January 31, 2006

A perspective on moving.

If you faced the question today whether you would buy the house you live in now at its current market price or that other place you're thinking of:


Which would you pick? If it would be completely absurd to buy your current house today, does that mean you should move?



Robert Burnham said...

The questions you've posed seem a little off-kilter!

And, really, the choice of house vs. condo is something only you can answer -- especially given the difference in living experiences between a (semi) suburban house and a downtown condo. If you have just grown tired of maintaining a house, then a high-rise condo certainly removes the hassle.

But it strikes me the real question should be, does the reason you bought the house in the first place -- or, later, hung onto it -- still make sense? If so, keep it. Otherwise...

Maxine Weiss said...

In order to get me to move, there has to be some sort of otherworldly force that comes in and hits me in the face. A flood. A fire. An earthquake. Drugs and prostitution outside my window. Noise. Those are all signs from up above telling me to get out.

Short of that, nothing can make me move. Certainly not real property market values----that would not move me.

If it ain't broke.....etc etc.

Peace, Maxine

Aeolas said...

Don't forget that moving to a condo means adding a bunch of neighbors. Not all neighbors are bad of course, but I moved out of a condo(into a house) a few years ago because my neighbors were horrid.

Rural house to urban condo is a major change, but given your background, it may not be an issus for you.

Good luck whichever you choose.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

To quote my husband, "I'd rather take a good ass kickin' than move."

Stacy said...

It depends. I am facing that difficult question myself right now and it is really tearing me apart. I dont want to move but market forces in Boston are forcing me to decide whether to buy now or move somewhere else.

I tend to like the no-hassle aspect of a condo in terms of maintenance but I live alone and don't have a lot of free time to mow the lawn, fix the furnance, etc. But the point someone else made about having live-in neighbors is important- sometimes you just cant kick back at 12am and put the stereo way up (if you are prone to do that) or decide to vacuum at 6am (if you are prone to do that).

I do know it sucks to have to move if you don't want to. And it also depends on location and the real estate market.

Truly said...

Four years is long enough to live anywhere. Time for something new! Plus, the condo would seem somehow more appropriate to your blogging lifestyle.

I'm sure your readers would be happy to provide moving advice. For example, don't pack your dishes in newspaper (they'll get covered in black marks).

Ann Althouse said...

Robert: It's not the normal way to look at the question, and it shouldn't be. It's offered as a perspective, a challenge, to think about the problem in a new way, because the resistance to moving is so great.

Aeolus: My current house is in an old-style neighborhood with small lots. I don't have much distance from my neighbors at all. And the new building has very thick walls and floors and is the sort of luxury place that would tend to bring in relatively quiet people who are respectful of their neighbors' comfort. I know several people who live in the building and love it.

Ricardo said...

Some random comments:

1. Live in a place that reflects the present you, and not the past you. You'll find your creativity and enjoyment of life soaring in a place that mirrors your present attitudes and feelings about life.

2. Don't overblow the difficulty of moving. Once you get into it, things (downsizing, selling or giving stuff to charity, hiring a mover, etc) move quickly. And you'd be surprised how many people will be willing to help you.

3. Don't be completely complacent about "the boom" in real estate. The high prices of today may not stay that way, at the same level, forever. If you're serious about moving, this is a good time to take the profit out of a home. At the same time, be cautious about what you're getting into. Condos (traditionally) don't hold their value as well as detached homes. They are the last to soar in a boom, and the first to crash. I'm not trying to be a "doom and gloom" person here, but I'm old enough to have lived through three housing busts (in Hawaii, Colorado, Texas) and prices DO come down. If the equity in the house is meant to be part of your retirement bundle, this is a good time to take it out and save it.

4. As I wrote on a previous blog, you have many options. You can bank the money from the house, and rent for a year to see if you like condo living. You can move to another town, another state, another country. You can run for Congress, or go to Florence and study art. Part of your "process" during this phase of considering a move, should be to decide "Who am I today, and what would make me really, really happy?" So don't feel constrained by just evaluating one or two alternatives. Open your heart, and all the rest will follow.

Brendan said...

Maybe I'm off-base, but I get the distinct impression that you're trying to talk yourself into this move. Do you want our opinions ... or blessings? Are you leaning towards the condo? If so, are you "challenging" us to talk you out of it? Do your kids have sentimental attachments to the house?

Simon Kenton said...

"If it would be completely absurd to buy your current house today, does that mean you should move?"

No, not necessarily. But if you are unwilling to move, then you need to shift the value of your house from your net worth to the net worth of your heirs, presumably your sons. The house by becoming unchangeably yours, actually becomes theirs. If you aren't willing to capitalize it, it's no longer your capital.

Robert Burnham said...

I hadn't realized that your current house is on a small lot, with close neighbors. For me, that would definitely urge a move -- but it would be in the direction of another house on a larger, more secluded lot.

My wife and I live in a Milwaukee suburb in a smallish 1950s ranch house on half an acre, about half of which is wooded. This is very much by choice, as we're birders and "nature enjoyers" rather than urbanites.

So -- tastes differ.

But in regard to the actual hassles of moving, if you're as lazy as I am, it always seems far more agonizing in prospect than it does in the rear-view mirror. Clearing out closets and the basement is definitely difficult; people who keep lots of stuff tend to be the same ones who are emotionally ambushed by long-lost artifacts surfacing as you prepare for a move.

The hardest point in the move, I think, is when you put down the first empty box and start to pack it. That's the moment in which the life of the old house ends, while the new one hasn't yet begun. In a way, it's good that the job of moving is so exhausting -- the physical effort helps carry you though the dead time when you can no longer call either place home.

One piece of advice you always hear: jettison things ruthlessly before the move. Actually, that's not a really good idea. We've usually found that furniture that was basement stuffing before the move suddenly develops new usefulness in the new space.

Good luck!

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I always make column lists when I am facing a hard and life changing decision. Generally three columns. What is good, what is bad and what makes no difference but seems to be important to me. Make a balance sheet.

For example. Good---no yard work if you move to a condo. Bad....no private yard to enjoy. Good... no time to do yard work condo so is good. Bad....I like to do yard work and look at garden catalogues and might miss it. And so on.

That is how I make a decision. That's what I did when I decided to become divorced. :-) I'm just an analytical person.

Maybe you need to flip a coin????

Aspasia M. said...

"If it would be completely absurd to buy your current house today, does that mean you should move?"

I think it means that the rise in housing prices are not entirely rational.

However, it could be an argument that you should sell and run to the bank, laughing.

tcd said...

I think it's time for some tough love. Whatever you decide to do, I'm sure you know that you will have regrets regardless of how long or how much you've pondered the decision. So just do it or don't do it!

BTW, love the decor of your house (from what I can see in the pic).

Pete said...

Ann wrote:
(The question is) offered as a perspective, a challenge, to think about the problem in a new way, because the resistance to moving is so great."

If the resistance to moving is so great, perhaps you shouldn't move. But, Ann, please, you've already made up your mind. Surely you can you see that.

jeff said...

1. Moving is a pain. An expensive one, too.
2. Even though you own the place, you still have to pay "rent" (assoc. fees).
3. You share walls with people you are not related to, nor have any control over. Things going thump-thump-thump in the night are not titalating unless you are making the noise.
4. You are sharing a building with people who's trash/sewer/firebug habits/kids you cannot control.
5. Will the commute be any better/worse?
6. What's the difference in insurance?

Laura Reynolds said...

I gather going back several months that cleaning out the old house is a big obstacle. A move forces the issue. A pain, but you'll feel better when it over. Financially I suspect you won't be making a bad decision as many do when they sell a house that has appreciated in value. I say move and enjoy the change.

If you are really hesitant to sell the existing house, make it a rental and hold onto it for awhile.

Ann Althouse said...

tcd said..."BTW, love the decor of your house (from what I can see in the pic)."

That's the model of the condo, not my house, but I do think they did a nice job.

jeff: The commute will become a 1 mile walk down a street I throughly enjoy, with lots of cafes, shops, and restaurants. This is the single best reason for moving as I see it. My current commute is a very easy 1.3 mile drive, so it isn't a problem, but the walk would be really nice. Healthy too.

stever: Yes, I am interested in editing down all the clutter that's grown up around me in 20 years. The incentive to put things in rational order is a positive. On being a landlord: that's something I totally don't want to do.

Jen Bradford said...

I know this is a real decision, and not an easy one. But I hope you can hear the question, "should I live in this magnificent place or the other one?" and feel like a lucky duck.

Laura Reynolds said...

"On being a landlord: that's something I totally don't want to do."

I don't blame you. Some people turn it over to property management companies which do all the work. I'm not cut out for it either way but for those wanting to hold onto the investment it works.

PatCA said...

"If it would be completely absurd to buy your current house today, does that mean you should move?"

No, it just means that housing-wise, you (and I) are quite lucky to have gotten in early.

As far as being a landlord, a friend of mine hired a management company, and they do it all: collect rent, fix things.

Anonymous said...

Do you mean you are renting and it would be absurd to buy the house at its current market price? If so, definitely buy something else and move.

If you are asking whether you should sell your current house, take the obscene profit and move, then you have to weigh the other factors. Relatively high interest rates, slowing market conditions, cost of condo maintenance and homeowner's dues. Age and condition of present home. How many units in condo are sold, how many are rentals, how many other condos are in the area. Pets,yada, yada, yada.

Smilin' Jack said...

1. Don't assume you will really edit your clutter. When the time comes, Satan will appear to you to tempt you with how much easier it would be to just put it in storage. Many have succumbed....

2. Walking the length of
State Street in a Madison winter could get old fast.

Aspasia M. said...

Walking is recommended as one of the best forms of exercise. Two miles a day of walking would be fantastic.

I'd do it. But I live in a condo now, and I like it. I've never had noise or neighbor problems. At one point a baby lived next door, and I never even heard her cry.

But I'd stay in a nearby hotel on a weekend to test out the noisy, drunk, student potential.

XWL said...

I'll move in if you don't.

(so long as one of these doesn't adorn the lobby or any nearby courtyards)

(above link is both an attempt at humorously bridging this post and mine and gratuitous self-linking, ignore it at will, but really it's the sort of thing everyone should be aware of, and prevent from ever seeing the light of day)

chuck b. said...

I'd sooner levitate off the bed, have my head do a 360, and spew chunky vomitus on Max von Sydow before I'd consider moving.

Meade said...

You can always move to a condo but you'll never have that house again.

bearing said...

If you only live 1.3 miles from work now, why aren't you already walking to work?

Will decreasing your distance by ~25% make that much of a difference?

Maxine Weiss said...

Jeff said it: There are too many things you have no control over in a condo, more so than a house.

Even the good things that you love now, the shops and cafes----you have no control over whether they close up or not.

I was taught very early, that property is something that you hold on to, no matter what. The people I know who've made it big in real estate (I'm not one of 'em--sniffle)......kept buying buying buying, and holding on to each acquisition.

Maybe you could rent out your home? But, definitely don't sell.

If you are lucky enough to own property, put it into a trust and hold onto it.

Peace, Maxine

Kurt said...

Personally, the change from 1.3 miles to 1 mile hardly seems worth the effort and hassle.

Sure, the condo sounds fun, and it would be cool to be in a lively neighborhood and to be even closer to things you want to do.

Speaking from my own personal experience, though, as one who hates to move and who dreamed of life in my own house for many years before buying the one I have now, I'd stay put if I were you. But as Robert Burnham said, that's a question only you can answer. This is my first house, and I still have the enthusiasm of a new homeowner.

Much as I dislike the expense and the hassle of home maintenance (I'm due to have the outside painted soon and when will I ever resolve the hassles of my deck or the mess that is my yard), I love the privacy and the quietness of my house, and I'm looking forward to getting a dog or two one of these days.

I guess I've still got lots of dreams about my house and what I can do here. If you've done what you wanted with your house already, though, then perhaps it's time to move to a new place that will stir up new dreams for you.

On a related note, I read a great book last spring called The Little Locksmith by Katharine Butler Hathaway. It's a memoir which is largely focused around its author's decision to buy a house. I highly recommend it. (It probably won't help you answer the question, but it might give you a new perspective on the question.)

knox said...

If your house has no yard--and you don't mind the horrendous process of moving!--then the condo sounds better. The ability to walk to work is a huge plus...a really big lifestyle improvement, IMO. I know you like to drive, but you're not getting much out of your commute now, obviously.

Guesst said...

The idea of downsizing your life, scaling back on clutter and yard work and maintenance is appealing, especially to women. Having a great view and a better walking route is a bonus.

If you want a lifestyle that is low-maintenance and less expensive, go for it--but please know what you are giving up (freedom, privacy, yard, disorganization, space).

Good luck.

rafinlay said...

Deja Vu! This reminds me of the discussion which led to Silvio. The first step in rationalizing what you already want to do. Not that that's a bad thing, mind you. Exposing a hypothesis for review is a kind of fail-safe to make sure you haven't missed anything important. But still ... I predict a move in your (near) future.

froggyprager said...

Regarding your original question, I would imagine that many people would say they would not buy their current home at the market price because it has gone up so much and it seems crazy to buy it at that high price but what is the alternative if everything is expensive. Even if you like it a lot and have the equity from your house, is it absurd to buy a condo that costs as much as these do? Regarding the specific condo you are thinking about and other similar ones in Madison, I think it is significantly over priced. Looking at MLS for units in the building it is crazy to pay the prices they are charging for these condos. They are very very nice but it seems too much and I think they will have trouble selling for those prices. I hate to say this but my perdiction is that they will have to drop the prices and they won't resell for much more or maybe less than people bought them for. Maybe your thinking is what does that matter since you plan to stay anyway. How many people in Madison WI can afford to pay $600K - $1 million for a condo?