To move, or not to move — that is the question, when contemplating retirement. Sixty-four percent of Americans say they’ll probably move at least once in retirement, citing reasons such as proximity to family (29%), reduction in home expenses (26%) and change in health (17%) or marital (12%) status. In a study of Canadians, 57% indicated weather as their prime motivation to move.
Because Glen and I were embarking on a journey to find ‘home’, in its deepest meaning, we did not conform to the reasons. Fortunately, we agreed on the destination, a crucial factor in any relocation project. Some couples do not. Before saying hello to a new place, however, we must bid our old one goodbye.
In a list of stressful lifetime events, research says the stress of selling a house comes above the levels experienced when losing a job, becoming a parent or planning a wedding. Certainly Glen and I agonized every step of the way, literally. We’d walk 25 minutes along a river path, crafting a plan for selling our house, then on the return reverse our decisions.
SELLING THE FAMILY HOUSE
- Price matters. We must determine the house’s value, pick a list price and price it to sell. May sound easy, yet our house is likely our most valuable asset. We want top dollar for it.
- What we believe our house is worth doesn’t matter. Nor does it matter what a real estate agent thinks. Our house is only worth as much as a buyer is willing to pay for it. That’s a hard lesson to absorb.
- We interviewed two realtors to settle on a list price, with the first one serving, unintentionally, as a building inspector. She outlined flaws in our house, from the need for a new roof to replacing an atrium pane, adding eaves troughs to neutralizing our interior colours, so many that we questioned if she even wanted the listing. The second one simply confirmed an amount we had in mind; we signed an agreement.
- Staging houses has become de rigueur, and rightly so. A house must present curb appeal from the outside and a favourable first impression inside. We invested a fair bit of money preparing, and repairing, our house to put on the market.
- Once a house is listed, the first few weeks of showings are critical. Interest wanes the longer a house sits on the market or, in the parlance of the business, the listing goes stale.
- Real estate agents don’t agree on the merits of holding an Open House. Our realtor opposed the idea, claiming it would attract the wrong traffic (curious neighbours, for example), but we insisted. As luck had it, a prospective buyer came to the Open House and he eventually made an acceptable offer.
PACKING UP AFTER 30 YEARS
“It’s easier to die than to move … at least for the Other Side you don’t need trunks.” Wallace Stegner
We were in a quandary deciding what to keep, to give to friends, to donate, to sell, to recycle or to trash. Since our place in Vancouver, though not yet found, would be considerably smaller than our house, much of our furniture would not suit the space. Downsizing, or rightsizing as it’s commonly called, warrants its own post, but I will say now my mom’s temperament prevailed in the selection process. Suppressing sentimentality, I rather ruthlessly chose which few possessions to take — for storage in Toronto for six months and then on our cross-Canada expedition.
Consumed by the business — selling and sorting — of relocation, we may neglect our emotions. For example, I’d scheduled a tennis match and meal with my favourite female partners shortly before our departure but, as the time drew near, I realized I could not bear the anguish of a last match. I cancelled it. Bidding adieu to dear friends broke my heart. Walking through our house filled me with sorrow. Never again would we entertain in our beloved place! I choked back gallons of tears in the final hours and on the highway to Toronto.
Did we make mistakes in the editing process? Yes. Were they irrevocable ones? Yes. Do we live with regret? No. We must not carry negative baggage.
In 30 years I amassed a wealth of cherished memories — both personal and professional. I remembered to pack those! •