Looking for a home…

My current front door in the summer

My current front door in the summer

The dreaded conversation has begun.

The beloved husband and I have started to talk about downsizing our home. The beloved husband is in his early 70s and I (his trophy bride) am in my sixties. No need for all the bedrooms we have. They just encourage visitors.

What we long for is our own bedroom on the first floor. We don’t have any problems with stairs now but it’s never a good idea to wait until you can’t navigate to move on.

We made a list of things we *need.*

  • A basement for the beloved husband’s workshop
  • A place for his guitars and my sewing machines
  • Cat territory where litter boxes won’t stink up the whole house
  • Small garden for me for a few tomato plants and some herbs
  • Small pond for my fish friends (it’s cheaper than therapy)
  • Shade tree to encourage birds
  • Bird feeders (notice the plural) and bird bath

Then we looked at some other *nice* things.

Less work with snow removal and the yard would be good. As much as I enjoy pulling weeds in my garden, I don’t like yard work.

An open layout would be great. We don’t need formal parlors and dining rooms. The bottom line is less but bigger rooms.

Some of the *needs* are the deal breakers. Others are minimally negotiable (the litter box is not going in my clothes closet!).

This is what we found at many over-55 communities.

Pet limitations — We have four cats. Developments limit the number of pets and bird feeders. They have a formula. I am not sure what that means (and no one could explain it exactly), maybe it’s pounds or combinations of dogs and cats but we have a “no cats left behind” policy in our house.

Birds — Only one small feeder allowed on the patio. No bird bath. Birds are dirty. We don’t want to encourage them. Without proper landscaping which I would not be allowed to do, there wouldn’t be many birds.

Gardens – No vegetable plants allowed. No tomatoes! In fact you can’t plant a flowering tree because they are dirty. (Do you sense a theme here and would you call it sterile?)

No Starbucks nearby — That may not qualify as a top deal breaker but I sure would prefer one.

$$$ — Downsizing doesn’t mean saving money. Most of these communities are pricey. Taxes and homeowner’s fees are equal to what we pay now only we have less square footage and no private yard. Some have clubhouses and pools, some don’t. Can’t remember the last time I used a pool!

We have found wonderful homes with the perfect layout. I could be ready to pack up and move. However….their rules require one or both of us to give up what we enjoy.

You have to be ready. Maybe we haven’t really “aged into” these residential areas yet. Perhaps in a few more years they will be more appealing, that’s if I can part with my fish, frogs and birds.

Campaigning for a "no frogs left behind" policy

Campaigning for a “no frogs left behind” policy




53 thoughts on “Looking for a home…

  1. We’ve had some of these same conversations, Kate. We are in a little different situation because both of my parents are still living and they are living in their home. We aren’t feeling very independent. 🙂 But the idea of downsizing is so appealing to me. I even watch shows on tv like “Tiny House Nation.” Clearly I’m beginning to think that nesting looks better without the responsibilities of a large house. I think that you are probably doing the best thing which is to begin talking about it and you’ll be ready when the right opportunity comes along. Some of the restrictions you mentioned would be a very hard adjustment at this point, but maybe later they won’t mean as much!


    • Right now we are thinking that if we find a ranch house (one floor) with a small yard, that may work best for us for the next ten years or until we need assisted living. We just aren’t ready to give up the great outdoors.


  2. I briefly touched on this topic with my husband today. But only on the part about having to reduce our footprint (clutter). From the looks of your home – which is gorgeous, pond, fish, frogs, birds and cats, I just wouldn’t be able to leave any of it behind. Our home is too big for us. Still, it overlooks a pond and I would hate to give that up.


  3. It is not an easy task. I for one do not like all of those rules. Limiting bird feeders sounds extreme. As you know we’ve been looking, correction…my husband has been looking for over a year. We just want a rancher with a double garage for a workshop, out of the city, but close to civilization that is finished with taxes that won’t bankrupt us. It doesn’t exist yet, so here we stay.


  4. Why would you even consider a place like that. There is one where I work and they can’t do anything. Ronnie asked if he could bring a keg to the next reunion there. Lol


    • The allure of no snow shoveling (especially after the last two winters) and grass cutting along with a community of similar aged people that may have a few things in common is attractive. At the end of the day, I need some level of outdoors. Tell Ronnie not to worry. The keg will be just fine at our current house!


  5. I downsized regarding yard and pets, but I needed a couple of guest rooms for my kids when they visit, so the house is about the same size.


  6. Kate,
    I know what my parents were looking at when they just finally downsized (too late, it seems) this past summer/fall. They ended up in a community that has different “levels,” for different needs. It’s a good thing about that. But you give up freedom in many areas to live in one of these communities. I think hubby and I are too uncomfortable with institutional stuff and it will end up being a problem . . . . Love your needs though!!! xo


  7. Your list is important but, like the others who’ve commented, I understand how hard it is to find all of your must haves. Hubbs is fussy, me, not so much. He wants the ease of a condo, without all those people. Geez Louise.

    What kills me is most condos are upstairs/downstairs.

    I’d take a ranch or a manufactured home/mobile home with laundry, kitchen etc on the main floor. 1 guest/office and the rest for us. Good luck to you, it’s fun to look but can be discouraging, too.

    Oh, and if left to my own devices, we’d have 3 dogs already!!



    • A condo without people? If he finds one, let me know. We looked at a condo and it was nice enough. Layout good but the way it was built, the next door condo door opened right onto it’s porch. There was no street parking for guests and no parking lot. For me it was claustrophobic. Looking can be fun and frustrating. Fortunately we don’t have a strict timeline. 3 dogs? Woohoo!


  8. My wife suggested a mobile home In an all owner park. A reasonably priced home that would allow you to keep the cats, an area where you could grow tomatoes (and not a lot of yard clean up), plus you could probably put in a bird bath. Your husband could probably have a tough shed put in at the end of the driveway in the back to do work. A double wide would allow room for some storage, and a degree of privacy. Also not too pricey and in a mobile home park where everyone is an owner she felt the park is likely to be kept up well. Oh, and your property taxes are cheap (my wife is an accountant-leave it to her to think of that). Likely you find a Starbucks close by too. Anyway just a thought Kate.


  9. It is amazing to me how many communities have stairs to the front door and narrow door frames throughout. If you make the plunge, a tricked out golf cart can get you to a Starbucks and a garden supply store…in the right place. 8)


  10. We are talking about it too. My husband has wonderful ideas of places hundreds of miles from where we are now — which is also where his mother is. Ummmmm, we can’t go until … Well that and until we’ve fixed all the problems with this house for the new owners!


    • I always wished we had (nice) relatives further south. It’s a struggle. Leaving this area means leaving friends and family. It’s easier said than done. No in-laws left so I don’t have to worry about that.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Sometimes in the process of downsizing, you get a chance to figure out what really belongs on your MUST HAVE list. Mine evolved when I moved, as I was certain the home I would find would have a two car garage (mine only has one), and I was sure it would have a privacy fence (chain link instead), but it turns out that an updated kitchen and updated bathrooms ended up topping the list instead, and I had to be willing to negotiate a little on some of my other criteria. The one absolute other than single story was that it be dog-friendly, of course, and that there were no breed restrictions with the HOA (because Akitas are sometimes excluded).

    Unless you have a killer cat, at least that one won’t be a major concern.

    Wishing you luck as you continue your search. The more you look, the more you narrow down what you are willing to negotiate, and what you aren’t willing to give up. Gives us a chance to decide what really matters to us, and that helps out a lot. I was lucky to find a place with a nice green belt behind my property line, and I added a large patio cover out back, so at least I have my own little slice of nature to enjoy every morning and evening. Small things really do matter. 🙂


    • We are fortunate that we don’t have a set time for this. We can continue to look until we find something that will work. We also don’t have a house in back of us and it’s wonderful. Not sure if that will happen again.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. It’s good to be thinking about this now, but it sounds like it is too soon for you to make the move. I’m sure we’ll want a one-story house in the future also but, right now, we like to think the stairs we must go up to get to our bedroom helps keep us limber. Good luck with your planning!


  13. Ditto with us, too. About 10 years ago we downsized from large two story to smaller one story well build to hurricane standards all brick small but enough yard home almost to beach, within walking distance to lake, restaurants, grocery, and Starbucks. Lost of places to walk with trees. It is planned community but not one designed just for “active adults”. Families and people of all ages. Good deed restrictions keep it nice. And it has worked well.
    But we are evaluating one more move. Husband is unhappy with the smaller size and we have stuff in a storage unit. As his health is not good, we’d like to be able and eventually just sit and see sunrise/sunset and the horizon – and stars if we can’t get out and walk. And have a interesting destination place for family to visit and have room along with stuff for the younger set to do.
    Take time to evaluate. The specialized communities are not for everyone. My Dad would have not lived as long without his giant garden and sloping forest to the creek to look at and putter around. Bird feeders and bird baths – and visiting neighbor cats and dogs with happy children in tow sometimes. But one of my aunts and uncles bought into one and adored the lifestyle. One of my neighbors moved into a (tiny, cute) house in one and she loves it, he doesn’t.
    So we debate. I can promise if I move, it will have some sort of view and won’t be in a location where we there’s the yearly possibility of having to get out heavy plywood hurricane boards
    and put them up…although the roll down metal coverings are perfect acceptable…if there’s a view.(and all the tools are so not going…enough home remodeling projects, already)


    • I hear you. I’d like to find a ranch home in a mixed community. We built this house 12 years ago and wish we would have put the master br on the first floor. This is a tough move. Upsizing is much easier.


  14. That’s a difficult discussion. We’re the same age and are starting to have those thoughts. The Mrs has simplified the discussion, though. She says the only way she is leaving here is feet first or in a wheel chair. Sigh.


    • I think my husband would prefer that too. He is investigating at my nudging. My mother waited too long and her last year in a home without a 1st floor bathroom was tough on us all. Had she moved when she talked about it, her life would have been simpler. Getting the timing right is what it’s all about.


      • If we live long enough, we’ll probably need to move again.

        Our neighborhood is not a deed-restricted 55+ community. But there are not many young families in the neighborhood because most units are smallish, with 2-3 bedrooms. No McMansions.

        We own the land under our unit, but only have to take care of the plantings in the courtyard ~ some people grow tomatoes and herbs and flowers. We have a lime tree and a few pineapple plants.

        The rest of the yard maintenance is covered with our HOA dues ~ so no mowing the lawn in the heat of the summer.

        We have a lagoon behind our unit with frogs and fish and birds and otters and the occasional coyote. There are prohibitions about feeding birds, but that doesn’t seem to deter them from visiting. It is very infrequent that I walk out on the back deck without wildlife to greet me.


  15. I love your criteria list! Nothing will ever be perfect but maybe almost perfect. Bill and I “upsized” to retire from a 3 story townhouse to a one level “zoned” house with bedrooms on opposite sides of an open kitchen/dining room/great room. Bill actually designed it and it works perfectly for visitors who have their own suite at the other end of the house and leave us undisturbed at the other end. Not in a retirement community we have had horses, cats and dogs – any number or size. Tried tomatoes but the deer liked them better. Like I say, “Nothing will ever be perfect.” Good luck to you in the planning Kate and stick to your demands!


    • Your house sounds perfect. Sometimes I think a different layout (minus the retirement community) would work just fine for us. As our house is now, there is no privacy when there are guests.


  16. Yes, it’s good to look ahead, but I know a few people who moved into their retirement communities early and outlived their money. 😦 The good thing about a house in LA is that we can’t afford anything big. I hear you on larger rooms — I hate the fact that I run into doorways with the laundry basket! On the other hand, I love that I can reach every inch of my little place without unplugging the vacuum. Especially with furry critters.

    LA also has no stairs. But also no basements or attics. This means everything goes in the garage. Which means that everyone parks their nice cars on the street, because the garage is full of crap.


  17. I read somewhere that in reality most retired couples don’t move out of their current homes until they’re into their 80s. The cost of moving trumps the cost of adapting what you have now to suit your needs. We plan on doing that. When the time comes. Unless we win the lottery and have big money to burn.


  18. My husband and I are going through the exact same thing. He needs a big garage and a basement and/or workshop. I need windows and a private space to write. I’m easy to please. He’s impossible.


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