Would You Rather?

Which is the better January upgrade: moving or gut renovating?

By Mayra David  | January 20, 2015 - 3:59PM

New year, new you! That’s what they say. And living well can start right at home, so we asked six New Yorkers: Would you rather do a gut renovation or up and move to a whole new place?

No gut, no glory: I’d redo my place completely. I love my neighborhood and I think that I live in one of the best streets and best buildings around. The co-op is thriving financially and our building community is lovely. We are like family. I don’t ever want to leave. Having said that, my place could really use a new bathroom, a new kitchen, and the floor could stand a sanding. I’d love to add a bathroom, too. When we moved in, we didn’t really have time to do more than a superficial “sprucing up” with paint and a few built-ins. I’d love to strip all the paint off the door frames and walls, etc. and skim coat the whole place and really bring out those beautiful prewar details. - Aaron, Harlem

Seeking more space: I like where we live, but the apartment is getting cramped. With two young children, we can manage with just the two bedrooms. But we’d want to give them their own space eventually. Reconfiguring the space is quite costly, and I like the idea of trying out a [new] space entirely. So I’d definitely move, though I’d want to stay in our neighborhood. I’m never leaving the neighborhood - Freddie, Hamilton Heights

Gathering moss: I used to be a bit of a rolling stone, not staying anywhere for too long. Sometimes because of financial reasons, other times it just felt like a good move. But since owning this great open [loft] space, I’m happy to stay. I love gathering ideas for renovating my place. I think it can be a very rewarding and creative experience to optimize and improve and renew your living space. - Ellie, Carroll Gardens

Move it: Life’s too short to gut renovate! I don’t really get the logic behind buying an old place, if it has to be gut renovated. Sure, you may save some money on the initial purchase, but you’ll probably spend that money on renovation and costly repairs, or even worse, on a mediocre apartment somewhere while you gut your current place. That’s just a money drain. On top of all that, you’ll be stressed out all the time. I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever have to make any repairs or even home improvements … but a gut renovation is something else entirely. If you need to knock down walls and put them up again just to create a new bedroom or whatever, then you should have just bought a two-bedroom in the first place. - Glenn, South Harlem

Rah rah renovation! For me, the whole point in buying is so that I wouldn’t ever have to move again! I chose long and hard, and the apartment I eventually chose definitely needed a lot of work. I’m under no illusions that there are going to be huge expenses down the road as well. But honestly, that’s part of the fun. Sure it can be stressful and expensive, but selling up and then moving would be just as bad with attorney fees, closing costs, etc. Unless there was a significant financial advantage to moving versus renovation, I’d choose renovation every time. - Cindy, Upper East Side

Let the numbers speak: I see my apartment as an investment, so either way it will have to make financial sense. If it would make more sense to gut renovate including all expenses like living accommodations, etc., then I wouldn’t shy away from it. Plus, I hate to move. But if a great deal elsewhere came along, then that’s what you do. - Sam, Astoria

Results: 3.5 renovators versus 2.5 movers; gut renovations win!


Renovating? 6 ways to find temporary digs

New Yorkers' biggest home improvement delusions

Simplify your move—pack a kitchen survival kit

Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.