Do you ever look around your existing abode and think it would be perfect if not for just one or two things?
Oh, good. Me too.
Do you ever go to Open Houses or Parade of Homes and drool over spaces where everything is sparkling new and right on trend? Oh, good. Me too.
In this day of HGTV, the DIY network, Pinterest, Zillow, and a myriad of other inspirational media sources, it’s hard not to want to make improvements to our existing homes or move to a newer, older, bigger, smaller, or nicer home. Shows like Love it or List it even walk people through the process of fixing their home and then after seeing the results, deciding if they want to keep it or move.
For those of us at or near retirement age, the dilemma is often whether or not to downsize, or stay in the comfort of our larger homes to accommodate infrequent visitors. In our case, 3400 square feet is a lot of real estate for two people to rattle around in. My husband likes to joke that we have four rooms he never enters. Despite the fact that he is prone to exaggeration, he is correct that we certainly have more space than we need.
So, we did what we always do when we have major decisions to make; created the dreaded Pro’s and Con’s list. For us, the best place to make these lists is in the car while traveling long distances. No television, no cell phones, and nothing else to distract us from meaningful list-making. Other than driving, that is:]
Once our list was complete, we went out and looked at homes that were available, both old and new, that were in the right price range, in the right area, and that we liked. Now, time to put pencil to paper and figure out the actual costs of moving. First, there are the obvious costs of a real estate professional, as well as closing expenses and taxes. These costs can easily top 8-10% of the home value.
Then come the costs for closing costs on the new home, and to have someone move all of your belongings. Though worth it, movers are not cheap. In our younger years, we could make a move by enlisting four friends with trucks and the promise of a pizza party, but sadly those days are gone.
If financing a home, another consideration is how today’s interest rates compare to your existing rate. If you were in a position to buy or refinance when rates were historically low, you may be converting that great rate for today’s rates that are somewhat higher. This may not sound like a big factor, but it can be.
If purchasing an older home, there are usually the inevitable costs to update the paint, flooring, countertops, and fixtures. These costs can add up fast, even if you plan to do some of the work yourself. Think Fixer Upper, but without Chip and Joanna Gaines.
If purchasing a brand-new home, the costs can be as much or more than an older home. I used to joke that if you want a real fixer upper, buy or build brand new. We have had four brand new houses in our lives, and the cost of landscaping, fences, closet systems, window treatments and possible new furnishings can make a new home cost more than an existing residence.
For my husband and I, the costs related to moving to a smaller home right now, even one with less yard and pool maintenance, did not add up. Between realtor fees, moving expenses, and improvements to the purchased home, the breakeven point was somewhere around 20 years after our life expectancy.
To top that off, after living in this home for eleven years, we have grown to love our neighborhood and especially our neighbors. They are actually more like family, as well as dear friends; something you cannot put a price tag on. In the end, we decided that with the money we “saved” by not moving (do you like my logic here?), we would fix a couple of the things that we really disliked about our existing home.
So, there are going to be some changes coming to the Wicks household starting next week! All of the dated tile surfaces in the halls, entry, kitchen, and one bathroom, are being replaced with dreamy French Oak hardwoods. Simultaneously, the nondescript laundry room vinyl is being replaced with a new vinyl that looks so much like hand painted cement tiles that you can’t tell them apart. The laundry room is also getting a fresh coat of Patience by Sherwin Williams, to match the rest of the house.
In the great room, we are having a fireplace installed, complete with a beautiful stack stone surround and mantel. And the best part?? All of these improvements are being done for a fraction of the costs associated with selling. We will also have the features we have longed for, while staying near our dreamy neighbors, and adding equity and value to our property, all at the same time.
And the very, very best part? The work will all be done while we are away on my Christmas present from last year, a trip to Disneyland. The contractor said that we wouldn’t want to be here with all of the noise and dust of the demo and chipping up of tile, which is contractor code for they don’t want us here in their way. Works for me!
The decision to move, stay, upsize, or downsize is a personal, and typically difficult, decision. Sometimes it’s a numbers game, and sometimes you have to follow the one thing you can’t put a price tag on. Your heart.