We are growing out of our home should we build an addition or sell

Improving homeowners’ lives and their spaces since 2014


I am unapologetic about not being a planner. Throughout my 40 years of experience on this planet, I have prided myself on my ability to fly through life by the seat of my pants. That was before I became a homeowner and new parent four years ago. Those are two big life decisions I willfully put off for years, happening all at once. Barely five years into being a first time home-owner and parent I now find myself face to face with ‘the five year plan’. For someone who has (up until now) moved through life according to the phrase “Life is what’s happening when you’re busy making other plans”, I’ve never been comfortable with the five year plan. Last night, however, while I was about to drift into sleep, my partner nudged me and quietly asked me if I liked our house. That simple yes or no question switched my brain on faster than a click of a mouse would a computer screen in sleep mode, pushing me into a swirling rabbit hole of latent future scenarios and effectively ending any chance of actually getting a good night’s sleep. When my brain finally landed on solid ground, I was left with the uncomfortable answer of “I love our house, but we will probably outgrow it over the next five years.”


Photo Credit: William Kurelek’s ‘Balsam Avenue’

Five years ago we bought a charming 1100 sq. foot character home with a large front garden and screened in front porch. Located in one of Winnipeg’s original settler neighbourhoods under a shady canopy of elms. During our first viewing of the house, I was instantly brought back to my childhood spent playing in the streets while my parents planned block parties and borrowed sugar from the neighbours. Front yard interactions were part of my everyday life- idyllic! In our current neighbourhood, fireside drop-ins, over the fence chats and porch breakfasts are a standard. We have grown to love our neighbourhood.

And yet, as we spent the last five years raising our babies in our little ‘gingerbread home’, my original appreciation of the labyrinthine 1900s layout and the closet sized single bathroom has slowly become edged out by the constant shouldering into door frames and lack of storage space. We have three bedrooms, two of which by today’s standards could barely qualify as a bedroom.

This is not my beautiful house… but it’s about the same size! We will need to expand our living space as our family grows.

My partner is a musician and collector of all things musical, so his need for storage space has always been a source of frustration. For myself, a resolved introvert having spent much of my youth travelling, I am a collector of experiences. As a consequence, my possessions are as flighty as I am. Though my need for storage space is low, my introverted tendency makes up the difference with a pent up desire for a quiet place that is all my own. So as a result of that simple question, I am now faced with making a decision on whether to invest in expanding our house or move to a bigger one.


Like anyone facing a difficult decision in the internet age, I have asked the internet for advice. There are a lot of useful blogs on the subject from banks and home improvement sites. I boiled my research down to 3 Three Major Considerations when deciding whether to invest in your current home or move: Emotional Ties, Spatial Logistics and Financial Viability. I’ve always found the ‘Pros and Cons’ list to be a useful decision making tool (good for indecisive types like me!), so I’ve dusted it off to break down the problem further.

Below is a list of questions to ask yourself as you make up your Pros and Cons list. But be sure to write your answers down so you can see where things are out of balance. It’s my hope that my journey toward making this life changing decision might jiggle loose a biggle ball of an idea into your head and help you with yours. So together, we jump into the well… when we come out on the other side, we might just land on a decision once and for all!


If money is not a barrier, coming to terms with your level of connectedness to your neighbourhood and home can be the only thing you need to consider before making a decision to invest in expanding your home. For the rest of us, emotional ties are an important 1st step before exploring the feasibility and viability of expanding a home’s footprint. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you feel relaxed in your home?
  • Do you feel safe in your neighbourhood and have a sense of being connected to your neighbours?
  • Is your neighbourhood in line with your values?
  • Do you feel rooted in your home or do you feel that you can pull up roots easily without any emotional fallout?
  • Do you have kids? If so, ask them how they feel or look at their relationships. Yes, they can make new friends, but if it’s important to you that your children form lifelong bonds, then give this some serious consideration.


  • Do you feel like you can move freely through your home?
  • Do you feel like your current layout provides barriers to creating a sense of order?
  • Do you lack storage space? Are there opportunities to create more storage space?
  • If you have children, do you foresee them growing out of their rooms? Do alternative arrangements for creating space exist as your children’s needs change?

This is where you are really going to see what kind of changes need to be made. Thinking through all the options of changes you can make to your home’s layout will bring you much closer to a decision. Drawing out your current floor plan will help you to map out the possibilities. Nowadays there are lots of apps and programs you can download to help you draw out a simple floor plan. If you don’t have the time or desire to do the work, consider enlisting design services from a designer or contractor to help you. As you analyze your measured floor plan, try to come up with at least a couple of ideas with the aim of making the most efficient use of the space you have.


Once you get to this point, you will need to do some research and compare some numbers. This will put you in a good position to decide whether or not building an addition is a viable option when compared to buying a new home with your desired footprint:

  • Hire an appraiser to do a walk-through of your home to determine it’s current market value. Compare that number to what you paid for your home, and look at what similar houses in your neighbourhood are selling for. This will get you a hypothetical scenario of your profit in the event of selling your home.
  • Speak with a contractor to get an idea of the costs involved with building a new addition to your home then talk to your bank about the possibility of re-mortgaging to help pay for the addition costs.
  • Look into the housing market at houses that meet your desired spatial requirements & square footage. What are they selling for? This will help you weigh the costs of building an addition against the projected value added to your existing home.

Studies show that nearly all of the cost of a mid-range two-story addition may be recovered at the time of sale. It is typically cheaper to build an addition than to buy a new home that equals the space of your existing house plus an addition.


If you are left feeling like you are caught up in a dizzying spiral of what ifs and hypotheticals, you’re not alone. Take your time and give yourself the space to gather your information slowly. My next post will take you through my own explorations into expanding my home’s layout and my (not so highly anticipated) explorations into the financial viability of selling versus building an addition. Until then, enjoy your own explorations!