A lot of Baby Boomers are leaving their family home in search of another home that works better for their current lifestyle. In fact, that was the case for my husband and I. And it took some soul-searching for both of us to decide exactly what we needed and wanted in our next home.
Also, everyone knows, deep down, that no home will be absolutely perfect in every detail. Shopping for a home is like looking for a prospective mate: you hope you’ll get 85-90% of what you want, and anything in addition to that will be gravy!
Having been through the process myself, I can tell you that with my training and experience as an interior designer, I took our choice very seriously. Let me share what my husband and I went through to find our forever home.
The main problem was that all of the bedrooms in our home were on the second level, and when my husband began having back problems, it became obvious that we needed a single-level home (or at least a first floor master suite).
Since the problem could not be resolved with a remodel, we decided to declutter and sell. The market at that time in our part of Los Angeles was “hot” so we did not try to find another home first, we went ahead and sold ours in 30 days to capture the market price available at that time.
We put a lot of our remaining stuff in storage, and moved into an apartment in the middle of downtown Pasadena. We spent a year there viewing homes in our desired areas near us, while we figured out what we wanted in our next home. It was a luxury to be able to do that, but if you can do it, I highly recommend it.
We investigated opportunities in Texas, Florida and Nashville. Because we had traveled to all of those places, we were very familiar with the weather and other aspects. We consulted with our financial planner on tax-advantaged solutions. After that we decided that the weather in southern California was such a huge plus that we could not ignore it; so with the location decision made, we had our target area.
Of course, the square footage, number of bedrooms and baths is important, as well as the size of the lot. But in addition to those items, here are the most important criteria we used when viewing prospective homes:
Will a spruce-up or redesign make a prospective home work for you? Don’t be deterred by that pink master bathroom or a home blanketed in carpeting. Know that a fresh coat of paint and new flooring can work wonders in a home that seems dated or that has a color scheme you don’t like. If the prospective home has definite potential for curb appeal, keep it on your list.
The bones of the home will really convey its usefulness for you. The bones are the best indicator of a home’s potential. What do I mean? Just this: does it have a good floor plan? Does the space have potential for furnishings that you like? Is the master suite located on the first floor? Is it open concept (or are there private spaces, if that’s your preference)? If the bones (layout and feel) are right, then anything else you do to the home will only enhance it more.
Is it clean and without excess clutter? Do they have wonky wiring for their electronics with things like wiring running along baseboards? Do you see cracks in the stucco, or peeling paint around windows or baseboards? Is the landscaping well done, the front walk and steps in good shape without cracks or crumbles? If defects like these are obvious, chances are the interior systems that you can’t see are in need of repair or replacement.
Are there a lot of large windows? Does it have high ceilings or do you feel closed in by low ceilings in some rooms or all of them? Are windows located to take advantage of views or a lovely back or front garden? Will changing out windows or installing a skylight brighten a dark hallway or kitchen?
It’s not a pleasant thought, but picture yourself or your spouse needing to use a walker or wheelchair for a time. Are the doors and doorways at least 36″ wide? Could you get around fairly easily if you had to be dependent on a walker for a while?
My husband had back surgery the year after we moved in. He was on a walker for 3 weeks. Because our home was so well-designed, he could get all around the house easily without assistance.
Stand in the back yard of the home and see if you hear any street noise or neighbors or trains. Are the neighbors very close to your property? Is there a school nearby (that means traffic in front of your home twice each day). We decided we wanted to be no closer than 8-10 minutes from a freeway; still convenient but we wouldn’t be subjected to hearing it.
I hope some of these tips will make it easier for you to make a choice when faced with the available homes in your desired area. My husband and I settled on a home in a 55+ neighborhood in San Clemente, California. We are on a public golf course and we have an ocean view. We moved in after a 14-week remodel and we couldn’t be happier with the results!
Still wondering whether to redesign or remodel your existing home, or whether it’s time to move? Take my quick quiz to find out! It’s a fun and informative way to get you started on the thinking process. Leave me a comment below on what you think about your outcome from the quiz!