I’m not sure when the wanderlust began. Maybe when we got the puppy last March and became a two-dog family, or when I sold my Colorado house that same month, relieving a burden and freeing some capital. Maybe the urge struck when we recently learned a fourth grandchild was on the way, or perhaps the blame lies in my compulsion to make a nest for my far-flung family to return to.
All I know is one day last spring the house bug bit.
I did my best to quash the thought of moving. I, of all people, know what lies ahead – the humbling hunt, the buy, the sell, the highs, the lows, the packing, the unpacking, the acid reflux, the insomnia, 1,000 and one décor decisions, the broken budget, the broken patterns, the broken fingernails, the sweating, the swearing. Who in their right mind would do this?
I think we both know the answer.
I secretly hoped my husband would bring me to my senses, but DC just made matters worse.
I probably started it by throwing out some test bait, like, “I wish we had one of those big kitchens with a counter and barstools.”
Rather than tell me to leave well enough alone, DC added, “I’d really like a yard for the dogs.”
“I love our house, but a fireplace would be nice,” I’d later add, piling on to our growing list of minor gripes, which grew to include, because, hey, no harm in just dreaming: A bigger dining room, an office for me, more room for our blended family of five grown kids to sprawl more space to entertain, but in the same great neighborhood – oh, and in our price range.
Impossible, we thought, which was a relief.
Next, we tried doing what any house and owner on the rocks would do. We tried to work it out. We looked at our wish list to see whether we could add any of the upgrades to our Happy Yellow House. A room over the garage, perhaps? No matter, the result still fell short.
And so, the dream of a bigger place, with a larger kitchen, a yard, a fireplace, and second office took hold. Soon we were cheating on our house, a house that we loved, that had always been there for us, and that we were still so very fond of, but that, alas, left us, especially me, wanting.
At first, I just looked, mostly online, and lusted. A realtor we knew put us on an email serve to alert us when a house in our price range came on the market or dropped its price.
I’d click through the listings, looking for flaws — street too busy, garage too prominent, kitchen too remote, master up, no fireplace, dated kitchen, funky layout — so I could continue to say, “I still like our house better.” Phew.
Then we started driving by. “I drove by that house on Pine today,” DC would say almost sheepishly.
“So did I,” I’d confess.
Next, we began sneaking out meeting other houses to see if we might have a future. I’d return to the Happy Yellow House feeling guilty and ungrateful, and do something nice for it, like polish the appliances or water the flowers, to make up.
One weekend when I was out of town, a stately Southern colonial we’d been eyeing dropped its price. DC saw it without me, which is safest. Afterword, he said, in a tone of concern-laced delight. “This house checks all our boxes.”
A few days later, I saw it myself, and I had one response: “Uh-Oh.”
Buying a new home and moving is a huge undertaking. If you’re not ready, don’t look. But here are some factors that might mean you should at least peak.
- Your family is changing. A baby is coming, a parent is moving in, the kids have left the nest, or they’re coming back home with their kids. Each of these transitions forces you to size up your living space and ask whether a new house may be in order.
- Finances change. A career advance or the addition of a second income may be your chance to move up in the world to a little nicer place and lifestyle. Conversely, a career setback, may mean scaling back makes good sense.
- Your commute is a killer. Maybe when you bought your house, you were working from home. But now you must drive an hour to the office each day each way. A new, closer house will greatly improve your quality of life.
- You’ve outgrown the hood. That once hip neighborhood of lawn parties and nearby nightclubs doesn’t seem so fun now that you’re juggling a toddler and a newborn.
- You want better schools. If you’re not near a school that is a good fit for your child, seriously consider moving.
- You aren’t living the life you envision. You want a flower garden, but your place just has a patio. You’ve discovered you love to cook, but the kitchen’s the size of a broom closet. You want to read by the fire, but have no fireplace. Create a wish list for your ideal house. Then ask what it would take to get at least some of what you want.
- Reality shifts. When DC and I bought the Happy Yellow House two years ago, we thought it the perfect size. Our newly blended family of five kids, then ages 19 to 34 had all left the nest, and we liked the idea of a smaller home. What we didn’t anticipate was that while kids leave, they go and find mates, then multiply. Five becomes 10 becomes 15. If we want a place for extended family to gather – yes — we need more room. If you can fix it, fix it. You only live once.
Join me next week as three top real estate brokers share their negotiating tactics.
Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of two home and lifestyle books, including Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go (Sterling Publishing 2016). You may reach her at www.marnijameson.com.