Monday, January 16, 2012

This Old House

By Evelyn David

My house is almost a hundred years old. We bought it from the estate of the woman who, with her husband, had it built. Just walking in the door, I could feel the good karma. The parents had raised seven children here. As we wandered through, the realtor described the festive family parties with children and grandchildren.

I was originally hesitant because one daughter had remained in the home, caring for her mother, who died at 90+. I worried that we were displacing this poor elderly woman who had never lived anywhere else since her mother was pregnant with her when the family moved in. But as we were inspecting the house, my husband discovered a sporty, two-seater Jaguar in the garage and we realized that this wasn't any shy, reclusive old lady with cats. Turns out that this house was just home-base. The daughter worked for an airline and traveled all over the world.

When it came down to a decision, it seemed easy. I could feel the good karma, there were enough bedrooms that each kid could have his or her own, and we could almost afford it. The fact that the kitchen only had one electrical outlet (on the other hand how many did a 90+ year old woman need?), or that the only bathtub in the house was in the attic and I had a little baby, didn't stop us from plunking down our money and moving in. Changes to the house came slowly. A few electrical outlets were added to the kitchen in the first year. A bathtub was added to the main bathroom later. It was years before we renovated the kitchen.

But like all of us who are growing older, this house needs maintenance. The bones, as my friend the realtor tells me, are fantastic. But let's just say that the old body is showing its age. The windows are original, the furnace is probably close to 50 (it had originally been coal-fired), and even the changes we made when we first moved in aren't shiny new anymore.

Which brings me to the perennial question of empty nesters? Do we stay or go? If we stay, how much should we invest in maintenance? Minimal as long as it's safe and comfortable for us? Or more with the hopes that we recoup it when we sell?

My basic rule of thumb has been that anyone who moves in will want to re-do the kitchen eventually (it's now 16 years old), but will be satisfied that there is no urgency to the project. Same thought applies to re-doing the bathrooms. The master bath is small, but again, I envision new owners would break through to the small room on the other side and make one of those master suite spas I see in the magazines (heck, I want one of those). But do we recarpet the threadbare steps and if so, how much do we invest – cheap neutral carpet or something a little snazzier, with extra bucks for every bit of snaz? If we're here for another five years, what's a worthwhile investment and what's not?

No answers yet. Just lots of questions as we begin to figure things out.

I was right the first time I walked in this house. It was more than just a building. For a wonderful family before us; and for my wonderful family now. I know that you can't measure good karma in dollars and cents. I don't need any ruby red slippers, nor do I need to click my heels. Every time I walk through the door, I know that I'm home.

Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David

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Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

9 comments:

  1. Sadly this is a decision only you can make, but think of the happiness and love a young family would have if they moved in after you. Good luck with the decision. It's a tough one.

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  2. Thanks Mare. We're just at the beginning of "the conversation." But we're slowly working our way through what we want, what we need, and what makes sense.

    Marian

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  3. What a beautiful post, Marian! I can feel your house through your description. We are still it the thick of things here so tackling the major tasks--waterproofing the basement, replacing the oil tank, putting on a new roof--but we feel like we'll be here for a while and that it will be worth it. But if I didn't have kids here, I wonder what I'd do...

    Maggie

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  4. Thanks Maggie. I think you will recoup the investment in all the improvement projects you are doing, plus make your life there more comfortable.

    I'm not quite ready to leave this house -- yet. It is home. Lived here longer than I ever lived anywhere else (Yipes!).

    But it's good, at this stage, for us to consider whether each improvement makes sense in terms of selling -- as well as whether I have the patience to withstand living through any renovations :-)

    Marian

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  5. It's just money. When you weigh money vs. home, I say you should land on the side of enjoyment of home, your hours spent there with loved ones, etc. Cash comes and goes and at this point, this many years in, you'll probably get what you need out of the house even if you do put more into it.

    And, don't forget that being a homeowner, either in your current house or any other, always means "maintenance". Sure, you can get into a place with less, but anyplace you go will either right off the bat have things you'd renovate there or you'll only have a few years before the maintenance expenses start up all over again.

    Enjoy your home, whatever it takes, and don't worry much about the rest.

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  6. Thanks Vicky. We do love our home -- and enjoy entertaining family and friends here. Luckily, there isn't a rush to make a decision.

    Marian

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  7. I live in one of those old houses too. Just get one project done, something fixed, and onto the next. Enjoy it while you have it.

    Marilyn

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  8. Thanks Marilyn. That's good advice. One project at a time!

    Marian

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  9. I hope you will continue your same best work and we will get more informative post which can helpful to us. Thanks for this

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