Should I stay, or should I go?

Heather Meek illus

by Diane Allingham

Where and how we live becomes top of mind as age catches up with us. The age-old question is whether to stay in your home and renovate to improve accessibility, or to sell and move. It’s a particularly difficult decision when you live in a fabulous neighbourhood (like the Glebe!) with limited housing options.

Considerations range from financial, health, lifestyle and everything in between. There are always home improvements to allow you to stay and age in your home. For instance, grab bars in bathrooms, a ramp on the front steps if needed, even a chair lift to bring you upstairs while seated. Sometimes, though, accommodation changes can be more challenging; for instance, when a bathroom is needed on the main floor and there just isn’t any space for one.

Considerations can also be more financial in nature. Property taxes continue to rise and maintenance on a larger, older home is ongoing. We often don’t think of the long term when it comes to the proper maintenance of our largest asset. Someday this home will provide a source of financial independence when we can no longer stay or for our estate planning, so upkeep is key. Falling behind on regular maintenance can mean more costs in the long term, so it’s an important consideration.

Which brings me to the notion of renovating. The time always comes when some updating is needed. Appliances stop working, the cracks in the floor fill with dirt, manually replacing storm windows and screens over the leaky windows stops making sense. Maybe the bathroom plumbing has grown finicky or electrical outlets have stopped working.

Some updates are more painful than others. If you like choosing tiles for a new bathroom or have reliable, trustworthy contractors, the idea of renovating can be fun – a project! Depending on the type of renovation, you may need to find a place to stay temporarily as living without a kitchen for a few weeks can be tough! Stay focused on the end result and you will soon forget about the dust and disruption.

Renovating is a great time to integrate the accessibility features you may need down the road, too. There are always things we love about our homes. Maybe you love gardening but hate clearing snow. There is always someone around who can take the burdensome items off your own list such as gardeners, snow removal companies, handymen.

A home holds many memories and emotions, and reaching a conclusion on whether to stay or move takes time. Many people begin to think about all of this when they are still healthy. It’s hard to plan for a time when you may not be! Maybe lifestyle is the main driver. Maybe the house feels too big and empty. Or life has changed in some way that makes your house seem more of a burden than a joy.

Choosing to move rather than stay and renovate might make sense if, for example, your home just needs too much work or you don’t have the financial capital available. Or maybe it makes sense because you just have too much space and all the renovating in the world won’t make it smaller. And sometimes it’s just a reason that life brings you – grandchildren far away or an opportunity somewhere else, the loss of a loved one or a desire to begin another chapter.

It is key to recognize the sheer enormity of a move. There are many professionals out there who can assist – those who are experienced at organizing, eliminating and packing up, and who are accustomed to the emotional toll a move from a long-time home can take. The prospect of moving can be exciting and there is an element of change that energizes some people. Daunting? Yes, it always seems that way.

Don’t ever kid yourself – moving is stressful and just plain loathsome. With all the preparation that is required, it can also be a lengthy process. Going through years of accumulation is an investment in time, both physical and emotional. The key is not to rush and to gather as much support around you as possible to help. Soon enough, all the reasons you chose to move will make perfect sense. Listening to professional advice is also critical – your financial advisor, accountant, lawyer and realtor.

Eventually, the renovation or the move will be complete and you will be settled into a wonderful new environment. Either way, you will have done what’s right for you and that is the key to figuring out on which journey to embark.

Diane Allingham is a broker with Royal Lepage Team Realty and former Glebe resident who still loves everything about this great community!

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