The pandemic has had a major affect on criteria people use to determine where to live. Many are questioning whether they should stay in their current homes or move. Are you considering a move but are not sure whether it’s the best choice? If so, I’d ask one (deceptively simple) question: why? The best way to make the decision is by carefully examining your motives for moving, as well as the corresponding pros and cons of staying put. Let’s look at the most common reasons people consider moving from one home to another.
1. Life circumstances have changed.
Yes, I realize “life circumstances” is vague. I am talking about major changes like divorce, death of a spouse, remarriage and the blending of families. Life circumstances also includes retirement. Not only does that mean that being able to get to work is no longer important, but it can affect housing choices in other ways as well. Maybe you want to sell your house and buy a condo so you can travel and not worry about home maintenance). Health issues requiring climate change or proximity to a specific hospital might also come into play. For some people, the arrival of grandchildren provides impetus for relocating.
2. Employment has changed (or not).
Historically, one of the most common reasons for a move was a change in job. While new employment will still result in some moves, due to the recent (significant) increase in remote work opportunities, far fewer families will move because of a job change. The other side of that coin is that some people are moving in spite of not changing jobs. The pandemic saw many city dwellers leave small, expensive housing in cities to have more space and land in more affordable small towns and suburbs
3. You don’t want to do renovations.
Being based in the Philadelphia area, where housing stock is, on average, about 75 years old, this concern is quite common. Updating systems (roof, windows, HVAC, electrical) as well as remodeling kitchens and bathrooms can be very costly. Beyond finding the money for the projects, be sure to consider the return on investment. That ROI is partly affected by how long you expect to be in the house. Furthermore, determine whether you could manage living through the mess and noise of the required projects. (Note: remember that, unless you buy new or nearly new construction, you may well have some renovating to do on a new home as well, so factor in that likelihood.)
4. Your priorities have changed.
When you bought the house, maybe the school district, a family-friendly neighborhood and access to public transportation were major advantages. Sometimes, what you value at one stage of life changes over the course of time. Are you feeling cramped now? You may be desperate for more space for your three teenagers and all their hobbies. Perhaps you are empty nesters and want less space and/or less land to maintain. Or you want to live more remotely with lots of land for privacy and a big garden. You may discover that being able to walk to dining and theater is newly appealing and your current neighborhood may not offer those options.
5. Your neighborhood has changed.
Sometimes, your priorities haven’t changed, but your environment has. What if that sleepy street you moved to twenty years ago now has a couple of apartment buildings and there’s a large commercial district too close for comfort? Some people cite a steep tax increase as a reason to consider a move. Finally, while some neighborhoods gentrify, others may atrophy. If you find your street now feels shabby and depressing, it might be time for a move.
6. Finances suggest a move.
Of course, no housing (or just about any other decision) can be made without thinking about the financial ramifications. If your financial situation has changed for the worse, you may simply not be able to afford to stay in your home. Between the mortgage payments, maintenance costs and taxes, you may not have a choice. On the other, more positive side, if you are in a better financial position, than when you purchased your current home and are looking to move to a better home (whether “better” means bigger, in a different school district or town, etc.), you could be considering a move.
Another scenario to think about is whether there are any monetary advantages to making a move. If you sold now, would you’d be in a favorable position as far as capital gains? Are there other tax advantages to staying (or selling)? On another note, let’s say you live in an area where real estate has recently skyrocketed in value. Even if you were perfectly comfortable where you were, the financial incentive to sell might cause you to explore a move.
Deciding whether to stay in your house or move may be more complex than you’d think. It’s important to be as thorough as possible in considering the pros and cons to each option. That said, be aware that, no matter how much research you do or how many spreadsheets you make, there will always be unknowns.