Dream big and realize that you can achieve the feel of a new home without having to move. One of the great ironies of homeownership is that most houses reach their highest potential just when they are sold. The owners get by for years without improving or repairing their home. Does your house fall into this category? If so, get busy and start improving your greatest asset.

Remove Your Blinders

Stop looking at your house for what it is and begin to discover what it can be. The first step is to remove your blinders.

Whenever you live in one place for a while you develop a shorthand way of looking at it. Now, take a few minutes and really examine how you feel about your home. Inevitably, a number of characteristics will come to mind: some good, some bad.

You might think your house is cute, but cramped, or dark, but cozy. Some set of characteristics dominates the way you feel about the home. When you see a new idea or product for the home, your subconscious asks, Will it look good in my dark, but cozy house??

It’s as if you take the basic characterization as being unchangeable, when in reality, just about anything can be changed. Plus, it will almost always be less expensive to upgrade your home than it will be to move into an already upgraded home. So if you like the neighborhood-don’t move-just take whatever steps are necessary to improve your home.

Visualize Your Dream Home

At one extreme, you could tear down the house and start over again. Since that is drastic, just think about what you would do if you had a fresh start. Here are some thought-provoking questions:

  • What would you build if you could start over?
  • What would your dream house look like?
  • What would the master bedroom look like?
  • How about the kitchen?
  • How many cars would you like the garage to accommodate?
  • What if you changed your paint color scheme?

Let yourself go. Consider installing a large, two-person tub with jets that will help you unwind at the end of the day. If an area of your home is notoriously dark, install windows or glass blocks to provide natural light. Outside, how about a large deck for entertaining? Would it be nice to snuggle in your own private home theater? How would skylights change the feeling you get when you walk into the kitchen?

If your family seems to be outgrowing your house, add on a new room. Changing the appearance of the front entrance can drastically improve the look of your house. Also, landscaping with the help of a professional can do wonders for an overgrown, under maintained lawn. Replacing wallpaper, flooring, cabinets, fixtures, and appliances can update your home and make you feel like you’re living in a brand new house.

Gather Ideas

Build your dream house in your mind. It’s a great exercise for getting the blinders off. Once you begin to envision what you really want, you can start letting go of the old image of the house. With that done, you’re ready for step two: gathering specific ideas.

The trick is to focus on desires. Don’t spend too much time thinking about what you can afford or what is practical. Essentially, you are brainstorming. Even unworkable ideas are good because they often lead to still better, more feasible ones.

Go on a quest to discover your options. Go to home shows. Buy some magazines. Tour some model homes in nearby developments. Virtual equivalents for many of these activities now exist on the Internet. When you see something you like, take a picture, copy a photo, make some notes or tear out the page.

Gather together all the good ideas you find into a folder. Take it out from time to time and let the images stimulate your mind. You’ll soon start combining ideas and coming up with completely new ones.

Once you begin to find that new ideas are getting rare, take your file to an architect or a design/build firm. They can help you figure out what’s feasible. In many cases, they’ll help you discover alternative ways of getting the results you desire the most.