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Does Your Mortgage Have You Stuck in Golden Handcuffs? Here’s How to Enjoy the Home You Have (Without Going Stir-Crazy)

By James King

June 5, 2023

The insanity of the housing market is top of mind these days… Especially if you’re unhappy with your home, and want to move.

In previous times, the decision to sell your home would hardly be worth a second thought.

But with skyrocketing interest rates continuing to grow like a particularly defiant patch of weeds… The idea of moving now gives you pause.


You’re stuck in golden handcuffs.

So let’s dig into what this is, why it’s a problem… And what you can do about it.

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breaking golden handcuffs featured image

What Golden Handcuffs Are in Your Mortgage (And Why it’s a Problem)

If you’ve heard of the term “golden handcuffs” before… You’ve likely heard it in the context of employment.

Investopedia defines it as, “Golden handcuffs are a collection of financial incentives that are intended to encourage employees to remain with a company for a stipulated period of time.”

So, how does this have anything to do with your mortgage?

Well… Let’s turn to the experts.

Mike Qiu, owner of Good as Sold Home Buyers explains, “The current housing situation is characterized by high-interest rates that make it difficult for homeowners to move on from their current homes. In many parts of the world, interest rates have risen significantly in recent years, making it harder for homeowners to refinance their mortgages or sell their homes. This situation is particularly challenging for those who bought their homes during a period of low-interest rates and now find themselves unable to sell or refinance at a lower rate.”

Therefore, “the concept of ‘golden handcuffs’ refers to the idea that homeowners are stuck in their current homes because they cannot afford to move on”, he continues.

Does the feeling resonate?

If you’re locked into a pandemic or pre-pandemic interest rate that’s far lower than current rates… You’re de facto locked into real estate golden handcuffs. (You’re being incentivized not to buy.)

Even if you’re looking to make an equal trade for your new home… You’re going to end up paying out the nose with a new mortgage rate, which has peaked at around 7% recently.

And if your current interest rate is sitting at about 3%… That’s a tough pill to swallow.

Should you be willing to take the hit anyway… It’s not even a guarantee that you’ll find your new dream home.

“The prospect of giving up an existing sub 3% mortgage rate to move to another home and have your mortgage payment based off of 6% or higher has become a major decision making factor when it comes to whether or not to make a move. It’s not only producing reluctance among those that may feel stuck in their current homes, on the larger scale it’s producing or contributing to a major shortage in available home inventory. As a result, it’s not only the prospect of a much higher interest rate on the replacement home that’s the challenge. It’s actually finding the replacement home itself!” shares Ken Sisson, a Los Angeles real estate agent.

Therein lies the crux of the problem.

You’re not happy with your home and want to move… But your current fixed-rate mortgage is simply too good to pass up. (Or, you can’t even find your dream home anyway due to lack of inventory!)

Now what?

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You Can’t Move... What Can You Do?

While it’s tempting to throw your hands up in despair… You always have more options than you may realize.

Instead of dreaming wistfully about how nice it would be to purchase a bigger and better home… Why not invest in the one you already have?

Low mortgage rates aren’t coming back anytime soon… So you may as well get the most out of the home you currently own.

Sal Dimiceli Sr of Lake Geneva Area Realty chimes in, saying, “When a person is not satisfied with the current condition of their home, it doesn’t mean all parts of the home are problematic or a part of the dismay. Instead of changing the entire property which comes at a high cost in the present economy, homeowners can try improving the particular parts of their home responsible for the problems. It could be the bathroom fittings, kitchen features, bedroom design, windows, etc.”

This might sound great, but… Where is this investment money going to come from?

Time to run some numbers.

Let’s say that you currently have a $600K mortgage at a fixed rate of 3.5%. Your monthly mortgage payments will then be $2,694.00.

If you move, you’re going to lose that interest rate.

And so in order to retain the same monthly payments of $2,694.00… You’ll have to purchase a home valued at $426,250.00.

That’s a lot less home!

In fact, that’s a home value gap of about $175,000.00.

That means… If you spend anything less than $175K on home improvement projects in your current home, that’s actually a net financial benefit for you!

You’re retaining your low mortgage rate, while also adding more value to your home at the same time.

Best of all… These upgrades will make you love your current home, rather than having a lingering sense of disappointment.

Zach Tetley, Co-founder of Nexus Home Buyers explains, “Homeowners are directly creating a gold mine by investing in their current homes. This gold will pay off in the form of profit when they intend to sell the house. Adding value to a home means homeowners can take all the necessary time. They can look through their budget and save on expensive materials. Their savings will come back to them when they have a potential buyer.”

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

That said… What’s the best way to put this home improvement money to work?

The Best Way to Put Your Money to Work

If you want to get the most out of your home improvement investment… It’s time to look toward the outdoor environment.

“Many homeowners are stuck in a house they don’t like because they can’t upgrade without taking on heavy mortgage debt due to high-interest rates and rising housing costs. The good news is that investing in outdoor living projects like outdoor kitchens can give your current house a new lease on life and make you fall in love with it all over again”, shares Joy Aumann of Luxury SoCal Realty.

Why consider outdoor living renovations specifically?

Great question.

There are a multitude of reasons… So let’s discuss.

You’re Adding an Entire Room to Your Home

l shaped outdoor kitchen with power burner and refrigerator in a florida room

Rather than breaking the bank with a full-on home addition… You can add just as much living space (if not more) by upgrading your backyard.

Improving your backyard “increases the size of your living space and enables you to make the most of your property by providing a lovely, useful area for entertaining and making use of the outdoors”, Aumann says.

It’s really as simple as that!

Adding several luxury elements to your backyard will vastly increase the functionality of the space.

Rather than always having to be cooped up indoors… You can spend a good portion of the day outdoors, if you have the right setup!

This is particularly beneficial if you feel that your home is tight on space.

If you’re able to retreat outdoors and get some fresh air more often… That lack of space will be far less of an issue.

Plus, it will be far less of a disturbance than a traditional addition.

It’s Less Invasive than Indoor Renovations

If you’ve decided you’re going to stay put in your current home, but it’s too small… It’s only natural that you may be strongly considering a home addition.

However, there’s a massive amount of stress that goes along with that!

It’s expensive… And is a seriously invasive process.

The comfort of your home will be disturbed for a long period of time… Which will only serve to increase the dissatisfaction with your existing home.

Therefore, improving your outdoor space is a far better compromise!

Yes, there will be some disruption of your backyard. But it won’t be as close to home, so to speak.

Additionally, most projects can be completed rather quickly… Allowing you to enjoy your new space even sooner than expected.

Not to mention, you’ll be reaping the reward financially as well.

The Value of Your Home Will Skyrocket

At the end of the day… If the numbers don’t look good, you won’t move forward with a massive home improvement project.

Lucky for you… Upgrading your outdoor living space is one of the best ways to increase the value of your home.

According to Spacewise, “it’s estimated that well-designed patios not only add 8-10% home value, but also earn an ROI of over 80%.

And that’s just the patio!

Many other outdoor living projects have an impressive ROI as well… Including an outdoor kitchen, which can land you a 50% – 300% ROI depending on your situation!

As Ron Wysocarski, a real estate broker based in Port Orange, FL explains, “When it’s time to sell the house, investing in outdoor living projects may increase its value and result in a higher listing price. Suppose, you invest $20,000 in an outdoor living project on your $400,000 home that includes an outdoor kitchen, and landscaping. As a result, the home’s value increases by $25,000, and according to the current housing market climate, you know that it has a 125% return on its investment. That is $45,000 at least in return. So, you’ll be able to sell your house with the asking price of $445,000 or even more which you bought for less.”

Those numbers sound pretty fantastic to us!

Your outdoor living space will pay you dividends in the future… And provide you with countless hours of enjoyment in the moment!

Most Importantly... You’ll Love Your Home More

people sitting at outdoor table with outdoor tv on wall

“In addition to increasing the value of a home, investing in a current home can also make it more enjoyable to live in. An outdoor kitchen project, for example, can provide homeowners with a space to cook and entertain guests outdoors, which can be particularly appealing during the warmer months of the year. This can make a home more livable and enjoyable for homeowners, even if they are unable to sell it or refinance at a lower rate”, Qiu chimes in.

Just think about it for a moment.

Imagine that you have a stunning patio area… Complete with an outdoor kitchen, fire pit, and a seating area.

Rather than just wistfully looking outside the window on a sunny day… You can actually take advantage of it. Immediately.

Your home will also become the “gathering hub” amongst your family and friends.

Loved ones will come directly to you to spend time together… And your outdoor kitchen provides the perfect excuse for semi-regular barbecues!

And even if you’re not hosting… You can enjoy quiet moments by yourself or with family, chatting together around the fire pit.

No matter what speaks to you… Your outdoor living space can be personalized to your exact needs.

As Matt Tasgin of Pegasus Home Buyers put it, “Homeowners can customize their outdoor living space to fit their unique needs and preferences. This level of personalization is often limited when purchasing a new home, as the layout and design are already predetermined.”

Turn the home you want to sell… Into one you never want to leave!

Now, let’s discuss some outdoor living projects to accomplish just that.

The perfect investment for your home

Add value to your home with an RTA Outdoor Kitchen! Use our free 3D design tool to get started today.

Outdoor Living Projects to Keep The Stir-Crazy at Bay

Everyone has unique needs… And that’s no different for your future outdoor living space!

There are a great number of features you could consider for your backyard, but the question is… Which ones speak to you?

Let’s figure that out, shall we?

Cozy Up at the Fire Pit or Fireplace

patio idea with dining area and outdoor kitchen

Adding a fire pit or fireplace to your space is one of the easiest ways to elevate your backyard… And can be installed rather inexpensively!

In fact, most homeowners spend about $3,000 on their outdoor fireplace.

With a stunning rustic stone or modern concrete finish… A fireplace or fire pit alike will be sure to make a statement in your backyard.

But of course, it’s not just about looks.

These features are highly functional as well!

It’s well-known that the human eye is inexplicably drawn to the sight of fire… Creating a meditative experience you could sit in front of for hours.

The same goes for your family, too. Everyone can take a break from the glowing, blue light of a screen… And enjoy true human company in the presence of a calming, warm flame.

And if this sounds appealing… You’re going to need somewhere to sit!

Chat Away the Night with an Outdoor Seating Area

new jersey outdoor kitchen by rta at night with lighting

In the glow of your outdoor fire pit… You’ll need some comfortable seating to melt into, and enjoy chatting with your loved ones into the wee hours of the morning.

But whether you have an outdoor fireplace or not… Adding a seating area to your space is a no-brainer!

A welcoming Adirondack chair or cozy sectional will constantly beckon you to your outdoor space… Ensuring you make the most of your time outdoors.

Regardless of if you have company or not… You can spend a peaceful morning outside with a mug of coffee in one hand, and a captivating book in the other.

Either way, you can step outside at any point in time, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Point is, an outdoor seating area is incredibly versatile… And there’s no reason not to add one to your backyard!

Take the Plunge with a Swimming Pool

l shaped outdoor kitchen with asado smoker under a gazebo next to a pool

The topic of adding a pool is where opinions begin to diverge… Especially in the context of increasing home value.

The “addition of pools, setting tubs on the yard and etc type of investments are not worth it. Buyers are not happy or interested to buy their new house by spending thousands of dollars more due to these types of improvements”, explains Wysocarski.

Unfortunately, this is often true!

Pools are incredibly expensive to install… And require constant maintenance, which a future home buyer might not want to sign up for.

So, why install a pool at all?

As Sisson put it, “Perhaps swimming pools or spas will increase your own personal enjoyment of the home, but may be a detractor for a future buyer.”

Ultimately, don’t invest in a pool if you’re hoping for a large payday later. Only install one if it will truly increase the enjoyment of your current home!

Add Curb Appeal with Tasteful Landscaping & Hardscaping

Unlike our previous features… Landscaping and hardscaping are the unsung heroes of your outdoor living space!

As Jasen Edwards, Chair of Agent Advice’s Editorial Board explains, “Many homeowners overlook the importance of outdoor landscape design. There are a number of ways to accentuate outdoor design. For example, adding a trellis to the landscape can give the impression of a well-kept yard.”

These features are simple, yet effective!

The same goes for stone walkways, patios, decks, gazebos, flower beds, or a well-maintained garden.

These features don’t necessarily provide direct “entertainment value”… But they elevate the beauty of your space, and increase appreciation of the outdoor environment.

Not to mention, a future home buyer will see the value in this built-in beauty!

Bring the Bar to Your Backyard

bar seating featured image

Rather than going out for a drink… Why not bring the experience straight to your backyard?

An outdoor bar is the perfect way to enjoy your alcoholic beverage of choice… Without all the noise and distraction of your local bar.

Plus, you can invite your friends directly to your home rather than going out. (And you’ll actually be able to hear them!)

Even if you’re not much into drinking… An outdoor bar can also double as a seating area and serving station.

So if you’re throwing a party… You’ve got a built-in dining area right there.

And what sort of food should you make for said party?

Transform Your Backyard into a Humble Pizzeria

man assembling pizza by gas pizza oven

With little effort, you can turn your backyard into a pizzeria that rivals Naples itself!

Pizza is a fan-favorite the world over… And how could you decline having access to fresh, wood-fired pizza on demand?

No need to call for delivery… Your home-based pizzeria is mere steps away.

Not to mention, making pizza is an art that the entire family can enjoy.

In fact, rather than the weekly tradition of ordering pizza on a Friday night… Why not make your own instead?

Nothing beats the satisfaction of sinking your teeth into a fresh pie made by your own hands.

And that’s exactly what an outdoor pizza oven can provide. Whether you build one yourself or buy a professional countertop model… It’s a feature that will beautify your backyard, and greatly increase the satisfaction with your home.

And While You’re at It... Why Not Throw in Everything but the Kitchen Sink?

mike pyle with his family at their custom outdoor kitchen with a modern concrete finish

To bring the enjoyment of your home to its peak… An outdoor kitchen is the ultimate investment!


The benefits of several of the features we’ve discussed can be combined into one unit!

An outdoor kitchen can also function as a bar… It can function as a seating area… And it can support your pizza oven! (With counter space to work your dough, to boot!)

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

With gas grills, charcoal grills, pellet grills, griddles, side burners, and smokers… There’s an ever-growing list of appliances you can include to boost your cooking and hosting potential.

You’ll expand your palate and cooking skills at the same time, all while enjoying the outdoors!

Ultimately, an outdoor kitchen is a backyard haven… Creating the perfect setting for an escape, whenever you want.

Not to mention… It’s a luxury feature that greatly increases the value of your home.

“We know that interior kitchen and bathroom remodels typically will add the most value to a home as far as home improvements go. With an outdoor kitchen, although you’re not adding any square footage to the actual home, you are increasing the value in terms of utility a great deal”, Sisson adds.

So there you have it.

Now that you’ve seen all the options to turn your “ho-hum” property into one you love…

Are You Ready to Break Free From Golden Handcuffs? Start Here.

If you’re ready to break free from the clutches of golden handcuffs… You still want to ensure you’re investing wisely.

Your outdoor living space should be functional, enjoyable… And provide you a reasonable ROI should you decide to sell your home in more favorable market conditions.

In our minds, the best place to start is with an outdoor kitchen.

An RTA outdoor kitchen… To be more specific.

Thing is, not all outdoor kitchens will add significant value to your home.

Many modular, off-the-shelf island options aren’t built to last the long haul… And their impermanent nature doesn’t actually contribute to home value.

However, an RTA kitchen bridges the gap.

Our islands are made from high performance concrete panels… And the concrete we use is rated for 100 years.

These islands aren’t going anywhere. And due to the nature of concrete, every island has a super-premium look and feel that you’ll recognize right away.

The solid, dense concrete panels ooze durability and craftsmanship… And the finishes available will match any luxury aesthetic you’re after.

It’s this standard of quality that will command the highest ROI possible when it comes time to sell.

RTA islands are simple to install as well.

For a straight island, you only have 4 panels to deal with. You bolt them together, place the matching countertop, and slide in the appliances. (Every kit comes with premium appliances from Coyote Outdoor Living.)

This also means that if you’re head over heels with your island and want to move… You can take it apart and bring it with you!

And with a lifetime structural warranty… We’ve got you covered, no matter what you decide.

Ready to get started?

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