For most of us, the houses we live in mean much more to us than four walls and a roof. The source of the emotional bonds we have with our houses can vary. Perhaps you raised your family there and every room holds dear memories of your children. Maybe you poured your own blood, sweat and tears into remodeling it just the way you wanted. Or the neighborhood may be filled with dear friends that make it feel like home. Despite a myriad of reasons for wanting to stay, there comes a time in all of our lives when aging makes it increasingly difficult. The age we reach this threshold, and the catalysts behind it vary for each of us, but all seniors will face a quandary between staying in the home we love and moving to a safer and more comfortable sanctuary.
As with our reasons for remaining, the reasons for leaving can be a combination of several problems that develop as we age. For instance, the kids have grown up and moved away, and you never see them. And with the kids gone, the cozy family domicile now feels like a 40-room mansion. What was once a gardener’s delight or a relaxing Saturday afternoon on the riding lawn mower has become a jungle of tiresome work. Town property taxes have skyrocketed and are breaking the budget. The air conditioner, furnace, and roof have aged much less gracefully than you have, necessitating a stream of expensive upgrades. An injury or gradually declining physical agility has made the narrow doorways and steep stairwells a dangerous obstacle course. Food, gas and pharmacy bills are rising faster than your social security stipend, so it’s time to cash in your #1 asset, your home. The quiet country atmosphere you once adored has become an inconvenient, isolated prison that is too far from stores, doctors, and friends, leading you to spend increasingly isolated. For some, several of these problems gang up, making life stressful and depressing. In those cases, there is no decision – MOVE!! Your choices of more amenable living conditions will be long and varied.
motions anyway. The exercise may reveal things that you hadn’t considered yet, and may also help crystallize how many wishes you are foregoing now.
Step 3: Wish list in hand, go hunting for dream homes. This step is not intended to be one that involves your bank, lawyer and accountant. You’re not ready to buy….yet! This is just for window-shopping. This can include smaller houses, condos, senior or retirement communities, continuing care retirement communities, or any other options you may find. The goal here is to see how closely you can come to filling your wish list.
Put some real effort into this step. Use some shoe leather. It’s the only way you’ll know what you’re really missing, or not missing as the case may be. This step can be an enjoyable adventure if you approach it with the right frame of mind.
Step 4: Review steps 1, 2 and 3, talk to friends who are faced with or have made the same decision, talk to family, and decide whether moving is the right option for you. If the answer is yes, go back to step 3, except this time you will want to consult your bank and lawyer. You may also want to contact a move manager and home-staging specialist.
One thing that should not be a consideration in your final decision of whether or not to move is logistics. Yes, moving is one of the most stressful things we burden ourselves with willingly, and yes, logistics are a huge consideration in moving. But logistics can be handled, one way or another. Friends, family, and professional help are all options to relieve all or portions of stress . Once you decide to move, talk to your friends and family and see what they are willing to do. Then call professionals to do the rest. Move management companies can handle everything related to moving, from organizing, downsizing, and packing, to moving, unpacking, and setting up the new home. Moving does not need to be nearly as stressful as you no doubt remember it to be.
As with most things in life, though, the choice for most of us is anything but black-and-white. For most seniors, the problems with your homes are liveable for at least a while. The decision to move in these cases is much less clear, and the decision process itself can be overwhelming. So how do you go about making the choice in an intelligent, unemotional way? Methodically, logically, and step-by-step.
Step 1: Evaluate your current home by making a list of the pros and cons of living there. Include anything you see as significant, but make sure to consider these specifics. Evaluate your home for convenience to daily needs, cost (upkeep, mortgage, and taxes), comfort, ease of navigating inside and out, safety and security, required maintenance and repairs, as well as proximity to family, friends and other things you treasure. Be thorough, and be critical of your loving home.
Now look over the cons side of the ledger. Think about whether or not any items could be solved without moving. For instance, if you need additional cash flow because your savings dwindled in a market decline, you may be able use a reverse mortgage on your home, assuming you have enough equity built up. A reverse mortgage may solve your cash flow needs without moving to less expensive accommodations. If one of your concerns is safety and a declining ability to move through the home, a “barrier-free” home remodeling specialist might be able to affordably remove the hazards and make your home safe and easy to navigate. Or if your home is not convenient to grocery stores, consider having groceries delivered. Of course, if the house is too far from your children, there probably is no other solution besides moving.
Step 2: Make a wish list of everything you want out of life, prioritizing the list from most to least important items. There will almost certainly be overlap from the pros-and-cons list, but go through the