“Nothing happens until you decide. Make a decision and watch your life move forward.” ~ Oprah Winfrey
“When I was a kid my parents moved a lot, but I always found them.”
“…we also need to make larger systemic changes so we can respond more efficiently and effectively when the next epidemic arrives.” Bill Gates, in the New England Journal of Medicine
NOTE: While the nation and the world continue to battle COVID-19, millions have been working and schooling from home. And although many of us are beginning to return to our workplaces, it appears that not only will this pandemic likely be a significant part of our lives for some time to come, we also need to prepare for the next pandemic.
It is understandable, then, that new focus has been put on our homes and how they should function for us. Even after this pandemic winds down in the near or distant future, many more people than before will likely find themselves routinely working from home. And depending on the nature of their work, many will be reconfiguring their homes to accommodate one or more home offices, a separate work area for the kids and a place to comfortably and effectively isolate family members that are ill. As well, those who can afford a second home might be considering one as an escape should another public health crisis occur.
There is little doubt that employees, employers and educators will all be planning for the next possible scenario in which people will have to work and provide serious schooling in their homes for extended periods.
And this leads me to my series on selling your present home and buying a new one, based on my family’s recent experience. As the COVID-19 pandemic slammed into our lives some people might have had to shelve plans — at least temporarily — to sell their homes. Others might now be considering moving in light of the pandemic — either to better accommodate working from home or just to facilitate a new lifestyle post-pandemic. If your situation is one of these and you were or will be planning a move, this series is for you.
For those who are continuing to work from home and / or home-school, or continuing to shelter or quarantine as a precaution at home, you might find that you have the time and desire to jump-start that selling-your-home-and-relocating plan. That focus might also offer some relief from your current routine. And when you come out on the other end of this pandemic you might just find that you have accomplished something that will give you a head start on your future.
That is my hope and the reason I am offering to relive my selling and buying journey with you over the next several weeks. So let’s get started.
Reaching a Decision
There is a long list of reasons that people decide to sell their homes, and COVID-19 has made the list grow longer. Here are some of those reasons:
- Need a larger house for a growing family
- Need a larger place to accommodate one or more home offices
- Desire a different style house
- Desire a different lifestyle
- House is too expensive to maintain
- No longer like the neighborhood
- No longer like the neighbors!
- Relocating for job or career
- Relocating to a different school district
- Moving because of widowhood
- Selling a home due to divorce
- Downsizing because your nest is empty
We Should… We Shouldn’t… We Should… We Shouldn’t…
My house-selling-and-buying story started two years ago this past spring. My husband, Ted, and I finally decided it was time to sell our home. We had lived in it for 30 years, reared our daughter, had a parade of pets and grew to love our adopted village in the lower Hudson Valley. But we had been empty-nesters for awhile. When our daughter, Lyn, went off to college, it was lovely having her come home on breaks and for the summers to the comforts of her home. And we were still working and comfortable in our home. But then retirement came along and while we were well into our “second acts,” we kicked around the idea of downsizing. A few more years slid by. We continued to enjoy having a conveniently located place for our and Lyn’s friends to stay when they visited. And having Lyn store her stuff at home, even when she got her own place, made it feel like she was still sort of living with us.
But as time passed we realized the things we were not enjoying so much anymore were the cost of upkeep, mowing the lawn, raking the leaves and shoveling snow (or paying others to do so), and paying high property taxes to stay in a house that we loved but was no longer practical. But just as we really started to get serious about selling our house and downsizing, one of those twists of fate occurred that was as surprising to Lyn as it was to us.
The short version is that after finishing college, earning her masters and launching her career, Lyn ran into a former high school friend. They rekindled their friendship that in due course turned to love. As it turned out, Lyn and Paul wound up living next door to us. The long version of this story could be a Hallmark movie. Their wedding, which they largely designed themselves with the help of a terrific wedding planner, was spectacular, and I was thrilled to be close by to participate in some of the planning. What mother wouldn’t be in heaven living next door to her daughter during her engagement and wedding planning?! You can read a bit about the wedding in my blog’s wedding series (you can read the whole series by starting here).
So we delayed the downsizing some more. After all — and I cannot stress it enough — we were living next door to our daughter! And we had gained a son, of whom we think the world and who has wonderful parents who also lived close by. It’s probably not the dream of most young adults to live next door to their parents or in-laws. Yet our children were very gracious and at times I think even appreciated the convenience of being able to borrow our car, use our driveway, store things in our garage and attic, and have pet sitters right next door. And we appreciated being able to visit on short notice, not having to travel far to go home after holiday visits or in bad weather, have errands run for us and our lawn mowed and walkway shoveled occasionally, and have family close by in case of emergency. It was a very nice and comforting set-up!
But there comes a time when it no longer makes sense to stay in the home that you have loved for decades and in which you have become too comfortable. We faced some challenges, however: we did not want to move too far from our daughter and son-in-law and we had a lot of stuff of our own that we wanted to keep. After three decades in one house it was daunting to imagine the task of moving.
At the same time, it was kind of exciting to imagine a new place that had fewer square feet and no stairs to manage. We started thinking — condo. And paying off our remaining mortgage and reducing our property taxes set our hearts a-flutter.
Still, we were torn about leaving a home that had become a part of us. Where would we go? Would we buy or rent? There was a dearth of rentals as well as condo properties for sale in our village, which meant we would have to leave it. Was it worth it? Then we remembered the expense, work and did I mention those stairs? Our heads won out over our hearts. But each individual, couple and family must make this decision for themselves. Our decision to sell over-lapped three of the above-mentioned categories: we were empty-nesters, the house was too expensive to justify living in it any longer and we wanted a more convenient layout.
We made our decision to sell our house and move. Now what?
The last time we had to make such a decision was three decades ago when we sold our co-op apartment in the big city and bought the house in the ‘burbs to bring up our daughter. We had not been in a great hurry, so we handled the sale ourselves without a realtor; we just placed an occasional ad in the newspaper over a period of many months. We got an occasional nibble but held out for our asking price. We finally got it, and then hurriedly started our house search. We needed an agent to help us find a new home and an attorney to see us through the closings on the sale of our co-op and purchase of our house. We found both through referrals from friends. Because the village we settled on — the same one in which our close friends lived — was and is popular and the real estate inventory was low (only five houses were on the market back then), and we had so little time to find a house that we wound up purchasing the newest and most expensive one that was move-in ready.
Although everything happened in a whirl of less than three months, it still seemed fairly easy back then compared to now. Selling a city co-op in 1988 was quite different from selling a suburban house in 2018. From everything we learned from friends and neighbors who have gone through this process over the years, we knew that we had to work with a realtor this time around. The trick always is to find the right realtor. That turned out to be the easiest part of our adventure!
Join me for Your Home/Selling & Buying: Part 2: The Realtor to learn why signing on with the right real estate professional can make selling your home less stressful and more successful than going it alone.
Until next time,