05/25/2012 09:41 EDT | Updated 07/25/2012 05:12 EDT

Should You Reno Your Home Or Simply Relocate?


TORONTO - The dream of home ownership can go awry as time wears on when a house that once was a perfect fit suddenly falls short of meeting your evolving needs.

Whether coping with increasingly cramped quarters as families expand or simply tiring of dwelling in outdated surroundings, many homeowners grow keen to scratch the itch to shape up their property or ship out.

So should you stay or should you go? Designer Robin Lewis and real estate agent Vanessa Roman seek to help befuddled homeowners find the solution in "Reno vs. Relocate" which premieres with back-to-back episodes Monday at 9 p.m. ET on HGTV.

"The first thing that we do is take an assessment of exactly what it is that they need in the space, how the space functions, but more importantly, how it's not functioning for them," Lewis said in a recent interview.

Homeowners are able to see a graphic simulation of a renovated home from Lewis, while Roman offers a tour of a new home better equipped to meet their needs. After seeing both options, a choice is made to either opt for a makeover or move.

One of the debut episodes features Sarah and Marc with a tiny kitchen and constant congestion on their home's main floor, coupled with limited work space.

After eight years in the home, and now with two kids, Marc is ready for more spacious surroundings closer to his office. Sarah favours going the reno route, preferring to stay closer to friends, school and her work. The couple is willing to shell out $40,000 for a potential renovation or $600,000 for a new home.

In a hot, expensive market, it may not be possible to afford to remain in your current neighbourhood in a bigger property or to move to a better area, said Roman. In that case, renovation becomes your lone option.

However, in markets where housing is more affordable, it's very easy to pick up and move versus staying and undergoing a massive reno, she noted.

"Renovations are fantastic, especially because people these days really are trying to find a home — not just a shell to live in," said Roman. "They want to stay in the same property because they develop a network of friends in the neighbourhood, their children are going to school, they have amenities that are close by.

"Sometimes, as much as you love a property, short of knocking the house down and building something new, it's not going to work. So moving then becomes a very viable option."

For those primed for a new property, Roman said the old adage of "location, location, location" still holds firm as the No. 1 consideration. But she also encourages homeowners to imagine how the property will be amenable to their needs in the short and longer terms.

"You have to imagine the space three years from now, five years from now, 10 years from now," she said.

"Robin and I could buy a house together and 1,100 square feet is great. Six children later? A little small. And you don't necessarily want to move."

While weighing the decision to renovate, Lewis said the parameters of your budget should set the course of action — and you shouldn't deviate from it. He also suggests a itemizing a top-down, to-do list.

Whether you're sprucing up a home for sale or staying put, Lewis and Roman say there are simple, affordable ways to make changes.

Both agree paint is a quick, cost-efficient option, but Lewis cautions against splashing any old colour on the wall.

"When you're considering how to paint a room, people look at the paint colours in isolation, by themselves. Look at what's going to be in that room," he said.

"Look at what's going to be outside the window, look at how you're going to want to use that room, how you want it to feel, and then make the decision on the paint from there." That includes factoring in furniture and other complementary colours in palette, he noted.

There are also tricks you can use to carve out a little extra wiggle room.

One of the basements renovated in the series needed to double as a play space and bedroom for out-of-town guests. Lewis came up with the idea of installing a wall bed that folds away when not in use.

"Another thing is just simple trays underneath your bed or underneath your couch gives you the ability to store smaller items," said Lewis. "It's all pretty straightforward if you just use your noggin."

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