By Evelyn David
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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