September 28, 2012

She Made Her Decision..What About You?

Very often some of the best ideas for posts come from the BRITW (best readers in the world). A while back a regular visitor sent me the following e-mail, looking for my feedback. After providing some of my thoughts I asked her permission to share her questions with you, the real experts of a satisfying retirement. Please read what she had to say and then weigh in with your thoughts at the end. I have removed a few specific references to keep her thoughts anonymous.



"This morning I was thinking about our recent downsizing and how at one time we had looked at an "active retirement" village vs. a regular neighborhood. I am so glad we chose to say in an "integrated" neighborhood!

The larger home we just left was in a neighborhood of mostly older folks, many were retired but it was not a retiremenet community.Still, it was darned quiet, the HOA meetings were filled with crochety older folks (sorry), many of the homes were not lived in very often as many of our neighbors who were retired lived elsewherepart of the year. We desperately needed some new viewpoints, and well, it was boring!!

When we visited [ a planned community] a while back  it was BEAUTIFUL but in a disneyland sort of way. My husband was afraid of it!! Also, friends of ours said that there was an ambulance taking someone away almost every day or week!

No kids! No bikes in the street, no basketball hoops..we decided against it.

Now, we're in a nice neighborhood in [a Phoenix suburb] our neighbors are a medley of baby boomer-almost-retirees, a couple of retired singles who have homes here, younger families, and families with teens. My next door neighbor is that throw back to the 50's: a MULTI GENERATION family! My new friend over the fence,[Betsy], is the mother in law, a retired teacher, living with her daughter, son in law and 9 year old.They are a nice happy family!  The youngster has someone waiting for him after school every day in his  own home!! Remember those days?????I grew up with a grandmother in our home and so did my husband. 
 

I enjoy a vibrant neighborhood. I don't like TOO much quiet! I love hearing the kids go off to school in the mornings, some even ride their bikes.I wouldn't mind babysitting for a new Mom once I make more friends in the neighborhood, and the diversity is refreshing..enlivening.  Anyway--I don't  think  we  would enjoy our "almost" retirement in a segregated  retirement community as much as in this vibrant one..

Activities: We have downtown [area towns], the library, the riparian Water Park, the dog park, close-by mountains, and "up north" just a gorgeous 2 hour drive out the Bush Highway. Oh, there's the Saguaro Lake Marina too..  and of course the mall, but I don't shop for a hobby.. but they DO offer FREE CONCERTS in the nice time of year! Plus many city sponsored classes and activities.I also belong to 3 meet up groups to meet people (of all ages) with my interests (Astrology, paper crafts and hiking).

Just a thought for a post.. I would also love to hear from the folks who enjoy their retirement neighborhoods,I love to hear all points of view!"


Obviously, this is a lady who loves where she lives. The idea of a 55+ community is not her cup of tea.The stimulation of a mixed-age neighborhood is important to her.

I know there are just as many folks who want to escape the bicycle-school bus environment. Also, there is the issue of a planned community for seniors that includes different styles of living for different times of our lives (independent, assisted, and nursing center), something rarely found in a "standard" neighborhood.

A third choice is something I wrote about in the post, Retirement Cohousing. This was an entirely new option to me. But, the comments indicated this is a growing trend that offers retirees a legitimate alternative.

OK, your turn. What are you looking for, or what have you chosen to be part of your satisfying retirement? There are advantages and drawbacks to all choices. One of the way we can make the best choice is by considering the experiences of others.

Betty and I keep going back and forth on what should be our next housing choice: condo, smaller home, retirement community while we are still healthy enough to be admitted, cohousing, full time RV.....? I am anxious to read your thoughts.



39 comments:

  1. We live very rural right now. Our ER is spotty and our fire service questionable. When we move it will be another house very close to one of our children-country next to big city.
    My daughter and husband have invited us to live with them when we get to the point that a separate neighborhood is no longer feasible. The plan is to pool our money and buy (build) two houses on the same property. Our house would be very small- four small rooms- theirs will be whatever they decide for their family at the time. So...I foresee at least two moves in my future.
    We have lived in "like stage" communities before in the military and disliked not having the diversity of ages. I don't see us moving that way again.

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    1. As we age we must be aware of one of the situations that you point out, Janette: availability of good medical care. Unfortunately, the way our dysfunctional health care system works at the moment doctors have little incentive to set up a practice in a area with fewer people. Hospitals can't make a go of it either if the population base is too small to keep their beds full and all their expensive equipment being used.

      Why does Phoenix have two separate world class Mayo facilities? 4 million people within 30 minutes and another 20 million a one hour plane flight away = profits.

      Betty and I will probably end up in the 3 level care community where my mom and dad moved. But, until we have to I'd prefer a mixed-to-younger leaning area. It keeps me more vibrant.

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    2. Bob, the Mayo Clinic is a non profit.

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    3. Yes, that is true. But they still must cover their costs and generate enough business to pay for new technology and growth. That is easier to do when in or near a major metropolitan area.

      Mayo may be non profit but is expensive versus the other hospitals in the area.

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  2. By moving to a "gringo" community in Mexico, I feel like I have the best of both worlds.

    Because we are generally required by law to have a certain income from outside the country, most of us are retired and living on either savings or some sort of pension.

    Many of us retired early - late 40s and early 50s - and we have managed to find each other and form our own community within the larger gringo community.

    It seems to me that this younger group is finding it easier to become a part of the greater Mexican community. It may be that we pick up the language easier than the older folks or that we are just closer in age to the young Mexican community that we live in.

    The third - and very important - part of our community is our Mexican neighbors. Many of us have become a vital part of one of many organizations formed to help our neighbors.
    Others of us have "adopted" a Mexican family; that relationship becomes a link to the rest of our neighbors.

    My best friend talks about returning to the states and living in The Villages in Florida. That idea gives me nightmares! I realize that many of the people there are fairly young and active, but there are also many others who are just waiting to die. I could not stand to be surrounded by that every day.

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    1. A friend of mine lives in The Village. It is huge and feels old. I can't take Florida humidity anyway, but the Village felt more like a Disneyland for old folks than a real community.

      Living in Mexico presents an interesting choice. On the one hand living costs are much lower, the health care system near larger communities is good, and it is next to the States. But, the country is in a desperate struggle to keep drug lords from taking over, too many police seem to be corrupt, and the overall health of the country's economy seems shaky.

      How much of all this is over-blown by the media and how much is a real risk of relocating to Mexico?

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  3. I agree with her. I want a place that is stimulating, not quiet. I also want to be around people of all ages. However, I'm a young retiree (52), so I may change my attitude over time.

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    1. When I am older (75+) I will probably want to be with folks like me. But at 63 I am too young to even consider a retirement community. Seeing the notices of several residents' deaths on the community bulletin board each week would be too depressing.

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  4. I loved the link to Milagro in Tucson..but whew! The houses look very pricey and I notice an upstairs..A one floor home is essential to me! I love the idea of co housing too!! We have so any options.. but overall,downsizing to a smaller home, and releasing a lot of furniture,books,clothes, etc was a great liberating first step for me and Ken to get started on this journey.. I could see living in a cohousing situation down the road, though. I believe the boomer generation will definitely expand on that idea.. !

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    1. We downsized about 11 years ago from 3200 sq ft to just over 1700. Whole rooms of furniture disappeared. But, now, after a decade we have filled every corner of this house and added an outside storage shed. I am ready to purge again and cut to a 12-1300 sq. ft. condo or town home. I am more than ready for someone else to take care of the outside maintenance and gardening!

      I agree, Madeline, that places like Milagro are beautiful. But at what cost?

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  5. We've been in our current home and neighborhood for 22 years, and have enjoyed seeing one group of kids grow up and start lives of their own, while another group is just now getting started. We live next door to a family, across the street from two new retirees, and kitty-corner to two almost-retirees. We frequently meet in the middle of the street or on a driveway to catch up on how everyone and their respective families are doing. We really do love and cherish our neighbors!

    We have an HOA pool, spa and tennis courts directly across the street which we use frequently. Our neighborhood, primarily due to having HOA guidelines I believe, looks just as nice today as when we first moved in.

    We have a lovely greenbelt that connects our development to the development next door. In the evening it becomes a veritable doggie highway as folk come out to walk their dogs and talk with their neighbors. At the holidays this same development next door goes all out with lights, caroling, bake sales, horse drawn carriages and more, and we delight in being able to stroll over on foot to enjoy it all. It's a built in excuse for a holiday party every year!

    We have a dedicated 27 mile multi-use paved trail within a few miles of our home that ends at the beach, allowing us the luxury of biking over 50 miles round trip without ever having to deal with cars or traffic. We have a very large recreation area containing dozens of miles of hiking trails within a mile of our home. We have a lifelong learning program for retirees within three miles of our home.

    The last item is what will probably keep us where we are for years to come because of how much it enriches our lives.

    This next year we will be bringing my husband's sister in to live with us, which will be a significant change for all. She is disabled to the degree that she can take care of all of her primary needs, but needs someone to watch over her shoulder and make sure she's not being taken advantage of. On our side, we plan to be on the road traveling about six months in 2013, so it will be a tremendous help to not have our home just sitting vacant. We are optimistic it will be a win-win for all.

    I'm not adverse to moving, but can't see leaving the county we are in currently due to a combination of the weather, the activities and the proximity to family. Not that I'm ruling it out, but at this point we would not be interested in a 55+ community.

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    1. I know you live somewhere in Southern California. That probably means higher than average expenses, taxes, high HOA fees, traffic, and earthquakes!

      But, heavens, I would LOVE to live in a place where the dedicated trails, hiking availability, a beach, and life time learning opportunities are so close. Besides the RV travel I now have a second reason to envy you! If you don't move for another 22 years I would completely understand.

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    2. Our HOA fee is $149 a month, not so bad considering what we get in return, and the traffic here in Orange County. is likely no worse than Phoenix I would guess. But yes, we do have earthquakes, and also earthquake insurance! Our earthquake policy is expensive, even with a 15% deductible - about 50% more than our homeowners insurance premium.

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  6. At this point in my life (58 years old) I could never entertain living in a planned community. We have a great neighborhood, mostly older people, but a few young ones with children that blend right in. I notice that many of the older people here are more active than their counterparts in planned communities and elsewhere - always working around the house, volunteering, and so on. I think too many people get enticed to planned communities by all the things you can do (mostly golfing), but wind up leading more sedentary lives when the novelty wears off.

    I also notice that those of us a little "younger" give a lot back to those that are older. We are more vibrant, prone to more laughter, and generally having a good time. I think it wears off on the older population and helps encourage them to act younger as well. So both sides can benefit from an integrated community, which it appears most of your readers favor, Bob.

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    1. One thing I noticed while helping my parents "shop" for a retirement community is the homogeneous nature of these places. Besides the obvious fact that they all are above a certain age, all were populated with similar people: well-off financially,of one race, similar clothes and even the same beige cars!

      At some point that sameness may be comforting to me, but certainly, not now. I think places like Sun City and the like are going to have to re-invent themselves or find their constituency has all died off. At the risk of over-generalizing, Boomers are looking for a different experience.

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  7. I'm in a cohousing community in California. I had no idea when I investigated this & found it wonderful that it would, in essence, be a marvelous retirement location, most because 10 years ago I wasn't thinking about retirement. We do have a two story house, but it's planned that we could live downstairs while a caretaker, if necessary, could live upstairs (only one kitchen, downstairs) --- & we are close to shopping & medical resources.

    The cohousing concept means there are neighbors around to connect with, to get rides, if necessary & to help (and get help from) as needed. We had a "Team Marilyn" to help keep a neighbor with dementia here for a couple of years longer than anyone thought possible; one neighbor made sure she took her meds, another made sure she was eating & was safe, a third took her to her medical appointments. Many of us are boomers, but we have some families & are across the street from an elementary school.

    My mother-in-law lives in assisted living; she loves it, but I would not want to be there....as others have said, they are similar.

    I agree with the comment about Sun City re-inventing itself.....most boomers I know are not looking to be warehoused.

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    1. Thanks, Pam, for your insight on co-housing. It really is an interesting concept that I am glad to see gaining acceptance. If Betty and I and Bailey the dog) make it to your part of California on our next RV adventure, I'd be very interested in seeing the co housing setup.

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  8. We live in a large city. We realized when we moved my father-in-law here how perfect city life is as we age. Public transportation is free for seniors and provides easy access to all corners of the city.

    The culture and restaurants are excellent. You never run out of things to do if you want to stay active. It's a very walkable city which I love, too.

    Until we need to move to the senior high rise dad went to recently (at 93yrs.old) I'm perfectly happy to enjoy city life.
    b

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    1. I'd be much happier living closer to the urban core. We are only 25 minutes from downtown, but there is no real public transportation option so that always means a drive and paying for parking. Walking or being near light rail would be so much better. Then, when I needed my "nature" fix we could drive an RV out into the boonies!

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  9. Bob,

    We live in an HOA community of about 232 residences (condos to single family homes) that has tennis, golf, boating and a clubhouse with gym and pool. The residents range from young professionals with children to early retirees and a few elderly folks. We pick and choose from a variety of activities to participate in and spend much of our lives "out side the gates" just to maintain a healthy balance.

    Our town is located on the East Coast of Florida, with easy access to several major airports and excellent medical facilities. We love the environment and it suites our active lifestyle. Our current dilemma is the size of our home.

    We'd like to downsize to something more manageable that will take us through the next ten years or so, but we don't want to leave the county. There are many homes to choose from here, but most communities are much too old for us and as other readers have said, we're not ready to see the ambulances enter the gates on a daily basis.

    We are hopeful that by the time we sell our home the answer will be a little more clear.

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    1. One question: do your HOA fees go up every year? How much (percentage-wise). I have always been bothered by the thought that some committee can not only raise my fees, but hit me with a special assessment, all the while telling me to take down the birdhouse in front of my home.

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    2. Bob,
      The short answer is No in our case. We have had one or two increases in eleven years and we received one small assessment. A run-a-way Board can do severe damage in a community, but we have a few "watchdogs" who make sure that doesn't happen - Malcolm being one of them. He is very knowledgeable of our governing documents and persistent with his efforts to contain costs.

      We feel like the fees we pay to live in a "gated community" are high by most standards, but we also enjoy driving into a place that is beautifully maintained with well kept homes. And yes, you are right about the bird house, the political signs, the basketball hoops and a list of "approved colors" for repainting your home. Some things seem a bit silly, and the lifestyle isn't for everyone. Free spirits need not apply...

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  10. My wife and I are 59 and 56 and have been retired for 2 years. Although we sold our larger suburban home when I retired and bought a newer, smaller home (exurbs), we already know that this is not where we want to be. We have also gone through the thought processes of which type of housing we really want. I've come to the conclusion that it really isn't about the housing or neighborhood. It is about interaction with people. Some of us need interaction and some of us do not want it. We want it. So, what we really want is a neighborhood or housing option that has other residents who have the time and interest in getting to know one another and doing things together. And I'm not talking about just saying hello every now and then and asking someone to get your mail once a year. I'm talking about daily contact. That is why some retirees like places like The Villages. At least their are others who have the time during the day to get involved. Living with younger neighbors who are still building their careers and having children is fine, but those neighbors will have a totally different daily schedule and will not have the same interest or time availability. Right now we are spending 6 weeks in a rented apartment in a New England beach town to see how we like it. So far so good. It is not cookie-cutter but it is attractive. And, there seems to be a large number of older residents who live here permanently. We attended a local church last Sunday and were warmly welcomed. Even invited to attend a weekly study group while we're here. The other thing that I've come to realize is important is TRUE walkability. Not just a sidewalk through the subdivision. I want to be able to walk to the public library, the grocery store and maybe the church. Urban living offers this but many small towns, particularly in the northeast, offer this also. In my opinion, too much attention has been given to climate as a major determining factor in retirement location. More important factors to me are accessibility to adult children (and grandchildren) and enough daily activity and people interaction to stay stimulated. The search continues!

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    1. Don, I would love to hear more. We have considered the far northeast as well.

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    2. You make excellent points. Walkability is a very attractive feature of a living environment. The cohousing option may be something you want to consider. As I understand it there are various ages and family situations all living in private homes or apartments, but sharing time and activities together.

      Good luck in your search, Don.

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  11. I have friends who live in all the options you have described, and love it. Clearly, one size doesn't fit all. I hope I can stay in my home, as many do, but we'll see what the years bring. As for you and Betty, you next housing option could be any of those as long as it's in Portland!

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    1. No pressure, Galen! I think you can rest assured that part of each year will be spent in your fair city. Now, will it be a condo downtown, a duplex in the Pearl District, something in NE Broadway, a Hillsboro condo, or an RV parked near the beach in Newport?

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    2. Bob,

      I will cast my vote for the duplex in the Pearl District!

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  12. My wife and I broached the “home talk” for the first time the other day. Our empty nest hasn’t been empty very long. Actually the nest hasn’t even been totally cleaned of the guano and feathers left behind by the juveniles as they each in turn took flight. The location and structure, however, is the culmination point of our most productive years. A home that we have moved up to through several intermediate stepping stone type locations and houses before. We did not settle in our vicinity or develop our home on whimsey.

    In the conversation she made a statement that shocked me. Maybe because it is so obvious and I hadn’t thought of it. She said, “If something happens to you first, I won’t be able to live here on my own without a lot of help.”

    One more thing to think about around 3 or 4 AM

    ..

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    1. Your wife is a smart lady. She has identified one of the biggest concerns of the "aging in place" model. Maybe it is because of stairs, or cramped spaces too small for a walker or wheel chair, or lots of maintenance and upkeep....whatever the reasons, the house we bought all those years ago was not purchased with any real thought about that stage of life. Of course, it is possible to modify a home for our aging bodies, but is it worth it?



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  13. Well, Ill be blogging about this in the next day or so from Denver but..I live in an outer suburb for the first time in my life and am ready to leave. I will be downsizing within the year, but to a multi age, commnity and equally importantly to a multi ethnic community. Im not comfortable seeing only people like me. I will say theat I will avoid another HOA community for as long as I live.

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    1. Trying to not live in an HOA community in the Phoenix area is next to impossible. Only in older neighborhoods like mine can we escape the petty despots who spend their time handing out warnings!

      Like you I am not ready to live in a community where everyone is the same age, same color, same political party, and same everything.

      I'll look for your thoughts on your blog.

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    2. I didn't express my thoughts on HOA communities in my comment (above) but since more has been said about this, I will. When we looked for our current home 2 years ago we only considered HOA communities. With today's small home lots and close lot lines I believe that HOAs are necessary to maintain appearances and good values. I can give many examples of the positives. All the homes in our subdivisions have double garages facing the street. HOA rules prevent homeowners from closing in the garage to make a room. This ensures that home facades continue to look good. Rules also prevent parking on the street except for short durations. You've seen those neighborhoods that after a few years start to look "down trodden" and junky. They probably don't have a good HOA. Rules about fences, commercial vehicles, etc., are all good things as are rules about keeping the grass mowed. Yes, to me HOAs are a good thing!

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    3. Thanks for sharing the other side of the discussion. Obviously, there are so many HOAs that the majority must like the outcome.

      My personal experience, as an owner and landlord is not as positive, but I am likely in the minority.

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  14. Still thinking here about: "is it worth it." Feel like we need a little more water under the bridge. Of course if together we have a tendency toward 'aging in place' we may just be procrastinating. A friend has talked lightly about developing a residential care facility. However, to my mind, the physical facility is only one important thing for a successful project -- the administration and staff are critical and perhaps problematic in some cases.

    Back to your point, my wife is a very smart lady

    ..

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  15. My husband is 63 and I am 56. We haven't a clue about what the next home should be. We are both still working-both kids went away to college and got post college apartments, then moved back home. I suspect that this will be short term, but it made me realize that when and if we do leave, I want to be close enough to see them fairly regularly. With society so mobile, this may not be possible, though.
    One of my difficulties is that I love our house and community, as well as the friends that we have made. I know that some of those friends will be moving in the next few years-but it is hard to think of starting over.
    We live in a high cost Middle Atlantic state, and I would love to ditch our high cost of living. We have no desire to move to high humidity Florida, although we love the timeshare that we own there. I know where I don't want to go-but figuring out what we do want is a challenge. In the two homes that I have lived in so far, I have been lucky to find a real sense of community, and I want to replicate that if we leave here.
    My parents left the New York City area to retire to a lovely small town in Connecticut. They got involved as volunteers and had a great retirement. After dad died, we moved Mom to a condo community which has a lot of older people, but also has younger families. She loves it there-it is so inspiring to see her make new friends and have fun at age 84! So I agree that community is key.
    One of the reasons that I have thought about an over 55 community as an option is that my husband is 7 years older than I am. I wonder if I would feel isolated and alone in a more mixed community if he dies before I do. I hate thinking that way, but I think it is important to consider life's twists and turns.

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    1. Just like QwkDrw's wife noted in an earlier comment, death and what happens to the survivor are part of the equation....not pleasant but life. Isolation for widows is real.

      Your mom's situation sounds great...good mix of people, ages, and living styles. My dad became a virtual hermit in his small house after mom died. After moving to the assisted living apartments a few months ago he seems more energetic and reports meeting new people.

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  16. We still live in our suburban neighborhood. Some of our friends have moved out, and younger families have moved in. Love the sound of the kids on the street; but not the dog barking next door at 7 a.m. and/or 11 p.m. Anyway, we're just beginning to talk about our next move -- but it's hard to get serious about it b/c it won't be for another 3 - 5 years, and who knows what we'll be thinking then?

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    1. We have made "plans" to move a few times, but enertia and being in a nice neighborhood always means we shelve those plans. At some point, though, home maintenance and repairs and 2 stories will get us to pack up.

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