January 16, 2015

What's Next As I Comtemplate Lifestyle Changes: Part One

In a post a few weeks ago I noted I was feeling kind of bored and stale at the moment. My life had become too routine and I needed to find a new passion and a new spark. As you might imagine this "problem" has prompted discussions with Betty as we explore options together. I was glad to find her just as open to a change as I am.

The tremendous response to that post was also extremely helpful in giving me support and insight. Actually, it generated more comments as anything I have written over the years.

The time spent with good friends in Palm Springs helped a lot in shaking me out of my rut. The film festival experience was something I had never done before and it had been 4 months since our last RV trip. I came home with a new interest in sampling all the foreign and independent films available on Netflix and Amazon Prime as well as attending local film festivals this spring. I felt a burst of energy. I realized how much I missed being on the road in the RV.

One of the ways I crystallize my thoughts and come to some conclusions is to write about them. This forces me to think through all the pros and cons of something, evaluate the costs (both financial and emotional), and begin to focus on what seems best. The advantage of a blog is you can come on this journey with me and offer your input and counsel. 

Let's start with the biggie I am exploring: where to live. Our house has been our home for 12 years. This is our third house in the Phoenix area over the last 29 years. All three have been within 5 miles of each other, so obviously we like this area. We have a large backyard that Betty, Bailey, the rest of the family, grandkids, and I love. 

Shopping is very convenient. Our primary care physician and eye doctor have an office within three blocks of our home. We are close to several excellent hospitals, including the famous Mayo Clinic. A large neighborhood park is a 10 minute walk away. Our church is 15 minutes away. All our friends live in this section of town. 

So, what's the problem? Frankly, there will come a time when our two story home becomes a big problem. Betty already has struggles with her knees and I am not that far behind. The house is 30 years old, so maintenance is a constant. That beautiful yard takes a lot of work, water, and money to keep it looking nice and I am getting tired of worrying about all the things in an older home that might fail next. It is a chore to get this house ready for the 2 months we are gone each summer. 

If your family lives thousands of miles from you this might cause you to question our sanity, but Betty and I both feel the 45 minute drive to the grandkids' home is too far for us to see them and the family as often as all of us would like. Our other daughter and my dad are a bit closer to us, but everyone lives in the same direction: south of where we live now. 

The idea of a move to a new area of the city, closer to family, and to a home that is easier to care for and suitable for us as we grow older is enticing. Downsizing again is attractive to both of us.

At the same time, a move is a major headache. It is expensive, stress-inducing, and causes serious disruption for months at a time. Changes in shopping behavior, doctors, health facilities, and strained friendships based on the extra driving time must be considered.

Our first step to see if a move makes sense is to consult with a friend who is a real estate agent. We want her feedback on the value of our home and what we should do to maximize its selling potential. How much will we need to spend to get it sell-ready? Then, we will start to look at various areas of the city to see if the type of home we'd be happy with exists within our price range.



The end result of all this may be that we fix up where we are and stay put for several more years. Or, if we find the perfect place then we begin to pack. At the very least we will find out the true market value of our home and what could be done to make it a better match for our needs and desires at this stage of our life.

So, at this point we are in the information-gathering stage for where we will live. I'll let you know what we decide when we decide! But, with "move" being my focus word for 2015, this seems to be a nice place to start.

I will save other parts of our life that are under review or have just been changed for the next post.  



37 comments:

  1. I've been contemplating the same idea for a afew years now and it is so hard to move forward with moving. My experience with older *80's - 90's) relatives though is kicking me to do something. They didnt move or downsize until illness forced them and then it was done in a rush while they were in care. Other people, not necessarily family, had to make decisions about their belongings and many many changes had to be made while they were struggling with health issues. It's made me reatlize I want to simplify BEFORE the inevitable health decline. Just my thoughts, I still don't know how we'll move forward.

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    1. Like you, I don't want to wait too long to make the move. The two story home is the biggest looming problem at the moment, though we could probably continue here for at least a few more years.

      I am anxious to get the feedback from the real estate agent. Until then, I hesitate to commit to even the most basic fix up of our current home.

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  2. I want to simplify also, but my husband is resistant. We've started by buying a park model in Tucson, where we now spend the winter. The place is quite small but fine for us. The big house just north of Seattle is getting too big for us both inside and out. For now, my younger sister and her husband live in their motorhom on our property, so we have help if we need it. I'd like find a smaller place, with no stairs, nearer to public transportation, in our area. I'm keeping my eyes open.

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    1. We have begin to discuss our wish list for a new home. It includes a smaller space than we are in now, little outside maintenance for me to worry about, a single story, and close to light rail and lots of safe places to bike and walk.

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  3. Bob, I am right with you. Age 66, live it a two story with basement. Wife having difficulty with stairs. We just bought a home in a Del Webb community. A ranch about the same size as our current home, but one level. Looking forwarding to meeting the people and taking part in the activities. It is only 45 minutes from where we live now, so we can keep in touch with long time friends. Will move in something this year and it is exciting change for us after being in current house over 20 years.

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    1. We are on the same track. At this time Betty and I want a neighborhood that is more ethnically and demographically mixed than found in a retirement community, though such a place will be in our future.

      Our biggest enemy will be inertia: it is so much easier to stay put.

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  4. Bob. I know this is a difficult decision. That said, there are no words to describe how moving to a single story home improved my quality of life.

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    1. You seem to have adapted well to to the move from Texas but still plan on regular visits back to your long term home. I am happy it is working so well for you. And, yes, one story is a firm requirement for a move.

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  5. Well, I can certainly speak to the work and money involved in moving. Prepping the house (or houses) you're selling to max your money was the most annoying for me. Dave does all the heavy lifting, but making everything neutral, because most people have no imagination, makes me crazy. However, when your goal is making a better life it's all worth it.
    There will be ups and downs along the way, and days you think you've lost your mind, but keep your eye on the prize. I read E-Squared by Pam Grout and it kept me very focused. You really are the architect of your life.
    I'm looking forward to reading about your adventures now!
    b

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    1. Isn't it odd that we fix up a house when we are about to leave and not while still committed to it? How many people get a house ready to sell and then decide, hold it, this place is very nice!

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    2. I was looking for a single story house in 2005, but fell in love w/the open floor plan of a 2 story, where I am now, and it has 4 bedooms. It has a downstairs bedroom though w/a bathtub and shower which is where I am and I plan to retire in place here. Would that be a consideration for you to add a downstairs bedroom to your present home and bath? I have 4 grandkids who stay w/me for the summer, so this house is perfect for them to occupy the upstairs. The neighborhood has a private park, pool, Jacuzzi, tennis courts, walking distance to everything. Grandkids come over Christmas break too. You probably aren't interested in adding another room, but since you have a large backyard, I thought I'd throw it out to you as an option. If your realtor shows you something that you really, really like, then it seems that would give you your motivation to go through the horror (ha-ha) of selling!

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  6. Phoenix is a great city. I'd live at my Nana's house on Cypress Rd in a nano second (if my children would just move there). Don't discount those older, one story homes.
    We are able to build community wherever we go. In the end, to me, it is about family. I am glad you are able to move closer to yours.
    We have made the same decision, but our move takes us to someplace we had never even visited before. The paring down and purchases are done. The repair of the old house is almost complete. The fist of the Penski trucks have been driven 1200 miles. We anticipate our final move in 15-20 years. Independent living someplace even closer to one child's family or the other.
    Is it worth it to us? Yes. A house is someplace to sleep. A home is someplace to share.

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    1. We will consider a single family home but I don't want maintenance or lots of yard issues. I know we'd probably be happier in our own home - no neighbor noise issues and freedom to do what we want (within HOA limits!).

      Tempe is most attractive to me at the moment but it will depend on what we can get for this house and what we can replace it with.

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  7. On the one hand moving is exhausting, but downsizing home and belongings results in a sense of relief and freedom. Take your time, check out options, and a change will be rewarding. It worked for us...

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    1. Thanks, Meryl. We have downsized once (from 3300 to 1700 sq. ft.) 12 years ago so we know the drill. Once a decade it is probably good to get rid of the stuff that really doesn't contribute to the quality of life.

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  8. If you need to stay put, I got a stair lift. It cost about $3000, depending on length. As I age, I want fewer things and more services... A housecleaning service, a handyman, and yard care through my townhouse assn.

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    1. We have thought about the stair lift but didn't have any idea about the cost. Thanks, Jane.

      A few years ago I finally broke down and hired a lawn service to do the cutting, raking, and general cleanup of the yard during the time of year when things are growing (March-October). When it is over 100 degrees the $65 a visit is well worth it to my health and longevity.

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    2. You can rent a stair lift, which might be helpful if it was just a short set-back and not a permanent issue.

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  9. I'm toying with the idea of moving as well. I worry about the maintenance on this one story 3/2 with a large yard as I get closer to 60. Unfortunately, the prices of moving closer to the city even in something smaller are creeping up. I don't think I'm cut out for a condo or townhouse either. I'm still in the planning stages too, but I have to decide soon. In the meantime, I'm starting to downsize my home just in case.

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    1. Betty and I are going to take a drawer a day and deal with what is inside. A room a week for decluttering is also a worthwhile goal. For any upgrades and repairs prior to selling we have allowed ourselves 9 months.

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  10. We just did this last year - sold our city house, retired, and then moved out of province into a one story, no basement home in a warmer (still Canadian!) climate near a small resort community with a lake as the central star! We had contemplated aging in place in the city but there were some economic concerns and the weather issue. Going south for the winter was not affordable. We are thrilled with our smaller, one story for many reasons. The ease of cleaning it without dragging a vacuum up and down the many flights of stairs being one. But, we also found a lovely small town community in a slightly warmer climate with many, many new friends. My city friends had polarized around my work so once retired new friends were of utmost importance. Also, we moved closer to our west coast children/grandchildren and not too far from our city ones! All in all, it has been a good move, We are sold high and bought low so we can afford to travel etc. and I love being closer to two more daughters! We live in an area that is full of orchards and vineyards with access to all for most of the year. The best wisdom that freed me up to make the decision was that planning more than five years ahead is next to impossible so looking at the next five years, we are where we need to be. I liked the exercise to paint the picture of your life in five years or ten and then work backwards to figure out how you can get there. A big part of that is where you life! Lots of work but - can be exciting too!

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    1. When I checked the on-line value of our home with Zillow I was pleasantly surprised with the projected sales price, and that didn't consider the much nicer than average backyard. So, even with fixup expenses and all the costs that come with a move I think we will be able to afford something that we like and have a little extra.

      One of the goals would be to have a home we could "lock and go." When we want to take an RV trip, preparation of the house should be quick and simple.

      Your move sounds perfect, Eileen.

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  11. Bob, being a grandparent is an awesome privilege. As I read your concerns and all of the comments, I kept coming back to the fact that grandkids grow up too quickly, so there's a limited window of opportunity for spending time with them.You are right about the fact that a 45 minute drive isn't horrible, but it's far enough to prevent much spontaneity. Also, the burden of travel often falls on the grandparents, due to the younger family's schedule and kids' schooling. It's really difficult to make these decisions, but when I look back at my own life, having both sets of grandparents just minutes away was priceless. It was a win-win situation, because my grandparents helped my parents, but as they grew older, we were able to help take care of them. That being said, every family has its own dynamic. What works for some doesn't work for others. I believe answers come to those who have open hearts and open minds.

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    1. This weekend is a good example of how important it is to be close enough to the grandkids to be able to help when needed. The death of an aunt meant my son-in-law and my daughter had to make a quick driving trip 400 miles away to be with his parents and family. Luckily we were able to drop our plans and take care of the kids and dog for 3 days.

      If we had our perfect situation we'd be about 20 minutes from their house, which would put us within 10 minutes of my father and other daughter. Since she needs occasional help dog-sitting and Dad gets regular visits, all of that makes a move very logical.

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  12. Bob,Ken and I started out our Arizona life in Tempe , in 1984, and it still warms my heart.. I just spent 2 days there and walked the Town Lake, shopped at Trader Joe, and saw some friends... so much to do, close to everything, and a college culture too.We moved to Chandler in the year 2000 and lived there for 12 years--I may have enjoyed that even more! I love the historic downtown, proximity to all the freeways, a SPROUTS nearby, movies, malls, parks, cultural events..the East Valley has much to offer! Moving/packing is sooo daunting.. and yes, a chore, but the excitement of designing a new phase of life does make it all worth it! I am anxious to hear how all your plans unfold..... Living near grandchildren and family= high priority too!!!!!!

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    1. I have moved from "too much hassle" to "maybe" to " kind of excited by the possibilities. The big "if" remains can we find something we will be really happy with?

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    2. Once you decide a change in in order, you will be AMAZED at the possibilities that start showing up!!

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  13. You probably already know how to practice this, but when I have a two pronged decision, although yours may be three pronged (don't move, move in 2-3 years, move now), I try to identify things to do that serve both prongs, so that I don't say, "Oh I wasted my time doing those things because I never did go do X." I think you seem well on that track though. Decluttering is good whatever you choose. Despite your jest about it, knocking out the simplest, least costly, or most annoying small house fixes serves either prong. If you're like me and keep enough supplies on had to live through a national disaster (in my area we were w/out electricity for two weeks after Katrina), you could begin using things up so as to leave less to pack! You and your wife's knees may be nowhere near this point, but an unpleasant fact about knees is that a total knee replacement, especially if it is the right knee, can mean four weeks without driving. PT will teach you how to do stairs, but obviously it is best not to have to. An unpleasant fact about selling homes these days, is that in my area salesman and brokers are getting a 20% commission on home sales. Ouch! In years past, it was far lower than that, as my father was a broker in Florida.

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    1. Frankly, I have no idea what commissions are at this point, though they used to be 7%. if it is 20% than forget it. No real estate agent is worth 1/5 the value of the house.

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    2. It could just be a small town aberration, relatively low priced homes overall, which take ages to sell. Your figure is probably more typical.

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    3. As far as I know in the Valley (Px.) and also up here in Pine, there is a standard 6% commission when you list your home for sale. What's with 20% ??? I NEVER have heard of such a thing and it is not happening in Arizona!! Right now, housing prices are pretty "normal" again in Az.. good time to sell, good time to buy. If we had sold our home during the "HIGH TIMES" before the bubble burst, we would have made a fortune! We would also have PAID a TON more for another home.. it all evens out..just go by what's happening TODAY and what you WANT!!

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  14. Right now there is a LACK of good inventory on the housing market in the Phoenix area. Mortgages rates are great too-- good year to sell! And get a good price! May take a bit to FIND the new place.. start looking now!! :-)

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    1. A call goes to the agent/neighbor this coming week.

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  15. Bob, I'm a planner by nature, so 3 1/2 years ago, as our daughter entered high school, my wife and I purchased a downtown Philadelphia condominium, at the depths of the condo market (great price!), with the knowledge that as soon as our daughter graduated high school and went off to college, and we no longer needed our great suburban school district, we would move to the condo and leave home repairs and yard work behind forever! While we were only 54 at the time, we knew we wanted to live on one level, near great medical facilities, art museums, universities, restaurants, theater etc. as we became empty nesters and headed into our retirement years. We used the condo on weekends for the last 3/12 years and were sad each Sunday when we had to go "home". Well, we will soon put the house up for sale and expect to be in what we hope will be our final home, in August as our daughter heads off to college. There is so much to do in the city I think moving there will hasten my retirement (maybe by year end!) so that we have the time to do all the things we plan to do in our retirement. For us it was an easy decision since we are more city people than country folk. As you and Betty like to travel, I encourage you to consider a condo since you can lock the door, tell the building manager you'll be traveling, and not have to worry about yard work, plumbing issues, home security etc. I'm a regular reader and know that you and Betty are thoughtful persons and you'll make the right choice for you. Good luck.

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    1. A condo/patio home approach has lots in its favor. With a dog we must be near a park or have enough common area to walk and exercise her. Betty and I had considered a downtown Phoenix condo but that would be unfair to Bailey. Being closer to an urban setting is attractive to us, though we are only 25 minutes from downtown Phoenix or Tempe now so the distance is a huge barrier - more philosophical than reality.

      I like the "lock and go" aspect quite a bit.

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  16. After moving to a patio home two years ago, we plan to move back to our old house in Mesa. Now glad we didn't sell it. Both about the same size, and both are one story (mandatory for us.)

    Liked the simple "lock and leave" of the patio home, but missed the privacy of the house. Also missed the yard, now that we have the pooch.

    But a big factor is the dysfunctional HOA at the patio home. Petty bickering, ongoing maintenance issues, and more. Although the patio home cost a little bit less per month, we finally decided it was simply not worth the aggravation.

    So - lesson learned here - check out the HOA (if applicable) in any new place you are considering. Ask several residents. Review the financials. Inquire about the management. There are good ones, and there are not so good ones, Now we've seen both types. Not bitter here -- just smarter :-)

    Good luck in your decisions! And thanks for sharing - it helps all of us as we sort through these issues in our own lives and retirements.

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    1. You have raised one of our major concerns: HOA problems. For the last 29 years we have lived in 3 houses in this section of the city, all three without HOAs. The Phoenix area is in love with these min-governments so it is hard to find either a newer development or a condo setup that doesn't include them.

      Of course, in a condo the common areas, pool, etc must be maintained by someone, but the trick is by whom? I have read plenty of horror stories of HOAs where a letter arrives threatening serious fines if a trash can is left on the curb a few hours too long. Some type of maintenance of basic property appearances and rules are important in this environment, but too often the folks in charge are power-hungry and petty.

      For a state that rebels against most forms of government interference, I am always amazed how HOA "governments" flourish here and how powerful they are in peoples' everyday lives. They could definitely be the factor that keeps us where we are. Thanks, Daryl. HOA investigation is high on our list.

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