Say you've outgrown your living quarters and like where you live, but cannot afford the larger houses in your neighborhood or your community.
You do have options. You can add on, or you can turn existing space you've never thought of using into bedrooms or bathrooms.
Before you expand, you have to look into the physical, legal and financial aspects involved.
For example, say you want a two-story addition that might accommodate a master suite on the second floor and a family room on the first.
Do you have enough property to do it and still comply with local planning and zoning regulations? And even if you do, what about the neighbors? They certainly will want a say in something that might block the sun from their gardens or affect property values, taxes and resales.
If you've never thought as far as resale, consider it before you make another move.
Don't over-enlarge. In a neighborhood full of three-bedroom houses that are attracting small families, how quickly will your five-bedroom house sell? It is something you need to consider.
Two-story additions should look as if they are integrated with the original structures. Matching stone is always the toughest. Brick is easier to blend, since used brick is available in great quantity in this area. But it is much more expensive than new because old mortar has to be cleaned from the surfaces of the brick.
The Cost vs. Value report jointly sponsored by Remodeler and Realtor magazines has not included a two-story addition for several years because costs and returns on such expenditures vary greatly.
If an addition does not work for you, why not look into the attic and the basement?
The Cost vs. Value report shows that creating an air-conditioned attic bedroom -- a 15-by-15-foot room with a 5-by-7-foot shower bath -- averages $22,840 nationally, and that 84 percent of that money will be recouped at resale time.
The attics of some houses are merely crawl spaces, so often roofs need to be bumped up to create headroom.
Although resale might not be an issue here -- extra space can mean a home office, a guest room, or a playroom for families not needing an extra bedroom -- you will need to contact the local building official to see what kind of permits are needed.
If you have to change the exterior of the house by making it taller, then planning and zoning approvals are needed. The neighbors' approval is, too.
What about basements?
When people buy older houses, one of the first places they look to expand into is the basement. One of the first questions they ask is whether the basement is wet or dry.
Although a finished basement is just one item on a buyer's wish list, it sometimes can make or break a resale.
Other uses include exercise rooms, home offices, and storage.
New-home buyers have it a little easier because houses are coming with what are called "bonus rooms." Actually, they are not rooms -- just spaces that will become something when the homeowner needs them.
Bonus space is probably one of the more popular options in new construction because it gives the buyer the option of having room to grow without having to decide what to build, or pay up front for it.
Although tastes vary from region to region, there are some shared preferences.
One is house size. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders, buyers in all regions are looking for houses with more than 2,200 square feet of living space. They also prefer to pay no more than $200,000 for whatever they buy.
People in the Northeast like to entertain formally, and prefer a formal living room, dining room, and a separate family room, instead of a "great room" with an eating area.
The typical Northeast buyer prefers a traditional two-story with three bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths, the magazine reported. If the builder could add 100 square feet of living space to a house, buyers would want it in the family room or living room.
In the Midwest, comfortable family living rather than formality is the preference. Midwesterners prefer a great room, and their 100 square feet of extra space would be in the family room or kitchen, the magazine reported. The typical house was two stories and brick.
Southerners prefer informal living in a one-story traditional brick house. Buyers want a great room, and are evenly split on whether they want it with an eating area or a formal dining area.
If the builder could add 100 square feet, the Southern buyer would want it in the family room.