sell your house and move; estimated net cost to finance the difference in price between your old and new house; and the net cost to move including financing.

For the calculator to come up with the best estimates, you must know or be able to provide reasonable estimates for the many costs you'll need to plug in, including the selling price of your existing home, the cost to buy and finance a new one and if you'll do the remodeling work or hire out. Hopefully, you already know how you feel, but coming up with the numbers will require quite a bit of home work -- some of which can be completed right on the website.

Fritschen is not a contractor, real estate agent or moving specialist, but created the website after buying and remodeling several homes for his own family.

Along with the calculator, the site offers private consultations and group seminars, as well as a bounty of editorial content including, reasons to remodel or move, room-by-room projects, remodeling and moving costs, choosing a contractor or real estate agent, contracts and preparing your house for sale. The site also offers recommendations for further reading.

The otherwise easy-to-navigate site's only shortcoming was some HTML coding glitches that prevented a few pages from opening. If they truly aren't available, say perhaps because of ongoing construction, the site should offer a page that says as much.

So when should you remodel? And when should you move?

Here are five simple tips for each offered by RemodelOrMove.com.

Move

  1. When you want better schools.
  2. Because you don't like remodeling.
  3. Because you don't like the neighborhood.
  4. If your home is already the largest and nicest in the neighborhood.
  5. If you will likely move in the next few years.

Remodel

  1. To get exactly the home you want.
  2. To avoid buyers remorse.
  3. When it's a good investment.
  4. Because you like your home's floor plan.
  5. Because you like your yard.

"Don't underestimate the importance of this decision," Fritschen says. "Too many people see their friends move to a new home or install an extravagant new kitchen and immediately want to do the same. But it's easy to see the glamour and not so easy to see the hard work and money that's involved. Both choices can be expensive and cause major upheaval. That's why you should empower yourself with plenty of information before you take the plunge. Then, when the dust settles, whether it's dust from the moving trucks or the contractors, you can enjoy your new home without regrets."

Need more resources to help with the move-or-build decision?

  • Remodeling Online Magazine's Annual Cost-Vs-Value Report explains the return in value on a variety of home improvement projects.
  • Consumer Reports offers access to Salt Lake City-based Castle Data's Replacement Cost Calculator.
  • A detailed analysis of building costs are available from Building-Cost.Net's sophisticated calculator.
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