It's not simple to decide to leave long-time home

SMART MOVES

March 08, 1992|By ELLEN JAMES MARTIN

For many, the desire in later life to leave the home they inhabited for a long time is an intense, emotional feeling.

"When you feel more like a prisoner in your home than the king of the castle, then it may be time to go," says Dorcas Helfant, president of the National Association of Realtors.

Whether you're 45 or 75, the indications that you want to move can be obvious.

"A good bellwether is when you look around at all the wonderful things you've collected and say, 'I don't need that stuff anymore.' The yard has become a burden rather than a pleasure. And the house is a prison that keeps you from traveling or exploring other activities," Ms. Helfant observes.

The departure of grown children, physical restrictions, retirement, new financial limitations or impatience with home upkeep may be signals that the time to move is ahead, says Monte Helme, a vice president with the Century 21 real estate chain.

"You're ready to move when you're fed up with the things you've put up with for years -- everything from the neighbor's loud music to the need for new wiring or an appliance that once again needs repair. When your patience runs out and you're totally frustrated with the environment, you know it in your gut," Mr. Helme says.

You may feel certain you want to move. But making the decision on where to go is often more troubling. Realty specialists offer these pointers:

* Seriously consider moving within your own community rather than far away.

The decision to retire is what spurs most people to make their final move, but of those more than 60 years old who move, fewer than 15 percent move across state lines, says Richard Hokenson, an economist with the investment firm of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette in New York.

Staying within your community means a less traumatic transition when you change your housing. "Leaving a well-established neighborhood, with well-established friends, traffic patterns and shopping habits will almost always dictate some upheaval in your life," says Mr. Helme of Century 21.

* Exercise caution before commiting to an entirely new lifestyle.

"Don't just wake up one day and decide you're moving to some retirement community a long way away. You may get to where you thought the grass is greener and find out something else is wrong there," says Karl Breckenridge, author of "Staying on Top in Real Estate," published by Dearborn Financial Press.

Although some flourish in a tourist area or retirement community totally removed from their previous home, many do not.

If you're contemplating a far-away move, it's ideal to try out your plan before you commit. Before you sell your house and buy that condo, realty specialists advise those who can afford such an option to take a temporary rental in the community where you propose to live.

* Listen to your grown children but don't let them block you from making a move you know is right.

Some vehemently oppose their parents' plans to move on grounds that are basically sentimental, Ms. Helfant says.

"The worst thing you can do is talk it out with the kids. You've got to realize that they're going to be territorial. They can't imagine you leaving the house where they grew up -- where they rode their first bike or fell out of the tree and broke their arm,"Ms. Helfant says.

* Realize that simplifying your housing doesn't necessarily mean less square footage.

There's no one right answer to the desire for an easy housing choice, says John A. Tucillo, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. The traditional choice of retirees to move from the detached home with the yard to a much smaller apartment or condo is giving way to other alternatives.

"What many people are doing is really 're-sizing' rather than downsizing," he says. Some are modernizing and remodeling their long-time homes to reduce maintenance or make them more comfortable. Having a spacious home remains an important prestige and comfort factor for many people in their later adult years, says Sally Bielaski, sales manager for the Howard County office of Coldwell Banker.

For them, remaining in the old homestead and not moving at all may, in the last analysis, prove the best choice.

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