I’ve Got House Envy, But Is Remodeling Worth the Cost?

Just like many homes built in the 1980s, ours has two separate living rooms and a floor plan that is far from “open concept.” But ever since we purchased this home in late 2013, it’s never really bothered us.

For each thing I don’t love about this house, there are a million things I adore. We’re in one of the top school districts of the state, after all. Plus, our home is spacious and clean, with enough bedrooms for everyone and a private office. Even better, this house is extremely affordable. Even on a 15-year loan, the payment would be easy to make under almost any circumstances.

Unfortunately, something happened that made me question whether I could make my home better. I made friends with a neighbor who turned her similarly-styled house into an open-concept home. One look at the way she removed the walls between her separate living areas and, all of a sudden, my wheels were turning.

And while my heart was thinking of all the ways this could improve our experience in our home, my mind and pocketbook were screaming: “Nooooooooooooooooooooo!”

I already have a house I like, so why mess with it? And further, would the money we spend really be worth it?

House Envy: It Happens

This is exactly how it happens, isn’t it? You’re perfectly happy with your home until you see a new episode of “House Hunters,” crack open a new copy of your favorite home remodeling magazine, or see an update or upgrade someone else has done and fall in love.

Even though I’m extremely frugal, this has happened to me with every home I’ve ever owned. For some reason, a nagging voice inside of me always wants to make things better than they are now. Always. The good thing is, I am usually able to squash that voice and make home improvement decisions based on the bigger picture.

But, what about this time? Now that we’re older and convinced that this is our “forever home,” does a major home remodeling project make sense?

The Pros and Cons of a Major Home Remodeling Project

After talking to a friend who’s a contractor, we’re estimating that, after removing the walls, redoing the drywall, creating a new coat closet to replace the one I would lose, and replacing all the floors, I would be out around $15,000. Here are the pros and cons I considered right away:

The benefits of creating an open-concept floor plan:

  • Our main living area would be larger, which would give us more room to spread out. At the moment, we have two medium-sized living areas that sit right next to each other. Opening them up would create a larger space, which would be a lot more practical for the way we live.
  • We would end up with less wasted space. The way our downstairs is set up now, we have a huge foyer. If we removed the walls the broke up our lower level, that space could serve as an extension of our living area.
  • It would look better and more up-to-date. When I walked into my friend’s open concept home, I couldn’t help but note how much better it looked. By opening up the floor plan, we would have a more modern home, but with the expert construction and quality of an older one.
  • It would possibly improve the resale value of our home. Since many people want open-concept homes, creating that look would likely make our home more marketable if we were to sell. Further, the resale value would probably inch up slightly.

The cons of spending $15,000 to upgrade our home:

  • I can think of better ways to spend the money. No matter how much I want something, $15,000 is a lot of money. I’m not sure I can stand to part with it, especially since we have so many other financial goals and two small children with a constant stream of needs.
  • We don’t plan to move, so our home’s resale value isn’t that important. Since this is likely our forever home, its resale value is a moot point. Remodeling to increase our home’s value makes no sense if we never intend to sell.
  • Major home construction projects are a huge pain. I can already imagine how much dirt and dust a huge construction project like this would create. Since I work at home, a project like this one would also mean I would have to work somewhere else for a while.
  • It might cost more than we think. Even though I have estimated costs for nearly every component of the project, it’s possible that other expenses could crop up. For example, what if our furniture no longer works in the larger space? Or maybe the company we hire would find some issue that needs repair once they start tearing down walls. No matter what, you never know about those type of things until it is already too late.

Putting Our Home Improvement Dreams on Hold

While I’m frugal at heart, I am normally fine with paying for common sense upgrades for our home. We both work here and live here, after all, and I want all of us to love where we live. Still, part of me knows that there is no such thing as a perfect home. 

After much thought and deliberation, we decided to wait it out. With so much money on the line, we felt it made sense for us to kick the idea around for a year or two to see what happens. After all, dreams change, and some things that seem like a good idea one day may not the next. Plus, what’s the hurry?

If it still seems like a good idea two or three years from now, perhaps we’ll take the plunge. But right now, I want to take some time to let the whole situation run its course. A major home remodeling project almost never goes smoothly, and right now, we’re choosing to be happy with the home we have.

Have you ever weighed the pros and cons of a similar decision? If you could make one update to your home, what would it be?

Holly Johnson

Contributing Writer

Holly Johnson is a frugality expert and award-winning writer who is obsessed with personal finance and getting the most out of life. A lifelong resident of Indiana, she enjoys gardening, reading, and traveling the world with her husband and two children. In addition to The Simple Dollar, Holly writes for well-known publications such as U.S. News & World Report Travel, PolicyGenius, Travel Pulse, and Frugal Travel Guy. Holly also owns Club Thrifty.