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Upsize/Downsize

April 17, 2012

Change is always provocative.  Divorce, empty-nesting, or college tuitions finally paid off all trigger thoughts of “What’s next?”

Your home is your biggest mirror and as you change it inevitably reflects who you are. So transitioning means the “family home” may need reinvention, dumping or an alter ego. If you are single, it can be a completely self-indulgent sybaritic exercise.  If you are a couple, the reallocation of assets from a family home to a new reality of coupledom should have full reign over where you live. If you hate the home you’re in, “ding-dong, the house is gone!” may be  the victory song as you get sprung from house arrest, but if not, you may need some house therapy.

Do not feel guilty if you think you need more space even if you are down to couple or singleton status. The history of the American home has shown, over time, that its size is the inverse of the number of its occupants.  In 1930, the average house was under 1,000 square feet, harboring about four people.  That house now comes in at 2,400 square feet and two and a half people live there. Beyond the survivalist mentality of creating a safe home for child-rearing, a home that is you-focused may need some elbow room.

The downside of trading in the “family home” can be on the rest of the family besides you and your spouse. It may feel like “granny dumping” or, alternatively, like shedding a few dress sizes if you move out of the nest. If you have children you want to come back, will the absence of the family home make that less likely?

Here are some simple tips that can cut through the emotional roller-coaster and guide your thinking about whether or not you want to sell the home that has become part of the family:

1. Does the present home have the kind of amenities that accommodate the visitation of young adults? (An actual en-suite bathroom for when boyfriend/girlfriend/new spouse tags along or better yet a suite of en-suite bedrooms so that multiple children and their future families can come back in happy segregation from your day-to-day life.) If so, great, but most typical homes do not have these features.

2. Is the home you have in a location that would serve as a magnet – near natural beauty such as a shoreline or an urban amenity (such as a dynamic city center with attractions)?

3. If you love or can be made to love your home, but it isn’t where you want to be, then an alter ego home (aka the second home) may make sense if you can swing it financially.

4. If you really want freedom, two or more mini-residences may be the ticket  –places that are fully stocked to allow luggage-free travel.

If the home you have can be modified to become a semi-B&B, and it’s in a great location, it may be time to bring in an architect and/or a builder to see the costs involved. If you simply hate the location, the house itself or are bored out of your gourd, the question answers itself – MOVE! – but move to a place that rocks your new world, not just changing channels on the home show you live in.

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