Changing circumstances ranging from empty nest or retirement to health issues to divorce or death of a partner at some point cause homeowners to ponder whether to stay in their home as is, renovate it, or to sell, generally downsizing. There are many factors and options to consider, although certain life events can influence your options.
In my case, the decision was a combination of economics and having a place to go — I took a second mortgage on my house years ago to buy a two-bedroom condo in Florida that I’ve rented out, but by selling my house the condo is paid for and I can live there for the cost of maintenance — and wanting to spend more time outdoors and traveling, plus having no family in the area and an increasing number of friends in the Sunshine State.
A real estate agent friend once told me that it takes most people, especially those who have been in a home for a long time, about a year to get their house ready to sell, and I have found that to be true. How motivated you are will also affect how quickly you work. I have a friend who with military-precision planning and only one significant glitch had a vacant condo painted, new carpet installed, and bathroom updated in two weeks.
I moved into my three-bedroom, two-bath raised ranch home in early 2000, following a divorce, with my then-9-year-daughter. Like most Baby Boomers raised in an age of acquisition, well before the sharing economy blossomed, I have a lot of stuff. I recall a downsizing friend saying, “It’s not a matter of ‘do I need this?’ but ‘how many of these do I need?’”
Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was very helpful, particularly sorting clothes, dishes, and knickknacks. When considering whether to keep, give away, or toss an item, you handle it and ask yourself, “Does it spark joy?” I also found myself asking, “Why do I have this?” as well as, “How much of my history do I need to hang on to?” (sorting and shredding piles of papers has been time-consuming) and, “What will happen to this when I die?” Our children generally have little interest in most of our stuff. Rather than trying to sell things or having a tag sale, I am finding new homes for and giving to charities as much as I can. It often comes down to “Do I want to pay to move this?” and “Will it fit into the new space I will have?”
When determining what projects to undertake — most real estate agents will urge you to do everything possible as many buyers want a move-in-ready house — you have to decide how much you want to spend to sell your house and what you are willing to do, either yourself or pay someone to do. If you have been in your house for a long time, you may want to consider having a home inspection done before putting your house on the market. This way you won’t get any big surprises when your buyer has it done, and an inspector can tell you what to make priorities and ballpark what improvements will cost.
The Internet and apps, especially the neighborhood sites, make it much easier to find and check out contractors today, but I still prefer referrals from people I know. My Realtor suggested a remodeler who was excellent and willing to take on the small stuff as well as doing a new bathroom for me. I did the wall repairs and interior painting, but did hire someone to do the ceilings and later realized two things: I am not as comfortable on a ladder as I used to be, and if I consider how long it took me to do a room at a time when I got around to it, had I hired someone, the painting would have been done in a week or two and my house would have been on the market much sooner. Those additional mortgage payments were far more than it would have cost to hire someone.
My approach was to eliminate objections — repave a rutted driveway, gut the 1966 seafoam green tile and fixtures bathroom, replace the blue sink and toilet downstairs with white fixtures (the blue tile shower stall remains); replace the kitchen floor as many of the ceramic tiles were cracked — but I drew the line at replacing appliances, other than the stove, as they all worked. I also decided not to replace the kitchen counter; I don’t want to make that decision for someone else, nor have someone tear out something I spent a lot of money on.
If doing a room remodel, be sure you have all the components before you begin. We started the bathroom demo before I bought tile for the bathroom and kitchen floors. While shopping I discovered luxury vinyl flooring, which can go over existing flooring, and which I liked much better. The kitchen floor arrived quickly, but there was a long wait for the bathroom floor and I was sure glad I had a second bathroom in the house.
By the time you read this, here’s hoping there is a “For Sale” sign on my front lawn.