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Moving laterally in retirement
Old 06-09-2016, 09:41 AM   #1
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Moving laterally in retirement

We are edging closer to relocating from our current single family home, located about 20 miles from the California coastline, to a smaller, lower maintenance townhome that would put us within 4 miles of the coastline. Same county, but a slightly more expensive city then where we are currently, so we'd likely not be pocketing any money in spite of the square footage downsize, but our overall housing run rate would decrease.

Advantages:
- Elimination of outside maintenance costs, which we currently accrue for at a rate of @ $10,000 per year (painting, roof, fencing, hardscaping, patio cover, landscaping, sprinkler system, plumbing from house to the street, gardener)
- Moving away from the noisy street we currently back up to. We bought the smallest house in the nicest neighborhood we could afford back in the day, which meant buying on it's perimeter.
- Smaller yard. Our combined front and rear yards are way too big for our current lifestyle.
- Cooler temps. We'd be moving to a cooler zone within our county, about an 8 - 10 degree swing.
- More upscale city. Our current city is very nice, but our target city is even nicer. Very clean, master planned and just darned pretty.
- Most of our hobbies, clubs and organized activities would transfer without any problem since they are countywide already.
- A gated townhome community would lend itself to our travel-heavy lifestyle
- We'd have a view patio as there are many in the area, and which I've wanted forever. I love the idea of starting our day with coffee, gazing at something, and ending it with wine doing same.
- We'd be living the coastal dream - hiking, biking, kayaking and dining at the coastline on a daily basis.

Cons:
- Fear of changing from the known to the unknown.
- The work involved in making this happen. (Not something I'm overly concerned about, but I think DH is.)

It's my style to emphasize the positives, and de-emphasize the negatives, so I'm aware I might be glossing over the con's, but I really want to want to do this. Meaning, I gotten this far before, then fallen back out of fear that we're making a mistake.

There would be a slight financial advantage in making this move in that our maintenance run rate would decrease. The primary motivation, however, is to move to a beautiful area that would allow us to embrace coastal living. I could see us living out our remaining years in the city we've targeted, but I know there would be a couple of years of sweat equity necessary to develop a set of nearby friends/acquaintances similar to what we have now.

For some reason I pause whenever I get to this point, and I'm not sure why. Would appreciate knowing if others have struggled with making a similar lateral move decision, and what the end results were if so, looking back.
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Old 06-09-2016, 11:12 AM   #2
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Well, I don't know if this will help but I love to talk about my move last July.

I found the perfect house for me, just 3 miles away and next door to my sweetheart for the past 17 years, Frank. It is 50 sf smaller than my old house, and 2 bedrooms instead of 3, but in a nicer neighborhood. Plus, it has the big shower, laundry room, and big garage that I always wanted. Basically, the inside of the house was perfect for me. It needed the landscaping, lot grading, and concrete work outside totally re-done. I bought my dream house for only $37K more than what I got for my prior home.

However, there are a LOT of expenses in moving, even just locally. I just can't over-emphasize this. Closing costs, the moving company, boxes, expenses of having two houses until the other one sells, a few pieces of furniture, fixing up the new house the way I wanted it, the yard project, repairs on the old house, and so on, everything I otherwise would not have spent, added up to $92,603 (including the $37K difference in house prices mentioned above). Granted, I didn't try to save money but there you go. Every single day it seemed like somebody else had his hand out for a few hundred dollars for something having to do with the two real estate transactions.

Your DH is smart to alert you about the work involved. To me the biggest negative in my move was that I tried to do too much. I was 67 when I moved and was thinking like a 25-year-old; I packed everything all by myself and that was too much for me both physically and mentally. I had some really bad falls as a consequence, broke several toes, had a head injury, threw my back out very badly, got stung by bees which I am allergic to because I wasn't looking, well, I could go on and on because I had more than a dozen bad injuries due to over-doing. Also I badly needed cataract surgery and didn't know it at the time, so I was over-doing while half blind. I spent the past year recovering. If I had it to do all over again, I'd tell the movers to pack everything. Then I'd pack just one suitcase, go to the Extended Stay America, and continue my normal life there until everything was moved (unpacking was a breeze in comparison with packing). My suggestion is that you spend the money to get someone to help you, and that would lessen the work load that your DH is concerned about.

To me the biggest positive is that this "Dream House" is something I have longed for all of my life. Not only that, but what a great location. Every morning, when I awaken, I can hardly believe that this house is mine. It's a big deal to me and gives me tremendous satisfaction. I just love living here. I would hate to have lived out my life without ever owning a house like this one. Not only that, but it's wonderful to be next door to Frank. He just pops in once or twice every day to say hi, which I love, and it's so easy for us to get together at the drop of a hat. Honestly there is nothing else that I could want in life. That's a feeling that is hard to describe.
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Old 06-09-2016, 11:29 AM   #3
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We're struggling with the same decesion right now. Keep having the same type of thoughts. In our case it might be 1000 miles. Different pros and cons but I think in the end it's about fear.
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Old 06-09-2016, 11:29 AM   #4
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So W2R, you would do all again in a heartbeat

I think in every big change we always look back and see something we would do different, but in the end it all worked out for you. You're not the first person to have the mind of a 25 year old and the body of a 67 year old, I have someone like that living in my house, in fact he was up walking around on our roof, Monday
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Old 06-09-2016, 11:35 AM   #5
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So W2R, you would do all in a heartbeat

I think in every big change we always look back and see something we would do different, but in the end it all worked out for you. You're not the first person to have the mind of a 25 year old and the body of a 67 year old, I have someone like that living in my house, in fact he was up walking around on our roof, Monday
Oh no!! You can tell him that W2R agrees with you and he should get down off that roof. I *FINALLY* persuaded Frank to not clean out his own gutters any more, just this year. Or, more accurately, he ignored my attempts at persuasion but as the aches and pains of aging got worse, he decided on his own to hire someone to clean his gutters.

Yes, I don't regret my move at all because I am getting tremendous value out of living in my new home. This is all that I really ever wanted in life, and, well, it's hard to explain how wonderful it is to live here, for me.

I do wish that I had been more realistic about what I could and couldn't do, though!
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Old 06-09-2016, 03:18 PM   #6
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Some random thoughts:

Prop 13? Capital gains impact? Appreciation potential of either location? Transaction costs to move? We realized the transaction costs to sell and move would pay for a lot of upgrades to our current house.

Thinking long term, does the place you are moving to or from have a hospital, a nice senior center with many amenities and services and nearby senior housing? We have friends of friends who moved to a good kayak place, but then one spouse got ill and passed away and the remaining spouse is not in a good place to age in place alone.

We really like our backyard and patio. We sit out on ours multiple times a day, no ocean view but we have a private backyard with lots of trees and some Redwoods to look at. If it were me I could see moving for a better patio spot, if we weren't happy with the one we have now.

We you really spend $10K a year every year in retirement on home repairs? That would be $300K over 30 years. I think our repair costs will go down when we are done with our planned upgrade list, but HOAs fees go on forever.
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Old 06-09-2016, 03:21 PM   #7
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Oh no!! You can tell him that W2R agrees with you and he should get down off that roof. I *FINALLY* persuaded Frank to not clean out his own gutters any more, just this year. Or, more accurately, he ignored my attempts at persuasion but as the aches and pains of aging got worse, he decided on his own to hire someone to clean his gutters.
I bought DH a tool that looks like a hair dryer on an extension pole from Amazon and it works great. Now he can clean the gutters himself and I guess worst case bonk himself with a dropped hair dryer sized blower, instead of falling from a ladder.
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Old 06-09-2016, 03:34 PM   #8
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Plus I didn't see you mention the best part of moving... an excuse to clean out some extra stuff! Go for it!
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Old 06-09-2016, 03:35 PM   #9
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We've been avoiding a similar decision for years, mostly for the same reasons. We are sure we want to move to a nicer but smaller house, but we're not sure if we want to stay in the same general area or to relocate to a completely different state/climate. Giving up years of accumulated local knowledge, and losing or changing friends altogether gives us pause too - we're a little introverted so making new friends won't come easily for us. YMMV

Very much a case by case decision IMO. Best of luck, the new location sure sounds nice!
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Old 06-09-2016, 03:57 PM   #10
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Thinking long term, does the place you are moving to or from have a hospital, a nice senior center with many amenities and services and nearby senior housing?
I like your post and I am curious about what you mean by senior housing. Over 55 gated communities? Low income housing for seniors? Assisted Living? All of the above? I'm not challenging you, but just trying to more fully understand your post.
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I bought DH a tool that looks like a hair dryer on an extension pole from Amazon and it works great. Now he can clean the gutters himself and I guess worst case bonk himself with a dropped hair dryer sized blower, instead of falling from a ladder.
He bought a gizmo like that on an extension pole, several years back. Eventually he became impatient with it (I forget exactly why), and was back on his ladder. He has a guy now who is insured and licensed and so on, and will clean his gutters for $100. That seems to be the best solution for him. Both of us are finding it to be very helpful to hire others to do certain things that we could do ourselves when we were younger.
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Old 06-09-2016, 04:18 PM   #11
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Would appreciate knowing if others have struggled with making a similar lateral move decision, and what the end results were if so, looking back.
Somewhat reminiscent of our move just about a year ago.

We loved our house. It was small, old and ordinary, but it sat in the middle of over two acres, mostly woods. And right in the middle of a relatively upscale neighborhood on the edge of a city, so only two miles or so from all the shopping we needed and less than 20 minutes from downtown. We both love wildlife and despite being so close to the city we had it in abundance. Deer, wild turkeys, even foxes on occasion. Ideal in many respects.

The drawback was that as I (ahem!) began to age, the maintenance on the house and those two acres started to wear on me. Not to mention the snow (300 foot driveway). We were severely torn between loving our environment and yearning for something a bit newer and less maintenance-heavy.

So we started looking around and almost immediately found something ideal, just about six miles away as the crow flies. The neighborhood is wonderful, and the home is a lock & leave condo so going traveling at a moment's notice is simple.

Our neighbors in this very small condo development are delightful. Nearly all of them are a little older than us, half are retired like us, and most are or were lawyers or other professionals.

We couldn't be happier, and expect to live here the rest of our days.
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Old 06-09-2016, 04:31 PM   #12
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W2R - Your experience is very relevant in that it was done for other than financial gains, similar to what we are looking to do, so thank you.

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Originally Posted by daylatedollarshort View Post
Some random thoughts:

Prop 13? Capital gains impact? Appreciation potential of either location? Transaction costs to move? We realized the transaction costs to sell and move would pay for a lot of upgrades to our current house.

No capital gains impact as we would be replacing at equal or slightly lessor value. No property tax implications, in that our current property tax base would transfer via CA Prop 60/Prop 90, which allows for a resident of 55+ years to do a one time property tax base transfer within/between participating counties, of which our county is one. Both cities are vibrant, pricey-ish areas so long term appreciation is no different here vs there. Transaction costs are what they are, and we have adequate cash reserves.

Thinking long term, does the place you are moving to or from have a hospital, a nice senior center with many amenities and services and nearby senior housing? We have friends of friends who moved to a good kayak place, but then one spouse got ill and passed away and the remaining spouse is not in a good place to age in place alone.

Areas have similar/equal amenities. Location is not an issue, other than one is very, very close to the ocean.

We really like our backyard and patio. We sit out on ours multiple times a day, no ocean view but we have a private backyard with lots of trees and some Redwoods to look at. If it were me I could see moving for a better patio spot, if we weren't happy with the one we have now.

Yes, yes, yes, agree!

We you really spend $10K a year every year in retirement on home repairs? That would be $300K over 30 years. I think our repair costs will go down when we are done with our planned upgrade list, but HOAs fees go on forever.

Home repairs, home maintenance and home improvement. As just one example, we spent $5,000 last year repainting the house, an every five year 'must do,' plus another $2,000 on termite tenting. And we currently have a bid sitting on our table for a new patio, which is upwards of $10,000, with the driveway looking to need redoing next. So, a slight increase in HOA dues, which we already pay currently, doesn't seem so bad as a replacement.
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Old 06-09-2016, 04:33 PM   #13
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I had a similar situation with the OP. I lived in the San Fernando Valley for about 30 years with my late wife. When i remarried, I moved from the SFV to a small town (29K people) that was 10 miles from Ventura.
After the initial adaption, I have grown to love the slower pace of life. We have most of the amenities in town, or a 15 minute drive over an uncrowded freeway to Ventura.
The climate is great, as we get some of the ocean influence without the low cloud cover.
Life is good!
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Old 06-09-2016, 04:37 PM   #14
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For some reason I pause whenever I get to this point, and I'm not sure why. Would appreciate knowing if others have struggled with making a similar lateral move decision, and what the end results were if so, looking back.
That list of "cons" doesn't sound that bad. If you're staying in the same county you don't lose your current friends.

Going from SFH to a townhome is not a move everyone can make. It is easier if you want to get away from home maintenance and upkeep, especially the outside, and you are able to live with the rules and choices other people make. If you are going to be absent on travel, a townhome is much easier.
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Old 06-09-2016, 05:26 PM   #15
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I like your post and I am curious about what you mean by senior housing. Over 55 gated communities? Low income housing for seniors? Assisted Living? All of the above? I'm not challenging you, but just trying to more fully understand your post.
All of the above plus where we live the city has several hospitals close by plus many senior services for free or low cost - door to door bus service, $2 meals at the senior center, activities, trips, senior counseling, Medicare help and much more. It helps people to age in place longer and then if they do need to move there is a lot of senior housing and assisted living close by.

Some retirees we know who moved away from family to scenic but more rural areas eventually had a hard time with a lack of public transportation, medical facilities and senior help in general. And it is not always easy to move back to an urban area here because of housing costs and using up one move Prop 13 tax benefits.
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Old 06-09-2016, 05:52 PM   #16
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ElizabethT - I don't think it matters for capital gains if you replace your house or not. It is my understanding if you have made over $500K for ($250K per spouse) you will incur capital gains taxes:
Capital Gains Tax On Real Estate | Bankrate.com

I agree on the property tax break, but it is one time. For us there is no going back if we ever sell our house and wanted to move back, at least not without losing a huge property tax break, even if prices here have not skyrocketed in the meantime, which is possibility. We have gone through some of the same issues and calculations, and so far decided to stay and only move if/when we can't keep the house up and would be better off in a 55+ community. I'm not really the landlord type, but even then financially it would make more sense to rent the house out than move, and eventually leave the house to one of the kids, again because of Prop 13. Just some food for thought. Prop 13 has kind of a lock in effect for many long time homeowners here.

If we found some place we wanted to move to I think we would rent for 6 months to a year to test it out. Many of our friends have left the area we are in for retirement. Some are happy, and some have regrets and cannot easily move back now. One moved back but couldn't afford as nice a suburb as the one he left.
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Old 06-09-2016, 06:05 PM   #17
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We just finished a lateral move to the California coast from an inland location. It has been a long process but we are thrilled with the new location.

In our case DH did not want to move originally, but after several years of trying I persuaded him we should buy a beach house. We got a short sale one block from the ocean in 2013, about 30 miles from home, in the neighboring county. We thought we would keep both houses and rent the beach house to help with expenses. Well, after less than a year of owning it, we loved the location so much we decided to live at the beach full time. But we also wanted a bit more space, and we realized we weren't really capable of a DIY major remodel, so we hired an architect and embarked on a remodel with a modest addition.

The bids turned out to be a lot higher than expected, so we also decided to sell the old house first and move to a rental. Therefore we had the proceeds of our old house to pay for the construction and living expenses. I am really glad we did it that way if only because I knew we had the money to complete the project - it eliminated a major source of stress.

Now I have my dream house and it's at the beach! The backyard patio is pretty but the "view patio" is a block away, next to "the pool" as DH likes to call it. It is in a walkable neighborhood with good health care nearby. Whenever I worry we spent too much I think about how our quality of life has improved by this move. Plus we are homebodies so it seems fitting that we spend our money for a nice home. I take a walk just about every day and every day it makes me relaxed and happy. And because we have one house, monthly expenses are less than they were when we owned two, and our nest egg is the same. I predict property taxes will be about the same as well, though we won't know until we get the reassessment for the house with the addition.

Our social life hasn't changed much because our old friends are only 30 miles away and they like the beach too. We are hoping that family and friends visit often, but we don't know yet because we have only been in the new place for a month. So far I can say there hasn't been a downside to speak of, and both DH and I seem equally happy here. Although I thought there was no way DH would ever sell the old house, he doesn't seem to miss it at all. The new neighbors are friendly even though we have yet to make close friendships.

We obviously didn't make any of these decisions quickly. But if it's your dream to retire at he coast I can tell you it's a great lifestyle. Good luck with your decision!
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Old 06-09-2016, 06:29 PM   #18
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I love living close to the coast. I'm not walkable to the beach (unless I have 90 minutes or more) - but I drive there most mornings (<10 mins) to walk the dog.

Depending on where you live in California - morning/evening marine layer can be an issue. Also what elevation. We watch the marine layer roll in every afternoon around 7 in the late spring/'early summer and hang out till 10am the next morning.... Commonly referred to as May Gray and June Gloom. This is something that is less frequent when you live inland. Some folks are bother by the cool damp air... (I'm not.)

I live about 2.5 miles from the beach (as the crow flies) - and wouldn't trade it. I also have a nice view off our backyard of canyon and the small hill between us and the beach - it's nice to sit out in the yard with a glass of wine and enjoy the view.

Only you can decide if smaller SF is right for you. I'd definitely consider a lateral move if it meant moving from inland to more coastal... but that's me.
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Old 06-09-2016, 06:43 PM   #19
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ElizabethT - I don't think it matters for capital gains if you replace your house or not. It is my understanding if you have made over $500K for ($250K per spouse) you will incur capital gains taxes:
Capital Gains Tax On Real Estate | Bankrate.com

We are OK here, though just barely.

I agree on the property tax break, but it is one time. For us there is no going back if we ever sell our house and wanted to move back, at least not without losing a huge property tax break, even if prices here have not skyrocketed in the meantime, which is possibility. We have gone through some of the same issues and calculations, and so far decided to stay and only move if/when we can't keep the house up and would be better off in a 55+ community. I'm not really the landlord type, but even then financially it would make more sense to rent the house out than move, and eventually leave the house to one of the kids, again because of Prop 13. Just some food for thought. Prop 13 has kind of a lock in effect for many long time homeowners here.

Yes, agree that this is the biggest issue of all. We need to be as certain as possible that the new home is the CA 'keeper.'

If we found some place we wanted to move to I think we would rent for 6 months to a year to test it out. Many of our friends have left the area we are in for retirement. Some are happy, and some have regrets and cannot easily move back now. One moved back but couldn't afford as nice a suburb as the one he left.

The new city has a higher per sq ft cost then where we are currently, so no loss of buying power should occur, unless I possibly misunderstood your example?
All really good points. You made me think hard on the property tax exchange, re- thinking through it's one-and-done provision. Thank you.
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Old 06-09-2016, 06:48 PM   #20
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Souschef, Persn and Rodi, your detailed responses are much appreciated.
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