"To be too certain of anything is the beginning of bigotry." -- Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah

Saturday, September 25, 2021

What Do They Do Now?

      The other day we got a phone call from one of our old neighbors back in New York. She's actually my wife's friend, but I was in the car so we were both on the phone.

     The neighbor -- I'll call her Amy -- asked how we were doing, wished B a happy belated birthday. Then she blurted out: "We just sold our house!"

     "Wow, congratulations!" we chorused. "So what are you going to do now?"

     The woman was bubbling over with enthusiasm. They'd sold their suburban three-bedroom in one day. They got full asking price, which was more than either one of them expected.

     It turns her her husband John had taken retirement back in January of this year. "I myself haven't given notice yet," Amy said. "But we're ready to retire."

     We said how happy we were for them. Then B asked, "So where are you going?"

     "Oh, we don't know yet," Amy replied. "We've been thinking about moving to Cape Cod. But maybe also South Carolina. And then there's always Pennsylvania."

     Amy had grown up in Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia. She still has some family in the area. But they were also thinking farther afield.

     And then it dawned on me why she was calling us. She knew we had gone through the same retirement process that she and her husband were about to embark on. B and I had considered Cape Cod as a retirement home. We'd thought about South Carolina, since one of B's sons was already living there, with a new baby, our first grandchild.

     We had finally decided on Pennsylvania, partly because B has family in the area. It has a lower cost of living than New York or New Jersey. And it's not too far from our long-time home. (We were just there a couple of weeks ago, visiting old friends.)

     But here's what stopped us. We'd started looking for a place to retire a year or two before we sold our house. Then, as we'd planned, we spent a year living in a condo, while we continued our search and finally made a decision.

     But Amy and John? They've sold their house. The buyers want a November 1 closing. And as of right now they have no place to live. And do they realize that while they got top dollar on the sale of the house, they'll have to pay top dollar on any house they want to buy? Prices are high where we live in Pennsylvania. They're high in Cape Cod. They're high in South Carolina. My sister tells me they're absolutely ridiculous in Phoenix. Is there anyplace where house prices aren't out of sight?

     Also, do they realize that it takes at least a month to close on a house after they've agreed to buy it? Are they going to do like us, and rent for a year or two? If so, they have a major downsizing job in front of them.

     They have three kids. They are grown up and out on their own. But they've left a lot of the usual stuff in their parents' attic and basement. And by Amy's own admission, "I'm a bit of a packrat."

     All those questions are hanging out there. But we didn't want to rain on their parade. We're happy for them, if they're ready to retire and move to a more relaxed and perhaps less expensive area and settle down and enjoy life. But I think they're putting themselves pretty far out on a limb. They have a lot of work ahead of them, don't you think?


MiddleAgeMark said...

Hi Tom,
Thanks for your blog. Long-time reader, newbie commenter. I just turned 60 and am continuing to build my perspectives-on-life portfolio. I understand what you're saying; the Ready-Fire-Aim approach to life is probably not the most sustainable and maybe not the wisest way to create change. On the other hand, I have, on a few occasions, jumped before I looked. It sure did create an adventure and worked out well. It also made for some sleepless nights. Maybe sometimes change is more important than specific result. There's also a difference between absolute silliness and advantaged risk. Lots of work (and fun) ahead of them, that's for sure. Kind of fun to see where they end up.

Arkansas Patti said...

Don't envy them right now. As you said, they got a great price for their home but they will pay a great price for any other home they want to buy.
I was lucky when I sold that only Florida was in a housing boom but I had to leave the state so as not just make a lateral move.
Hope they do find a place to rent while searching options.

Barbara said...

A similar thing happened to my sister. They had listed their house a couple of times and it never sold. The third time they listed it, it sold right away and they had no plans in place. Luckily, my mother had an extra bedroom so they put everything in storage and stayed with her. I think the way you did it with the rent condo was probably the best way to be sure you found the best landing spot.

Anonymous said...

I feel for them; you are right that they face some serious downsizing! I've been hearing that moving costs are also way up right now, so it's a costly option to just box and move everything without significant downsizing. I've been going through possessions for too long and I'm not nearly ready to move yet, but I've been making steady progress. I think the way you and B did it is just about right, and it's how I'm planning to proceed when I'm ready.

Tom said...

Here's the thing. We did some major decluttering before we moved. We got rid of all the kids' stuff and half our furniture. We moved into a smaller house, but not that much smaller. Yet now, a couple of years later, we STILL have too much stuff!

Jeanette Lewis said...

After our decision to move to a smaller city we spent 4 months de-cluttering and preparing our house for sale. We bought another house before selling ours. The market where we lived was hot and our house sold in two weeks for well over the asking price. Things worked out for us but the whole process took six months. Even with a six-month timeframe, the decisions were not without stress. I hope your friends find a new place to live!

Carol Cassara said...

I am a big planner so this would make me so nervous!

David @iretiredyoung said...

Hi Tom, I just wrote a post on my blog about how some of the major decisions we made were not always done in what might be described as the most logical way, but they seem to have worked well for us.
I note a few comments about them needing to downsize, as if this is a bad thing. We've downsized significantly over the past 6 years, and I couldn't be happier about it. I think Amy and her husband will do just fine, they've taken an action to commit, possibly without that they would have just maintained the status quo, now they're certain to do some new...how exciting!

Laurie Stone said...

As someone who likes to plan and go slow, I'll need lots of time to get out of our home of almost 20 years. Having a month would give me hives, but I wish them well. I know people who have gone through it and survived!

Wisewebwoman said...

Mine was a massive downsizing so I planned my move to my 1 bedroom senior independent living building in the city for a couple of years. My health was not great and was going to get worse and I had lost my beloved canine companion.

I can't imagine what your friends have to undergo, and I am so happy you didn't tell them, we have to learn these lessons for ourselves, don't we? Careful storage with a list might be a solution and an arranged meeting with the family to choose their belongings or heirlooms.

But it does sound like a nightmare.


Rebecca Olkowski said...

I've had to move on a dime so where there is a will, there is a way. They just sound a little more impulsive than some. Sounds like an exciting venture and I hope they find a place they love.

Kay said...

Wow! They warn you about doing exactly what they're doing. They say to absolutely try staying at a place first before moving permanently there. Gee... I thought it was only Hawaii and California that had the crazy sky high prices. If you were to downsize here in Hawaii, the median price for a condo is close to $500,000 right now. It's nuts!

gigi-hawaii said...

I guess they didn't do much planning for the future, and just jumped in without much thought. Fingers crossed that it all turns out well in the end.

Brian English said...

Consider this: Our neighbors just sold their house for full asking price in two days. Two - 70+ year olds were going to put all their belongings in a U-Haul and move them selves to Savannah, North Carolina. Cost $5000. Becoming overwhelmed with packing, help, loading, logistics they contacted moving companies for bids. They ended up settling for a $17,000. Full move. Add on storage fees, etc and costs can easily reach $25k. Few consider this part of the experience.

Rock'n Russ said...

Almost eight years ago we purchased, sold and moved from the BayArea in California to Portland, Oregon to be closer to our daughters and the Grandkids. All this was done in less than two months and we had lived in our home for over 35 years! We were both working full time and we had friends help us pack up and we moved ourselves. Our 3 adult kids had already left home and we purged and donated many items before we packed up. In our case, we found a home to purchase first. Then we had to prepare our home to get it on the market. Things worked out well and we made the transition to our new home. Many changes along the way and it can be done. You just take the time to figure things out. My wife retired after we moved and I worked just part time for a year and then it was time to make the leap. I was 64 when we moved. Not that age has anything to do with it. It's having a good attitude and looking ahead for a change. We would have missed so much seeing the kids and grands if we had aged in place. Everyone of us has a story if we move or if we stay. Do what's best for you and enjoy the journey as they say.

Diane Stringam Tolley said...

Ohmyword, I get tired just thinking about what they'll have to accomplish in the next month! Yikes!

maryland said...

We rented for a year while we explored our new area. During this time we adjusted to a smaller space and this helped us to let go of excess stuff. Worked out well for us.

Janette said...

That is a gutsy move! Store everything except enough for a starter apartment. Rent. Move around. Take everything out in a year-sort- and move forward. They are not tied to any specific place…great. No commitments, just start getting to know each other again. You only have one life!
We got rid of most of our furniture and most of the “I think my kids will like this” stuff. I wish we had just done an estate sale like we did with mil house(that we sold in two weeks!).I just watched a podcast on the difficult task of spending and getting rid of what you spent your life accumulating. Tough to wrap our minds around.

Linda Myers said...

They're brave. Maybe they thought everything out - or maybe they're in for some big surprises!

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Julie Garman said...

This is exactly where my husband and I are sitting. Do we try to sell our place while the housing prices are high? What if it sells? It's a terrifying thought. Downsizing is an extremely daunting task. What is stopping us is the "what next". How small are we thinking? Where? We'd be paying a top price for a place because of the housing prices. Rent? That means moving TWICE in a short period of time. We never wanted to leave the place we have but it's a tri-level and I'm looking at knee and back surgeries in the next few years. Not sure HOW you plan for those things.

Thank you for mentioning your friends. I'm enjoying other's comments too. Perhaps we'll come to some conclusion soon and it will end up on my blog! :)