Monday, May 14, 2012

Sell or stay?


I've got two books to promote, but all I can think about is house size.

We changed house sizes as our family grew. At first, the three-bedroom ranch style home seemed huge for my husband, myself, and our dog. But baby one came along. Then baby two. Toys, tools, sewing projects, dog fur, and golf clubs made for an eclectic decor.

But we watched the real estate market and were savvy enough to buy a bigger house - the smallest in a new neighborhood. The kids grew, so did the cats, dogs and guinea pigs. One day it was the two of us again, rattling around like marbles in a two-story shoebox.

Downsize became our battle cry.

To do that, we divested ourselves of 2/3 of our stuff, sold our home, and moved into a rental. Plan A for the smaller house didn't work out, so we relocated in the deep South and built something smaller, about 1800 square feet. The perfect size.

BUT...

The kids married and each produced kids. Now we're squished like sardines during a visit. What's a grandparent to do?

We're thinking about upsizing again. (Just shoot me now; I hate moving)

But we want to do it smart.

The perfect house would be... the one we're in now with a second story that we can close off when not in use.

Will it happen? I don't know.

Real estate prices are still down from the recession. We can buy a lot at a reduced price, but that also means our property will go for a reduced price. Sell or stay??? That question keeps burning in my brain, and trust me, I don't have brain cells to spare.

What would you do?

Maggie

Sell or stay?
Death, Island Style - the seashore murder mystery that's a must have for your summer reading pleasure

Murder in the Buff - quirky and fun,  a straight-laced reporter trying to clear her dad's good name from a homicide

check out all my books at www.maggietoussaint.com

Also, naturalist and photographer James Holland, a former Altamaha Riverkeeper, is allowing me to publish his pictures at my blogsite. I'll add one here:

Pipevine swallowtail butterfly and squirrel treefrog on pickerel weed in Lewis Creek - courtesy of James Holland; He's on a mission to show the world the beauty of our Altamaha River

38 comments:

  1. Such a big question, Maggie. We've been at the 'shall we downsize' stage for quite a few years now, our two daughters having flown the coop. But like boomerangs, when they arrive with our grandchild (just 1 so far)and dog, we're glad we still have the space. We might be getting poorer but we've got the space! They say "You can't sell...we love your house" Dilemma. Advice? though it sounds selfish, do what seems to fit you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nancy, In hindsight, it seems like it would have been a good idea to keep the big house - but it also had rooms we didn't use, like the formal dining room and a a formal living room. We are definitely into casual living. But I love your advice. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Maggie

      Delete
  2. Same boat over here. We've been in the same house for 35 years. It was too big then it fit fine, now it's too big again except on holidays when the kids and grandkids are here and then it's too small. If you come up with a solution, please share.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LD,

      It feels like I'm reinventing the wheel. I'm looking forward to reading all the comments. There must be several great approaches to this common problem.

      Maggie

      Delete
  3. Maggie, I went through the same problem--on a bigger scale even. First an apartment, then with baby #2 a small ranch we completely remodeled ourself. I'll never forget me scrapping papers in the living room and my toddler jumping with both feet in the pan with the soapy solution. When we added a dog and a cat to complete the family, a bigger two-story house became a must. Again we remodeled, but two years later,DH was transferred. We sold, packed and moved to the mid-west. Good things the prices were cheaper and we bought a dream house, big and comfortable. I decided that was it. In fact we spent twenty-five years there. But then I couldn't resist the call of the ocean when the children graduated, worked, married and moved to different states. The downsizing was horrendous. I forced myself to part with so many souvenirs, nicknacks and valuables we accumulated over the years. Off we moved to a two-bedroom apartment that became very uncomfortable when the little families grew and we moved again to a three-bedroom apartment. Now we can accomodate everyone, and I will never ever move again. So my advice is if you want a bigger place by all means get it. You won't regret.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mona,

      It sounds like you have a very workable solution. Maybe my problem is that I'm a space-hog. I need lots of elbow room. But I love the ocean, too. If we decide to move, I want a place with a view.

      Maggie

      Delete
  4. Maggie: I hesitate to give any advice so far away and with the economy in such bad shapes and markets so unpredictable. But (I think, anyway), it might be one thing to consider to simply add a guest room and not make too many changes, since life and the economy may make some drastic changers too! Our family is facing fears we never had before too, so you are not alone :-)
    Hope it all works out well and happily for you and all your loved ones,
    Jackie Griffey

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jackie,

      We hadn't put much thought into adding onto our current house. But after reading your comment, I thought about using one end of our sun porch for a hallway to the new guest annex. It's a possibility. Thanks for pointing it out.

      Delete
  5. In our previous house, we really had no room for visitors. However, we often had visitors, who stayed at a local motel unless they wanted to bunk on couches and blow-up beds (and many did!) We had a lot of fun times that way. Now we're in a different layout, one that has guest space, and that's fun because it's usable space for us but can also be converted to guest space when needed. Win-win.

    When my Mom moved out of the family house and into a townhouse, we adapted. When the whole family came for a visit, we rented rooms at the local motel and stayed there. When just one or two people came for a visit, there was room if we squeezed.

    My .02 is that you shouldn't change your life to accommodate visitors. You say above that the house is the perfect size -- and it's probably perfect about 80% of the time. As someone said, maybe add a guest room or two at the most. Can you put a room over the garage? Create a porch that can be made into a guest room when needed?

    You've downsized and that's tough. Don't upsize again unless you're 100% sure it's what you need for the long term. This might be the last move for a long, long time.

    Of course, I've moved like 30 times in my life, so I guess I don't have much room to talk!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi JL,

      I appreciate your perspective. Gosh all those moves. I think I would have put wheels on all the furniture if I had to do that.

      Upsizing would be bad from an accumulation standpoint. I was so glad to get rid of years of stuff. When we moved here, my closet was barely 3/4 full. Now I'm always chiding myself to go through and weed stuff out because I've bought a shirt here, pants there, you know how it is.

      We haven't discussed adding a room or two, but that's not a bad idea. I'm putting it in the discussion queue.

      Delete
  6. When we moved to Florida, we did downsize, but we took into consideration company. Still, even with more room than we actually need, when company comes, things are crowded. We are now considering splitting our time between Florida and Arizona, where our grandchildren live. We hate being so far away from them, but we don't want to live in Arizona year round. I'm with JL. Maybe you could add a room onto the house.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Merrillee,

      We've had the thought to become nomads as well. However, our kids didn't help by settling down so far apart - we'd have to have three places. Not going to happen on our budget.

      But the pull of those grandkids is strong. Like you, I'm hating the miles between us and them.

      Delete
  7. Maggie--I don't envy you your dilemma. However, you are quite a bit younger than I am, and my grandkids will soon leave the nest. We never had that many to house. My MI crew--five of them, two older boys very big and tall, now--will arrive in late June. They'll have to cope with the space they've had when they were younger. I suspect the family may not keep up trying to come down here as a group--it's really hard and expensive for them. But I don't want to discourage them.

    You could do what our friends and neighbor did--four daughters and 13 grandchildre, all within ten years apart. One year, they all wanted to come at the same time. She said, okay, but we're having day camp all week. They set up tents in the back yard--remember we live on acreage out here--and the older kids will sleep out there. The little ones in the house with at least one parent. With four sets of adults and two extra bedrooms, they drew lots for the bedrooms, the other two sets of couples had to go to a motel--but left the kids. They switched off in the middle of the week. Everything had to be "even." Remember that?
    She and her daughters and SILs ran camp--artwork, woodburning, campfire cooking, swimming (our division has a private pool--that sure worked)...etc. Oh, and she rented a Port-a-Potty. We have septic systems out here! It was a scream--I couldn't wait to drive by there every day to see what was going on. It turned out great!
    Each daughter and her husband were in charge of all food for one day.
    They did this two years in a row.
    Then my friends sold their house, moved to Sun City Georgetown north of Austin!
    Good luck with your dilemma--do what's best for you--not your kids, unless you want to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Celia,

      I love your neighbors "grandkids camp" idea. So creative and organized. We live in town, though our town is probably more rural than most countrysides. I don't think camping would work here, but I could ship them off to Aunt Ginny's. She has a large yard.

      I didn't expect to solve this problem in a day, and we'll continue to visit our "dream" neighborhood. Maybe someone will want to dump their property. You just never know.

      Delete
  8. Depends on how often and for how long your kids and grandkids visit. Unless the answer is often and for a long time, I'd stay. We are just waiting for the market to improve so we can downsize. I hate the idea of moving, but we have five acres to maintain plus a large home. We're ready for the 1800 to 2000 sq ft place with a mini yard, what's called a garden home in our area.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Caroline,

      Our current home is the perfect size for us, but you can't really start a sewing project and expect to eat dinner on the same table. Many things in our home are multipurpose, and you have to put stuff away or you trip over it. That took a bit of adjustment on both of our parts initially, but we've got the hang of it now. This is the right size house for me to take care of. OOps gotta run...

      Delete
  9. Hi Maggie, you say your home is the perfect size for you, do you like the neighbourhood, would you even consider moving if it wasn't for the kids visiting? If the answer to these questions is yes and no then I think you have your answer about whether to downsize. Probably better to consider alternatives such as an extra room, or using a motel. Hope this helps.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like my neighborhood, Sue, but the one I'm looking at comes with amenities that would be great for kids, ie pool, tennis courts, bike paths.

      I wouldn't mind building this house again with a couple of extra rooms and another bathroom. But cost is a huge consideration for us.

      If only folks would rush to buy all my books...

      Delete
  10. Buy a mobile home and use it for guests when they are there, and for yourselves when you get the itch to travel. Easy peasy LOL Good luck making a decision. I know I'm no help at all lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shhh. Don't tell my husband. That's his dream - to go mobile and be off the grid. I don't mind being mobile, as long as we can park at a motel at night.

      Delete
  11. We downsized from house to two bedroom co-op apartment. I still miss my house but this is much easier on my husband as far as maintenance. Our grown children live in the same state, one an hour away, the other half that. So they visit us, and we visit them. Nobody needs to stay over.

    Jacqueline Seewald
    DEATH LEGACY--request it at your local library

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have the perfect set-up for your situation, Jacqueline. My kids live very far away and usually come to visit for four or more days. Not too bad now, but as the little tykes get bigger, that's 4 more bodies to consider.

      Delete
  12. I prefer smaller homes/apartment, so quarters are always tight when the family visits. Although, I always find it kinda sweet to see the nieces and nephews sprawled out on the floor in blow-up mattresses, my brother in the pull-out couch, etc.. Being squished for short periods of time reminds me of how much I love these people.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Keena,

      Your reply made me smile. Your family sounds very special. Be sure and hug them a lot.

      Delete
  13. Consider consulting a contractor/architect about possibly modifying your present home.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. this is an excellent suggestion! Thanks

      Delete
  14. Maggie, I can honestly tell you I wish my MIL had a bigger house. She lives in a condo. There are enough occasions that the boys have to stay over and they're squished like sardines. She can't have family holidays at her condo because it's so small, yet she really wants to stay and just spent a ton refurishbing the inside. She does lament her place is too small, but she's staying.

    I throw this out there - think of the memories your grandchildren might retain when they come over. I have wonderful memories of staying at both my grandparents houses but in all honesty, they were homes. What offsets my boys staying with my MIL is that they have a community pool the boys like to swim in.

    If it is do-able you might consider the upgrade. You don't have to get a ranch home, but something a little bigger might be perfect for you and the grandkids.

    Steph

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't consider grandchildren or amenities when we built here seven years ago, Steph. Now I wish I had thought things through a bit more carefully.

      I'm getting really great suggestions from everyone. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas.

      Delete
  15. Maggie,
    Same problem here. Need something smaller but what to do when the kids come home from college? I've been thinking about a one level ranch home with basement rooms for guests. My parents did this and it works great when we visit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Linda,

      That sounds very doable. We're so close to the water table here on the coast that basements would be underwater, but a second story or a garage-top apartment might be just the thing I need.

      Thank you for stopping by Mudpies.

      Delete
  16. I say make more money from your writing so you can put the kids up in a nearby hotel. LOL!

    I have a tale of two parents when it comes to housing. My dad and stepmom watched as his parents outstayed their ability to care for a two story house. The lesson? Downsize to a one level condo and put the kids and grandkids in the study or a hotel. Now, my mom and her partner just added on to their place to take care of aging parents. Parents died, and now they have more house than they need right when they too are growing older and beginning to wish for less upkeep.

    I think maybe my advice (you did ask!) is that if you do decide to add on or move to a larger place, come up with an exit plan. Both sets of my grandparents put off downsizing past the point where they could do it themselves. You aren't there yet (at all!), but the day will come. Better to be aware of its impending arrival and plan accordingly. Your kids will thank you.

    Okay, off the soapbox!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Keely,

      I love your tale of the two parents. That's one of the reasons I was crazy enough to post this crossroads-situation online - other folks have to have dealt with this successfully. I shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel.

      Our strategy for downsizing in 2005 was so that we wouldn't be stuck in a huge place with a huge yard. We did that. And it suited our needs, until the grandkids came along.

      I like your idea of planning an exit strategy. One of the thoughts in the back of my mind is that when the house gets too huge, it would become a fallback place to live for my girlfriends, like a Golden Girls gathering spot. Not that we want anything to happen to our husbands, but in general, women tend to outlive men.

      But who's to say that will happen? The truth is everyone has to draw a line in the sand and make a decision. Is having the care and maintenance of a slightly larger place worth the trade-off of having more for the grandkids to do when they visit? It seems to be.

      Now I just have to figure out how to do it without losing my mind or going in debt up to my eyeballs.

      Delete
  17. Maggie - lots of people here in Australia face the same problems, with the added difficulty that housing here in expensive. Hubby and I are in our early seventies, live in a house we built ourselves between 1998 and 2001. While we built we lived in the shed he'd put up first in the backyard (1/4 acre is the normal rural-town suburb size.) We made half the shed into a comfortable flat (apartment) and it's still there if any of the kids want to stay over.

    We have four married children, thirteen grandchildren and three great-grandchildren; two married sons each live a half-hour drive away, eldest son a two-hour drive away and daughter a 2 1/2 hour drive away. When they call in nowadays they tend to do so on a day-trip basis, and we ourselves haven't become too decrepit to drive further than the half-hour trips for some time. It's been a while since any grandies stayed over since they're all now older, between 12 and 29, and the great-grandies (offspring of 29 year old and her hubby) are fortunately another one of the half-hour drives.

    Sorry to chat so long about the family, what I'm getting at is the fact that kids grow, circumstances change, and the space one needs for guests ebbs and flows. As you've noticed! Your first commitment, if you don't mind me voicing an opinion, is that you think of yourselves and your own comfort first. I personally would not move. Here in Oz what happens in your type of circumstance, depending on budget of course, is one adds a room that does double duty as a study with a sofa-bed and other dual-purpose furniture. Our house is quite small, but in the days when the kids stayed over, one trundle bed in the spare room, a sofa-bed in the lounge (living) room and a folding bunk or two, kept in the shed and set up on my study floor for the night, proved adequate.

    Don't know if I've been any help, but I hope there's a positive idea hidden in there somewhere! Best of luck with whatever you decide.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hi Monya,

    I love the way you've got sleeping nooks all over your place. That's the way to do it all right. A dual purpose room sounds like a great addition idea.

    I could easily see a guest room space also be the exercise room, or the can't get rid of this yet because the person that gave it to us is still alive room, or something similar.

    I've had several people recommend that grandkids grow up and then the downsizing cycle starts all over again. I really need to think this one out a bit longer.

    Thank you, Monya, and everyone else who commented. I certainly have a variety of ideas to choose from. Have a good week, friends.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Oh, Maggie! I have been on this road. We sold the big house and bought a condo. We loved the convenience, but felt claustrophobic within a month. And there was no place to throw a party--and we love parties. And we have a huge family and there was no place to put them. We landed in a subdivision--something we swore we'd never do. But the house was big enough and the yard not too big.

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Maggie,
    I hear you and sympathize! *Hugs* I'm on move #33 and am renting. Oh yeah, you know what that means. I say find a home 'perfect' for you and your husband and a guest, two at the most. You'll find like writing, less is more. :) The best to you in your decision. *Hugs*

    ReplyDelete
  21. Maggie, we upsized on our last move because after tin can military housing we wanted space for company and a nice yard to play in. Now hubby says we'll have to move to something smaller when the kids move out. Um, no. I want room for grandkids to come stay! That was part of the plan in the first place. ;-) When you live away from so much family, that needs to be part of the plan.

    You might rent your current place until the market goes back up and take advantage of the low market to buy now. Of course that can be a heck of a hassle if you get the wrong renters. We've done that. Ugh!

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hi Maggie- wow - this sounds like me! Now my kids don't like to come overnight because there's not enough space!

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for visiting Mudpies.