When is it Time to Sell the Family Home?

Photo of a home with two flights of stairs to the entrance and a sloping driveway.

Home is where our heart is. For most of us, it’s the place where memories are made, love and laughter are shared, and the good times outweigh the bad. It is also a physical place that is both comfortable and comforting. A space that supports us as our lives evolve and change.

Maybe you remember bringing your first child home from the hospital to your current home. Or it was the move up home you and your spouse bought after scrimping and saving for what seemed like years? There were Sunday dinners and holidays with family and friends. Your neighbors became good friends. The pet that kept you company for so many years is buried next to the rose bush in back.

Over time, we age and our life and needs change with us. Perhaps you have noticed that keeping your garden the way you like it feels more like work than pleasure. Carrying groceries up the front steps is no longer a great workout but a drag on your energy. Or driving in Seattle traffic to visit a friend across town feels like more trouble than its worth; you decide to stay home instead.

I call these moments “pings” on our internal radar or reflection points. Most people dismiss them and move on to the task at hand. I suggest as you go through your day start to notice how often you are getting clues like these. The pings are telling you something has begun to shift.

Once a week, write in a journal and reflect on how it feels to live in your home. Do you feel supported? Does the house feel clean and orderly? Does it feel good to sit in the living room or at your kitchen table and enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee?

Do this for two months. Then take an afternoon to read what you’ve written and begin to contemplate whether your home really is supporting your life the way it ought to or in the way that you would like. If the answer is a resounding YES! Put your journal away and do this exercise again in six months.

If the answer is “kind of,” “not really,” or “no” then it’s probably time to start imagining the kind of physical space and environment that will help you feel supported.

Selling a family home is really a process. And the first step means recognizing you’re changing and that the physical place called home isn’t really a good fit any more. However, be sure to take time to acknowledge the wonderful memories of living in your current home. Relish them—they will nurture your heart.

Then get out your notebook and start imagining and describing the type of space you would like to live in. A place where you can create nice memories for this next phase of your life.

Once you can describe what you want, begin to explore your options. Tour retirement communities. Go to open houses and look at condominiums or apartments with elevator access and living spaces on one level. Consider moving to another city to be near an adult child or other relative. Think about purchasing a smaller home.

Crafting a plan to move and executing one takes time and effort. Everyone has their own pace. Some people take a couple years to make this kind of move. I’ve seen others do it in less than six months.

Successful transitions share these common elements:

  • The homeowner recognizes their family home no longer supports their life.
  • They choose to move to a new home that they find comfortable and comforting.
  • They view the move as another phase in life.
  • They stay proactive and maintain control of the process.

They know if they wait too long, eventually their children, relatives or total strangers will decide for them.

Contributor Mary P. Anderson is a Realtor at Windermere Real Estate, a Seniors Real Estate Specialist, and a founding member of the Windermere Senior Transitions Program. To comment on her article, e-mail or call 206-915-1076.

Photo credit: Home photo at top by Dan Achatz.

This article originally appeared in AgeWise King County (April 2017).