In some hot housing markets, an upswing of discretionary projects--or extensive remodels and additions that aren't strictly necessary but improve quality of life--have offered a new option to many homeowners who hope to live in a larger property. Some buyers find that it costs less to remodel than buy a new home when prices keep soaring. Boston Globe staffer Elizabeth Gehrman explores this trend and explains under what circumstance it makes better sense. Gehrman writes,
What Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies calls “discretionary projects” — extensive remodels and additions that aren’t strictly necessary but improve quality of life — have been on the upswing, with total homeowner improvement costs nationwide reaching $192 billion, their highest point since before the recession. Thirty percent of that figure has gone toward additions, finishing basement or attic space, and other “major structural alterations.” Of the 50 metro areas examined in the center’s latest Emerging Trends report, published in 2015, Boston had the highest share of large projects, with half of them costing $50,000 or more.
Many homeowners assume that if you’re going to put $200,000 into an addition, it must make more sense to move, says Bill Farnsworth, owner of Custom Contracting in Arlington. “But then when you start looking, and everything you want is $300,000 more than your house is worth,” Farnsworth says, “you realize it makes more sense to stay. Why go out into the crazy real estate market when you can have the builder come to you?” That’s the way many homeowners see it, too. “In January, seven out of our first ten calls were for additions,” he says.