Making the choice between renovation and relocation

Former TV host working on her own dream home in East Saanich

Nancy Roman

Living through a major renovation can be a challenging time for many homeowners. Saanich’s Vanessa Roman has watched the renovation process unfold many times, both in her own home as well as in front of the TV cameras. And her time as host of the HGTV show Reno vs. Relocate has given her insight into the struggle many homeowners face when they must choose between updating their current home or moving to a new location.

“Talk to a professional. That would be my very first piece of advice,” she said. “If you’re deciding if you want to move or you want to renovate, bring in a real estate agent, bring in a reputable contractor, bring in a designer, and start walking through the house and describe your problem to them.”

Roman, who now works as a realtor with Pemberton Holmes, said homeowners often are unable to see the potential in their own homes.

“When a room has always been an office, it’s difficult for them to see it as a nursery or a pantry or a bathroom, because in their mind it’s an office. When you bring in fresh sets of eyes they can suggest opportunities to you that maybe you haven’t considered.”

Roman was working as a realtor in Halifax sometime around 2010 when she heard they were casting for a real estate agent to play in a new TV series. Roman made a tape of herself walking around her house talking about real estate and sent it in.The casting director loved it, and nine months later she received a calling saying they wanted her to do a show for HGTVCanada.

“I thought Oh my God, my favourite channel. When you’re a real estate agent, especially back then, that’s the channel you watch. I watched all the shows – and then Oh my Lord, love a duck – to be able to be on it. It was wonderful.”

Roman filmed 26 episodes of Reno vs. Relocate, where a real estate agent and designer meet with homeowners and try to convince them to sell or renovate the home. Roman would take the homeowners to look at three other properties while designer Robin Lewis would do a mock-up to show them what their house could look like after renovations.

“Then the homeowners would say I’ve decided I’m going to move or I’ve decided I’m going to renovate. Then we’d go through the renovation or the move and wind it all up in a nice 30 minutes with everyone happy in the end,” she said.

While the show wasn’t picked up after its initial run of 26 episodes, it can still be found on a variety of channels. In fact,Roman recently heard from a friend in Saudi Arabia who watched the show there.

Roman said she learned a lot about designing while putting together the show, and that knowledge came in handy when she bought her East Saanich home last summer.

It’s a great neighbourhood, but the house is a 1970s fixer-upper,” said Roman, who has been renovating the home with her husband Jason. She has been writing about the project in a series of articles for Canadian Real Estate Wealth magazine, and says the experience is much different than when she had renovated houses with the intention of flipping them.

“There’s a very big difference on your return on your investment [ROI] when you’re a flipper than when you’re living in the property. The emotional ROI is something that is new to us,” said Roman, adding the hardwood floor for the home came in at almost double the budget.

“If this had been a flip, as soon as we found out the leveller was going to cost much more than we anticipated, we would have changed tactics. But the emotional ROI kept pushing us forward.”

Having seen housing markets across the country, Roman believes the Victoria market is coming into its own.

“People are starting to turn their eyes to Victoria because it is a beautiful city to live in. It’s affordable compared to some of these other cities, certainly compared to Vancouver,” she said.

Roman said costs are something homeowners should consider closely when weighing a decision of making renovations against purchasing a new home, adding those costs can pop up in unexpected places.

“For a big reno, you could be out six months, eight months. Where are you going to go? Because in Victoria right now we have a [nearly] zero per cent vacancy, there’s nowhere for you to rent. That will be a big consideration,” she said.


“Planning in advance, well in advance, will certainly save you a lot of headaches, a lot of heartaches and a lot of money.”



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