March-April 2020 | Home & Garden

Love it or leave it

When homeowners outgrow their house, it’s time to make a decision

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The Cabes decided that they didn’t want to leave the community that supported them through their son’s illness, and the house remodel became “the reward that we finally allowed for ourselves,” Amanda says. “At the end of the day, we decided that we really love our neighborhood. Our neighbors really rallied around us. We felt really anchored to this community, and we didn’t want to leave that.”

In 2017, the Cabes put their belongings in storage and moved into a 1,600-square-foot house they rented in the neighborhood. The remodel included changing the roofline of their home to allow for more ceiling height and natural light in the living areas. In an effort to reach a compromise between Amanda’s desire for an open floor plan and Erich’s preference for partitions, the Wilder team built a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf that separates the family’s recreation room and formal living room. In addition to allowing sight lines between the two rooms, the open bookshelf displays some of the family’s treasures, including antique statues of African fertility gods, funky vases from Erich’s fashion-forward sister, and a framed souvenir map of Mount Pleasant, the couple’s old stomping grounds.

Wilder’s team also upgraded the master bedroom with two walk-in closets, created a Jack and Jill-style bathroom between the boys’ rooms, and combined the formal dining room and kitchen to create a large eat-in kitchen. “We call it the control room of our house,” Erich says of what’s now his favorite room. “We have a great island where the kids read books and draw, and we eat most of our meals.”
It took seven months to turn the midcentury-modern dwelling into a contemporary haven. “We are really happy,” Erich says of his family’s life in the updated house. “We did a full-blown, very expensive remodel that gave me ulcers every time I wrote a check, but now we are content to stay in our home forever.”

Though the decision to remodel was the right one for the Cabes, different circumstances have led homeowners to relocate when their current home no longer suited their needs.

“If a homeowner doesn’t like the parts of their home that they cannot change, like the location or the neighborhood, it is worth exploring a move rather than a renovation,” says Gitika Kaul, a real estate agent with Compass’ Kaul Home Group.

Structural or safety concerns with the property are other reasons to avoid a remodel, according to Wilder. “We try to save as much as we can of the existing house if it makes sense,” says Wilder, who advises clients not to invest in a remodel if a home has major issues, such as severe mold problems or a damaged foundation. “The foundation is always going to be a humid, mold-growing space which intensifies over time, so you are putting a really nice, expensive addition on a sponge, and 20 years later the foundation is going to be much worse. The porosity of those older houses we have to really consider.”

Even if a remodel is a viable option, market conditions may influence whether homeowners decide to move. In October 2019, the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors found that the median sale price in Montgomery County was $439,850, the highest October level in 10 years.

“In most areas in Montgomery County, values do increase over time, so if you have some equity in your home, selling may very well be a smart financial decision and, frankly, make the process of getting into something more suitable much easier,” says Kaul, who advises her clients to purchase a home only if they think it will suit their needs for the next five years. “At the end of the day, the first question homeowners should really ask themselves is what will make them happy.”