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Have you noticed that new houses seem to get bigger and bigger?
They’re building a new subdivision across the road from us, and the houses seem huge! I expect in a few years the neighborhood will be filled with growing families and not too many grandmas and grandpas.
I’m also amazed by how much houses cost these days. I love watching HGTV shows, but when they introduce a couple who is barely in their 30’s and has a budget of a million dollars, I wonder what on earth they do!
Our First House
Greg and I moved from Massachusetts to Michigan in 1986 partly because we could afford to buy a house on one income. This allowed me to stay home and raise our children.
The house we purchased when our oldest was a baby had just over 900 square ft. It was on a sort of busy street, and we shared a driveway with the next-door neighbors. But it was in a good neighborhood, and it was affordable. It had a garage (detached), a screened porch, and a fenced back yard. After five years, we made a profit on the sale, and we were able to put 20% down on the new house.
The house we raised our children in was bigger, though still under 2000 square feet.
It had a fenced yard and attached garage. It also had a family room addition (not visible in the picture), an office (eventually it became a bedroom) and a 2nd bathroom, which was extremely nice when all three girls were in their teens. For a house built in 1965, it had a fairly open layout which worked really well with our growing family.
But it wasn’t the house of my dreams. In fact, once I began having problems with my feet and legs, it didn’t work very well at all for us anymore. The main problem with the house was its raised ranch style. There were two sets of stairs. A full set with a landing at the side door, which led to the main floor of the house and a shorter one from the main floor down to the family room. It’s one thing when you have three kids to help carry groceries up – it builds work ethic and character. But when the kids moved out, that was a different story. When your feet and legs no longer want to support you, climbing up and down stairs several times a day just doesn’t work. And, it didn’t make sense to heat our big old house when we lived mostly in just four rooms.
Selling our home of 23 years, the home where we’d raised our children, was emotional, to say the least. But more on that another time.
Shopping for a new house
We ended up living in a rented apartment for 8 months between selling our old house and moving into our new one. This was SUPER SMART! While I really didn’t want to move twice, it took several months of looking to figure out exactly what we wanted in a new house and where we wanted that house to be. We considered going into a condo so that there would be no snow shoveling or lawn mowing. While we looked at several, they all felt just too close together.
We looked at some really small houses. At just under 600 square feet, I really wanted to love the smallest one we looked at. Less than 2 miles from Lake Michigan, it sat on 5 acres of woods – I grew up in the Arizona desert. I LOVE trees! There was an insulated pole barn on the property which was very important because the house didn’t have a basement for storage. But while I’m trying to embrace minimalism, it was just too small for me. That said, seriously thinking about that house helped us figure out a few things we really wanted in our new house.
Number one on my list was enough space for all the kids to come home at the same time. This meant a minimum of three bedrooms. We also needed workspace (one of the extra bedrooms), main floor laundry, and storage space. Another thing on my wish list was a master bathroom. This wasn’t a deal breaker, but I really liked the one in our apartment.
Greg’s new house wish list was short.
He wanted his work commute to be less than half an hour. Our apartment was just over this when the weather was good, but we live in Michigan. It snows a lot in the winter, and slippery roads increase commute times. Houses near the lake meant a longer drive for Greg, and honestly, they were more expensive then what we wanted to spend. So, because Greg’s office is on the southeast side of Grand Rapids, we began looking in the small towns south and east of GR.
The home we live in now is smaller than the house where we raised our children.
But, it is big enough to accommodate everyone coming home at the same time at least for a few days. (We tested it just three weeks after moving in when everyone came home for our middle daughter’s wedding!)
More important than the size, though, is the layout. Everything, including the laundry room, is on the main floor. We have a relatively open concept main floor, a large master bath and walk-in closets – I never knew why people liked these so much until I had one! There is storage space in both the garage and unfinished basement. Topping it off, we live on just over an acre of trees, beautiful trees.
I published pictures of my wheelchair in Sore Feet, A Chronic Pain Diagnosis. And while I’m not in a wheelchair full time, the reality is someday I might be. The good news is if that happens, the house we’re Rehearsing RetirementTM in will be adaptable.
What about you?
Will you be able to stay in your current home into retirement? Or, like we did, will you need to make some changes? If you need to downsize, what will you need in a new house?
Leave a message below, and let’s get this conversation going