It was pretty much perfect timing. I was recovering from an unfortunate and unexpected divorce. My mother at age 89, was suddenly slowing down and not comfortable driving any more. She needed someone to live with her and I needed a place to live. Moving is hard but often it's the best solution, and for my mother and I, it was a match made in heaven.
Fortunately my mom and I get along well, and my work-from-home life made the situation good for both of us. However as time went on, we discovered that what didn't work was her home.
This article is the first in a series, sharing my story as my mother and I prepare to move to a new home that fits both our lifestyles better. There will be challenges as my mother has lived in this town for more than thirty years, but we both agree that the condo doesn't give us the space and amenities we need. We know moving is hard, and hope by sharing our journey, you will find ideas and inspiration to help you find your ideal living space.
Moving is Hard: Why We Decided to Move
We live in an extremely nice condo in a small town near Phoenix. The condo is only six years old but the kitchen is really dark and hard for two cooks to work side-by-side. That might be okay for some people, but we're Italian and love to cook.
Another issue is the den which I converted to my office. It simply doesn't have the functional space I need for my projects. And it would be better to live closer to my sister, so that there's backup when I'm traveling out of town.
Given these three factors, we decided it's time to move! We know moving is hard, and feel relieved that we've finally made the decision.
You're going to get to travel through this entire moving process with me. I hope it will help you when it's time for your next move. My steps may help you think of things you may not have considered, and I may save you time, money and headaches as I share what I'm learning on my journey. I would like to be a beacon of light leading the way but I know I am more likely to be a warning to others …
Moving is Hard When Two People Have to Agree
Most things in life aren't as simple as you think, and this move is proving that point. It's also not your typical move where the decision makers have the same goals, so we're identifying the questions and making our decisions one step at a time. So here are some of the early decisions we've made.
- Whose home will it be? Currently, mom and I are living in her house. She owns it and I am her guest. But we decided that at 91, it made sense that the next home we move into should be mine. This frees up assets for her and allows me to select the home I want, while giving her the space she needs to be comfortable and happy. It also means we have a smaller budget for the new home, because I have a smaller asset base to work with.
- Where will the house be located? We're limiting our search to no more than 20 minutes from my sister's house, versus 40 minutes today. That will make it easier for her to take my mom to the doctor when I'm busy with my work. Is that my favorite area to live? No, but any time you buy a house, there are always compromises.
- What size and features do we need? We currently have a 1,850 square foot condo, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a den. Our new house needs to be at least 1,600 square feet with two bedrooms, 1 1/2 baths and either a third bedroom, den or family room that I can convert to an office. More space would be nice but we need to balance space and cost.
- Fixer-upper or move-in-ready? I'm lucky enough to have a brother-in-law who was in construction, so a bit of fixing is OK. Do I want a place where I have to knock down walls or redo the plumbing? Absolutely not! So, cosmetic is fine. New kitchen appliances would be OK. And I'm hoping to add wood floors throughout but we'll have to see if my budget stretches that far.
- Timing? Homes in this area go for the most money in the fall, so we plan to put our home on the market in September or October. That gives me six months to go through things and get ready to move. Enough time? Well, we'll see…
- Process? We'll sell this place first and then look for a new one. That may mean renting for a few months, but I don't want the risk of owning two places at once. It's always easier to buy, than to sell. And with today's real estate transactions taking up to 60 days to close, it's possible that we can just transfer from one house to the other. Keeping my fingers crossed.
Moving is Hard & Here's How I Started
You've got to start somewhere, so here are the two steps I've taken so far:
- Started getting rid of things that have been sitting in my garage for a few years. Tina helped me get started by spending the better part of a day going through my garage. Then she was kind enough to take seven boxes and bags of books to our local library, where they sell them to raise money for community activities.
- Browsing for possible neighborhoods near my sister, to see what my money can buy. One of my neighbors gave me a big leg-up by opening a portal for me to browse the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), the system Realtors use to search for homes on the market. I haven't had time yet to explore the possibilities there, but I will and let you know how it goes.
I'm going to miss some aspects of my current home. I'm walking distance to the library, a lovely park, lots of restaurants and a weekly farmer's market. There's hardly any traffic and many of the neighbors are nice.
On the other hand, I look forward to finding a place much more to my taste rather than my mother's, and with a lot more natural sunlight. Condos tend to be dark because at least two sides of the home have shared walls. I hope to find a little house with lots of windows on a very small piece of land.
Hope you'll join me on my journey, as I share the lessons learned because moving is hard for anyone.