Decisions are SO hard...what would you do?

phoggieAugust 1, 2010

I am so torn as to what might be best for us (78 and 68 yrs old)...and would like your thoughts.

We have the opportunity to buy a house, built in 1991 and remodeled in 2006... that is appraised for $119,000 for $77,000..but would have to build a double garage, since they turned the one originally on the house to a master bedroom, bath, and that would be approx. $30,000. This home sits on the exact piece of ground that grew up all of my younger it tugs at my heart strings to remember all of the time I spent on that ground.

But this is in a VERY small town (about 850 people) and has only a Casey's convience store and a clinic with a practitioner. This house is very convienent for older people...1/2 block from school events, 1/2 block from the church, 1 block to city library, 1 1/2 blocks to bank and post office and Sr. Center....and no stress of building.

We do have a piece of ground in the same county but 24 miles away....approx. 3,000 people, with doctors, hospital, country club, golf course, grocery store, fast food, etc.......but the cost of building will be well over $100,000 more than we can buy the house in the smaller town. With the difference in price, we could buy a small rv and do some traveling and maybe go south in the winter.

My DH says, it is up to makes him no real difference. He is an architect/contractor before his retirement, so building is no stress for him. I have done it 3 times and swore never again....

I would appreciate it if you could put yourself in my shoes, and tell me what your thoughts are.......cheaper house vs. more conviences.


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Well, as detailed as you were, you left a lot out of your story--most importantly, where are you living now and what makes you want to move at all.

My other questions are:

1. Will you be paying cash for your next home (whether you buy or build)or will you have to worry about financing?

2. Buying a new home vs buying an RV and traveling are two drastically different choices with two completely different lifestyles. You may want to figure which of the two lives you want to live before going any further. Which appeals to you more and why?

3. If you just want to be a snowbird, though, you may also consider keeping a townhome/condo in two locations (one north and one south). Is there a reason this wouldn't work out?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 8:37PM
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Money isn't your only consideration. I'm sure you're also thinking about time...most retired people, including my own Grandparents, are more concerned right now about time (time together, time left, etc.) than anything.

I bring this up because building a house may not be in your best interest. Number one being, you swore you'd never do it again, which means you do not particularly enjoy the process. And two, every month you spend waiting for your new house to be built is a month you can't spend doing other pleasurable activities in your hopefully enjoyable retirement.

So, it's not all about $$$.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 2:09AM
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I would go with the small town, personal ties and opportunity to visit (within 20 mins. after all) the larger town whenever you like. At your (and mine) age some things are very important, like access to doctors, etc., but I don't imagine the "hospital" in a place of 3,000 people is going to be all that more comprehensive than a practitioner on hand, and the outings for fast food (do you really care that much :-) can be just that, whereas what do you do for fun if already on site?! Keep your money and use it for the RV, or whatever else you want.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 6:35AM
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Alot depends on your health. Would you have to go to have medical work very much? If you cannot drive, who would? Do you have good insurance to pay for ambulances, specialists etc and be able to get to them? If you have not lived there for a while, would you be able to make new friends, church? hobbies? yard work?
I would choose a larger city, but if you have good/fair weather most of the time, put in a double wide modulure home but you can get a regular home built for much less or have a home moved in--they do that all the time here.
You might list the pros and cons and another thing, do you have children to visit you, or help you out? If not, please do not rely on friends and neighbors all the time.
Are their any assited living homes in the larger city?
Good luck

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 2:23PM
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Thanks for your responses....and I'll try to answer some of your questions.

1. The reason we are make a long story husband's son "helped himself" to all of the funds of the company...DH kept cashing stocks to cover for the bills (never questioning) and now he has nothing left!
So our 4,000 SF house is more than we need and, although it is paid for, our taxes here in this town have tripled during the last 5 years and only will keep going up terribly...due to the misconduct of our last city manager and we don't need that much room and can't afford it anymore. So in our financial position we could not afford to maintain two residences.....but might be able to rent something south for a month or so to get out of these cold/snowy- winters!!

If we buy the home in a smaller town, I have some personal money (from my previous marriage) that I could pay cash for it.....but if we build, we must sell this house first...and that is a slim chance in this deflated market of this town. If we build, we will have to move to a our things...than move again into the new house....lots of stress on my emotions and my arthritis!!!

Right now our health is pretty good....DH is excellent...and I have extreme arthritis, had fusions,TKR and THR and will need back surgery before long. My surgeon and specialist are actually a few miles closer to the small town, but not a significant amount....there is no surgeon that does this type of surgery in the "larger town" either.
With our ages, we don't know how much longer we will be able to do any traveling...and building would take about a year out of our retirement time. If we get a RV, it will be a small one just to travel some...not to stay in for a period of time....something we both can drive easily.

The lot we have in the "larger" town, is in a HOA and we can not put a modular house there...must be stick built.
Our lot is about an acre...the ready built is on a very small DH could keep it mowed...hire the acre mowed.

We are thankful to have my children is about 70 60 miles and my son is going to move to the "larger" town if he can get his house sold where he is living now....but even that is only 18 miles away from the smaller town. (since the sour business ordeal, there is hardly any contact with his son's no loss there)

We have Medicare and a supplemental insurance...but who knows what our medical insurance condition might be in a few years~~There is a Sr. complex in both towns...larger one does have a nursing home. We do carry extended health care...hoping it should cover a NH if we ever need it...and certainly hope not~

I hope I have covered all questions...but do keep your thoughts coming...they really help...thanks.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 8:16PM
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Since you asked. I strongly suggest the less expensive home & RV. That is almost what we did. Bought a travel trailer. We go to AZ for 4-5 months. No more winters till we have health problems.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 8:31PM
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First of all, I am so very sorry to hear about the situation with your husband's son. Those type of things are terrible and I'm really sorry you had to go through both the financial and emotional pain.

Secondly, to ME, it sounds like you have already made the decision in your head to purchase the home in the smaller town that is already built. It does sound like a very good deal and you do have an emotional tie to it.

It also sounds like you really, really don't want to build a house. Don't do it. You don't sound like you're eager to build at all, not to mention the hassle, aggravation, and time spent waiting for it to be built. You and your husband have other things to be doing while waiting for a house to be built. And you are wise not to build if it means you *must* sell your current house. This is not a good market to be in a jam on selling a house.

And do keep in mind that you don't *need* a double car garage, if you would like to spend the money on other things instead. A carport would cover the cars, meaning no snow removal (if there is snow). There is no unspoken law that you must have a garage. We don't have one and it doesn't bother me too much, unless it snows about 2', then it's not so good.

Do make sure that you will be able to access any health and community services in your small town.

Keep us updated on your thoughts and what you end up doing.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 2:52AM
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Maybe neither of your ideas are good ideas. Have you considered buying a house or moving into senior housing in a town closer to one of your children? A town that is larger and would have better medical care?

It doesn't sound like building is a good idea except it would get you into a slightly larger town with a hospital. Is there a house you could buy there?

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 2:22PM
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I don't think either of us are ready for senior housing just yet.

The town should we build has extremely lower tax rate (less than half of where we live now)and it is half way between all of my family and friends....about 18 miles one way and 24 the other.

The ready built one is on the exact ground where I grew up and lived all of my younger years....two brothes and wives are there...lots of friends etc. We have looked at some other houses in the "larger" town, but amazinginly, the home prices there have kept their value and DH thinks we can build one to fit our needs cheaper than any newer ones we have looked at. The older ones do not have wide enough doors, etc. should I need to use a walker or some other device.
Keep ideas and thoughts coming. Thanks

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 6:50PM
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I would not want the stress of trying to sell your home, finding building plans and a builder, and moving into an apt and then into your new home.

If it were me, I'd buy the $77,000 home, put the big house on the market and sell it. When it sold, I'd add on the garage if you still want it, buy your RV and travel in the south during the winter. I'd put the rest of the money from your house sale in the bank and enjoy it.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 9:34AM
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I'd buy the cheaper home and not worry so much about it. I would consider looking at some estate planning as well to make sure you can keep your money safe from any potential future need of nursing home coverage so they don't end up taking your home.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 10:30AM
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I would buy the less expensive house in the area you love. I wouldn't put myself thru building a home or buying one that exceeds just what I need. Although younger, we have have been scaling back recently and are very happy with our decisions.

We sold a commercial property that we no longer had time to deal with. We sold our "big" house & close on it tomorrow. We kept our lake house & our commercial property where we have a business and a newly renovated loft apartment & will split time between those. We owe nothing on either one & our cars are paid off too.

I'm learning there is really something to be said for "enough". We have more than enough, even with this major downsize, and it's made me so happy to clean out cabinets & closets & donate some great stuff to some people in need. I don't feel deprived at all - I've got a small house on a small lake with a beautiful view & a big city dwelling for a complete change of pace.

I know you'll make the right decision for yourself & DH. I'm hoping you go with your childhood home. I also think being able to travel would be another selling point for me. Heck it's been 103 - 106 degrees for a week here - an RV to Vermont or somewhere North would be Heaven! Best of luck to you!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 12:09PM
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To caulk king and the rest.....I certainly do appreciate all of your thoughts and well wishes....we get to see the inside of the "little house" tomorrow and hope we like it as well as we do the outside.

I know what you mean about this in Kansas we are in a furnace....over 100 every day....hotter next week...eventhough we do have a sprinkler system, the grass has turned from a beautiful green to kinda faucet water beats good old mother nature.

I'll keep you posted.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 6:03PM
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Your description of the built house and all your family so close makes it a no brainer to me. Get the one that places you among your family and friends. That is the most important in quality of life to me.

We are your age, and our kids have moved away for their jobs. Two live an hour plus away, close together in a metropolitan area that is crowded and expensive and close to my brother. The other child lives on the other coast. It is the love and comfort of family that I look forward to, and you have an ideal situation in the ready built. Jump at that chance to buy it before someone else does!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 4:07PM
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We did go to the "small town" today and see the inside of the ready built house. It is WELL worn for a house that was supposed to be remodeled in 2006....but she had a day care there, and it shows. But my DH says it has real potential....and since he is a retired architect/contractor, right now he is busy drawing everything to scale to see how our furniture etc. will fit...also figuring out the costs of the up-dating we will need to do. I am wondering if this was a forclosure...they left lots of things (toaster, silverware, food, bathroom stuff etc.) in the they left in a hurry. They turned off the electricity and therefore the sump pump isn't working, so there is water standing in the crawl space and the house really smells has been shut up for several months.

In addition to a garage, we would gut the kitchen and dining room, move a wall, put in new cabinets, counter top, flooring, etc. The carpets are so dirty, no amount of shampooing would clean they will all have to be replaced, we'll weigh the pros and cons of building vs. remodeling....and hope we can come up with the best solution to our problem. It certainly would have made our lives a lot easier if his DS hadn't pulled his "stunt". THANKS again for all of your thoughts and well wishes.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 10:03PM
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Sometimes when you can't decide between two options it's because neither one is The Right One.

I don't like the sound of the house standing vacant but with FOOD still in it (?) and smelling moldy. Gosh, IMO remodeling is worse to live through than building. You never know what you're going to encounter; it has a way of snowballing.

My DH and I are near your ages. We built one-floor living ten years ago and are happy here, but...I wouldn't go through that again now, and I do not have severe arthritis like you do. (I'm sure you know what *stress* does to one's physical condition!)

I wouldn't be so fast to reject senior housing. IS there any near you? Have you looked into the option? Any 'Del Webb' type communities close to you? I know that in some situations you can 'move in and try it on'. That could work while you wait for your present home to sell. Friends of ours love their NEW, small, single family home in a senior development. Since they moved in her health has actually improved. Although he (somewhat older) always had excellent health, he's now had two medical 'surprises'.

I'd look for new, small, and 'leave-able' so that you can winter somewhere warm without worry.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2010 at 5:41PM
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Chisue, I agree with your first statements. The smell of mold, food left over, and standing water is a very, very ominous sign. Smelling mold in a house you might be buying is a definitely show stopper, at least for me.

If you're going to be doing so much to the house, you might as well just get a new house! You'll probably be remodeling and fixing things up just as long. I also agree with Chisue choices are difficult because the good option is not currently in front of you. I saw that you live in Kansas, so housing should be fairly reasonably priced where you live, which really opens up your options.

I would stay away from this house. The last thing you need to be dealing with when you're 68 and 78 is mold abaitment and containment and gutting and remodeling!

Although, Chisue, I don't agree that older people necessarily like warmer weather...I've never understood what is so much more appealing about 97 degrees with 98 percent humidity for 6 months than temperatures in the 20's and 30's for 3 months. I just don't get it! My Grandma and most of the older individuals my family never really wanted to retire where it was hot, they said it was just as aggravating and taxing when it was so hot all the time as when it was cold.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2010 at 6:26PM
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krycek -- The OP said she wanted to be able to escape the snow and cold in Kansas and go south in the winter. That sounds good, although the RV part doesn't make sense at all to me.

We have gone to Hawaii in February for over 20 years. It breaks up the long days of winter in Chicagoland where the sunless grey sky seems to want to press you right into the snow and slush.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 3:28PM
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Thanks Chisue, I didn't see that! I should read more carefully!

Any update, Phoggie???

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 6:58PM
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Haven't done anything yet....but did find it is a foreclosure and it is a short sale. I think that perhaps the moldy smell might be because the sump pump has been shut off for several months....they probably left town in a hurry and might have left an electric bill it was turned off.

Although while we were "supply shopping" yesterday, we ran into a couple from the same little town, and they told us of a new home just being completed there (although not the same convenient location where we could walk to everything)....1540 SF, 3 bed, 2 bath, unfinished basement, double garage.... which seemed to be reasonably priced ,so after we get all of the bids for building on our lot in the larger city, we might go see that house and leave the short sale alone.....BUT the kicker is that to be able to buy the new build house, we will have to sell our present one first....because you know the mess DH's son left us in financially. I just can't put that amount of money into a house by myself...and DH can not help.....thus, the problem!!!!....none of my making....but something I seem to have "inherited" when I married into this family...oh hindsight.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 10:20PM
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What if you got a contract on your present house tomorrow, contingent on fast possession? Where will you go? Is there anything to rent? How much of what's in your house will you want to store and how much can be sold or given to a charity?

Do you have a long range plan? I don't want to build a new house again. I don't want to remodel a house again. I don't want to MOVE more than one more time in my life either. In your position, I'd be looking at my needs 10 -15 years from now. I'd be looking at senior housing options, not at building a house or remodeling one. Are there any good options near you?

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 12:21PM
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The short sale/foreclosure might not be that bad. I think your spouse has the right idea about it. So it smells like old food and mold and has bad carpets and food is left in the house. This is mainly cleanup stuff and cosmetic, most likely . This probably can be fixed for a reasonable can hire someone to clean out the stinky food and do overall cleanup.

Also all foreclosures/short sales are not automatically a long, drawn out process as far as offer/acceptance and closing. This can vary greatly. I would look into this house further.

Don't run just because is smells moldy. Maybe it is mildew that you smell? Maybe the place just needs to be aired out due to everything stuck inside during the summer with no windows open and no AC or air circulation. Also realize there are many different types of mold and mildew and there are only 1 or a few types of mold that are the bad mold you hear about. There are companies that can do a mold check for you. ServPro is a national franchise that is in most cities. They also do cleanout. You can hire them to see what is going on with the mold..or a bunch of other companies that inspect for mold. I bet it is not as bad as it seems. The cleaning, cosmetic and the aroma will likely scare away many buyers and you probably can get a real, real good deal on the place. If you don't grab this opportunity, an investor will likely get the place for a song and dance and you will regret it later. Don't go run and buy something new and outside your price range just because you smelled stinky food and saw dirty carpets and smelled a stale house. You need to look past this and see the potential, just like your spouse sees the potential.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 1:21PM
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The short sale/foreclosure might not be that bad. I think your spouse has the right idea about it. So it smells like old food and mold and has bad carpets and food is left in the house. This is mainly cleanup stuff and cosmetic, most likely . This probably can be fixed for a reasonable can hire someone to clean out the stinky food and do overall cleanup.

Also all foreclosures/short sales are not automatically a long, drawn out process as far as offer/acceptance and closing. This can vary greatly. I would look into this house further.

Don't run just because is smells moldy.

I heartily agree, too many people instantly say run, but then again, you may not have a problem and you may be looking at a diamond in the rough.
As suggested, get an expert opinion on the "mold" before you run. The other stuff is simple to resolve.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 3:21PM
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My DH does see this little house as a "diamond in the rough"...and if we do make an offer, we would stipulate in the contract to have it inspected for mold and if found, the contract would be voided.

He has been an architect and contractor for over 55 years and has a pretty good head when evaluating homes. I think the former owners probably went in over their heads doing remodeling and he might have lost his job and couldn't make the payments. The worse thing they did was make the garage into a master suite, but to get to it, you have go to through another bedroom...and we would need to figure out a way to cut in another door somewhere to be able to get to the master bedroom and use that bathroom as a "Jack and Jill" bathroom. But then it is only the two of us and we do not have over-night guests all that much...the kids are all within a hour drive so usually don't spent the night.

We have gone pricing new cabinets, counter tops, wood flooring, carpeting, etc. and although we would want to build a double garage, we could do all of the remodeling and garage for about $32,000...and if we bought it for $75-77,000, it still would not make it an expensive home..... I hope that I am not attaching too much emotion to the "land" because as I said before, it is on the exact ground that I grew up on.

We continue to get bids for the new build in the larger city...and will probably go look at the new build in the small city, which is only $135,000, but from taking to the builder on the phone, I can already tell it has somethings that I would wish were changed.

Nothing is off of the table yet....NOR has this house sold...and should we need to move quickly if it were, (wishful thinking), we will have an auction or tag sale and get rid of LOTS of things...we want some new things anyway when we move and would have less to store. There are always places to rent temporary.

Both towns have a Sr Citizens complex...but they keep pretty full and have a waiting list.

Love to have all of your thoughts, so keep them coming....THANKS

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 4:01PM
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DH and I are 73 and 75 and in good health. We moved to a retirement community in 2008 and love it. I recommend it highly. Of course, your situation may be different. But don't make the mistake of thinking a retirement community is a "nursing home."

We live in a 2 BR, 2 Bath villa. It is plenty big enough for us and we come and go as we please.

What will happen when you can't drive anymore? It took 5 people to keep my mother in her condo. Somebody cleaned for her, went to the bank, took her to the doctor's, went grocery shopping for her, etc. Your children might not be available to do all those things.

I wouldn't want to even think about building a house at our ages.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 8:58PM
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I guess you never know what will happen. I am in my 50s but the issue I have with many retirement communities are restrictions they may have. Also we have pets and I can't imagine life without them.

It can be hard to know the right choice. Building is stressful and I would probably prefer not to but I would do it if I felt it was the best choice.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 11:58PM
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Slightly OT, but there are many different flavors of retirement communities. I will list some, and i am sure there are several others.

*55 and over communities: These are simply standard subdivisions or condo complexes or trailer parks or villas or apartment complexes where one spouse must be 55 or over and other spouse must be 45 or over. When a home and if any grass, often there is maintance for this and you pay extra for mtc. some places might have rules against pets in the condos or trailer parks, but most often pets are allowed and a size limit, or there is a pet section and no-pet section. Nobody comes in your house to care for you. Residents can be of any health status - perfectly fit athletes even live in these places.

*Independent living: I think this is similar to 55+ but with a few more services avaiable that you pay for ala carte. But you still live in your own place, but someone comes over for care or maintanance that you choose. Maybe someone can correct if I am wrong on this one.

*Assisted Living: Not quite a nursing home. Differnt types of rooms or apartment type arrangements but various services are done for you and you pay for them. Such as cooking (eat in dining area), cleaning, linens changed, clothes washed for you, help bathing or similar is avail if you need it, etc. You can drive and keep car in lot if you choose and usually there is a facility van avail that has regular trips to grocery store, restaurants, etc. MD trips can be arranged, etc. Sometimes on-site MD office and hair salong and other services that you can use if you choose and you pay for them separate.

*Nursing Home: a room or studio or similar and full service care(med included) and all needed maintance(linens, food, clothes washed) is also given.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2010 at 8:40AM
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Let's say the abandoned house is workable. Can you buy it before selling your present home? Can you afford to remodel it without funds from your present home?

If not, there's no point discussing this. You can do nothing until your present house sells.

Every move is costly and stressful. If/when your present house sells, there's MOVE #1 -- into a rental? Then you'll have MOVE #2 -- into either the remodeled abandoned house or (?). How many years will it be before you have MOVE #3 -- into assisted living? That could be one year or ten, but considering my own and my DH's ages and our health (which are both quite good NOW), I'd bet on it being less than ten years.

MY plan would be to get on the waiting list for senior housing; hope my present house sells; plan to rent until I can get into senior housing. Or, you could just continue to rent!

Leaving your personal housing out of the equation, would you *invest* in this abandoned property to fix it up and plan to re-sell at a profit? Does that make financial sense? Is it worth your time and effort? (BTW -- Readers of this forum who 'know me' probably knew this question was coming: What is the land under the abandoned house worth?)

Also, you have said that YOU don't want to build again, but does your DH view it as something to occupy him in his retirement? My late Realtor-mother had clients who bought, remodeled and sold houses for YEARS. The wife said these 'projects' kept the marriage together.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2010 at 11:41AM
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If you have ever been to Kansas, you know it is very rural and the only retirement village is in the Kansas City area...and that is just too expensive for us to live there.

I asked DH if he thought we should "look ahead" 10 years and what we might need....his reply was "you and I both know that no one is guaranteed of a tomorrow, let alone 10 years....we will take each day as it comes." And he is first husband was killed in an auto accident when I was only 33 years old...he was 37....left me with three small children to raise. I spent the next 25 years of my life making a home for them and making sure they got a good college education. When I was 58, I met my present DH who was widowed for 10 years, so we do know that it makes no difference how old we might be, we might not be here tomorrow, let alone 10-15 years from now. We do want a nice, handicapped accessible home for us to enjoy now and when we are done with it, a house that our kids would have the best chance selling it....and that would be in the larger town. The smaller house is in a "bedroom community" for a somewhat larger town about 18 miles away and the economy of that town is in the toilet...lost most of their industry due to the bad there are quite a few empty houses there right now.

The builder of the new house in the little town, sent me pics of the house and it is certainly not handicapped accessible, so we'd have to do modifications to that also...and believe me, it is very generic...but for $135,000, that is to be expected.

His health is so very good and I have arthritis, but thanks for replacement parts, I am managing.

DH was "well fixed" when we married, but through some bad "futures" on the SM, and what his son has done to him, those funds are we must think of how best to handle what assets we do have....namely, our present home.
It is on the market for $342,000, which is at the top most price range in this town. It has only been on the market for 3 weeks, but might have to consider lowering the price soon.

All of this "planning" has been good for DH...he has been "lost" after the business had to close and this work is all he had known for 60 years, so has spent countless hours drawing plans for the new house and for the remodeling of the little well as figuring the costs of doing it does give him back a little of "his old life"...and I think that has given him a "boost" to be able to do some work again.

Yes, I could personally finance the buying of the $77,000 house, but will not be able to do the remodeling...but we could live in it while remodeling is being might even clean up better than we think.

He has drawn plans for a 2,080 SF, 3 car garage, new home and it will be built on a very beautiful lot that we bought for $21,000, 3 years ago on a pretty little lake...oh how peaceful~~~ and he thinks after getting all of the bids back, we should be able to do it for about $180,000...which after selling this house would be very doable and have some left for "playing".

Chisue~~As far as the "land under the house" the small town, not much, it is only 50'wide x 140'deep.....under the house that we build (about 3/4 acre), it would be worth at least the $21,000 that we gave for it. Both pieces of property are in the same county, so the tax rate would be very similar.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2010 at 3:08PM
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For those of you who have swapped out your brass hardware....
For those of you who have swapped out your brass hardware,...
Realtor company fee
Buyer agent told me there is $300 fee to realtor company....
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