Do We Stay or Do We Go? – The Empty Nesters’ Dilemma

lilacs - spring, 2015



Last week it was suggested to me, ever so gently, by my husband, JP, that we reconsider our once-mutual decision to sell our house this spring.

Tell me again,” he asked as we ate dinner in our newly uncluttered kitchen. “Why do we want to move? I like it here.”

I sighed and repeated what the financial advisor told us this winter  – sell now! the market is “HOT”! –  You are empty nesters, you no longer need a three-bedroom brick, colonial home-built in 1948 in which you have lived for 33 years. Time to downsize! Move closer in! Free yourselves of unneeded possessions and repairs!

It sounded very appealing to me. Not as much to JP.

I don’t want to downsize. I like my yard. I like my garage. I like washing my car in the driveway. I even like washing your car.”  My Detroit-born husband puts a high priority on car care.

But don’t you want to be able to walk everywhere? That’s the new big thing. We’ll move to a new condo or apartment with a high “walkability” score.” I told him, visualizing romantic evening strolls to trendy bars and restaurants.

“If we want to take a walk, we can do it in our own neighborhood.  I like sitting in my own back yard, not with strangers in a shared courtyard on an apartment or condo roof. Our house seems perfectly fine to me.”

Versions of this conversation have played out for the past few weeks. I continue to declutter and donate, to empty shelves and cabinets, to get rid of law school books and obsolete electronics . My husband stays out of my way – he doesn’t stop the going-on-the-market-soon process from going forward –  but his distinct lack of enthusiasm hangs heavily in the air.

So I venture off like Goldilocks to find just the right place to move to – that will convince him we should sell once he sees what a terrific new apartment or condo I can find. Our realtor is confident our house will sell quickly. Very soon, she predicts, millennials will be swarming by the dozens to buy our home so they can start a family here – just as we did as young marrieds.

Speaking of millennials, did you know that real estate developers are rapidly building new apartments seemingly targeted at them?

This week I visited several of these new apartment communities that are springing up around us – all deliberately called “communities” – because they market themselves to entice you to sign a lease asap so you make new pals with whom you will soon be exercising in the spiffy gym, mingling in the modern club room and sitting around the community fire pit in the evenings.

These “communities” feature incredibly peppy sales reps who show you floor plan after floor plan as they exuberantly describe the many amenities “your new community” features:

  • bike storage in the basement!
  • weekly “yappy” hours for you and your canine friend!
  • fun events with local bars and restaurants!
  • free craft coffee in the modern lobby!
  • “Wine Down Wednesdays”!
  • “Breakfast on the Go”!
  • And more!!!

Pretty good, huh? Yes, if you are under age 40, my husband comments when I show him the glossy brochures one night after he gets home from work.

We already have plenty of friends, we have our own coffee and wine, we have our own bike storage (it’s called our garage)…our dog doesn’t get along so well with other dogs, you know that – and he loves our fenced back yard  – and what do I need a fire pit for?” he asks.

He makes some good points but I resist – pointing again to the photos of the shiny new, albeit tiny-size, kitchens and living areas in the floor plans. 942 square feet sounds much larger than it is.

Where would we host our family and friends and have our holiday dinners? I don’t see dining rooms in any of these floor plans, do you? The small tables they show barely seat four people.” JP continues. “Just three small closets. How would we manage?”

Rest assured, I tell him –  all of these new apartment “communities” offer extra storage spaces we can rent (for an additional monthly fee, of course.)

Have you failed to notice,” he responds. “that we already have our own free storage spaces?  We have a big basement, not to mention a tool closet and a cedar closet. Why should we move someplace much smaller and then pay extra for storage?”

His tone ups its’ sarcasm quotient as he shakes his head.

 And where would we park our cars? We each have one, remember.”

Again the car thing. To say that JP is hung up on car care underscores the obvious.

I have the answer to this one. “They offer underground parking. $200 a month. For one car. You have to pay an additional fee for a second car.”

I can park for free in my own driveway. So can you!” he retorts. “Why do we want to uproot ourselves to move? You are not very convincing.”

Perhaps my advocacy skills have slipped since my lawyering days.  I must marshal better arguments to persuade him.

We are now at an impasse; the realtor’s Listing Agreement sits – unsigned – on our kitchen counter.


                                                                                          *****TO BE CONTINUED*****






Filed under Aging, Baby Boomers, Communications, Empty Nest, Husbands, Marriage, Men vs Women, Midlife, Relationships, Talking, Women, Writing

18 responses to “Do We Stay or Do We Go? – The Empty Nesters’ Dilemma

  1. Fran

    Five years ago I purchased a lakeside, 1780 square foot condo but my husband wants no part of moving. I have rented it for now. The downsizing continues and will be valuable when we do move whether that is next year or ten years from now. I am nearly 70 so hope I will have the strength to pack when the time comes……


  2. What is it with men and their garages and car care? I’m somewhat wedged between the millennials and Gen X, and last year we downsized houses but compromised on a somewhat trendy suburban area JUST so he could have his damn garage and storage shed out back. UGH. I much prefer being in the city in walking distance to most things. In our case, he has the best of both worlds because his office is in the city and he has free parking. He can walk anywhere he pleases on breaks from the office and then retire to the burbs on the weekends and have his space. I work from home, so my experience is slightly different. I’d LOVE to be in the city on weekends. Well, good luck! I’ve entertained the idea (dreamed?) of owning two places — one in the city and one in the suburbs. But then that would go against my other dream of downsizing and simplifying. Sigh…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kim McGovern

    Don’t move. JP is right on this one. And it’s a big one.


  4. Change can be hard! Besides the car and garage and yard my husband has informed me he could never live anywhere that he couldn’t pee in his yard. All these years later I now understand the privacy fence and hedge he put in.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I see both of your points… both have positives and negatives. Moving is a HUGE drag, but once it’s done, it’s done. We are planning to move to another state in about two years. A whole lot of reasons, but I actually want a bigger house and, after being here from about 15 years, I’m just… ready… to change to channel… one last adventure… one last house. We’re at 1240 square feet and 300 to 400 more feet would be perfect for us.


  6. Michele

    I lived in an apartment in a city from age 20 to 38. Then we finally bought a house and moved to suburbs. I’m now 54 and I’d like to move to the country. While I understand the lure of the city almost 20 years of traffic and trying to find a parking place has permanently soured me on urban living.


  7. There’s a couple points in JP’s favor: One, there are monthly condo fees that are assessed by the condo boards. Two, your home’s property taxes are still deductible if you itemize. While condos’ property taxes are also deductible, the condo fees are not. Moreover, those condo fees can rise over time. He should ask you how much the mortgage payment is, and if it’s lower than the mortgage on all those communities’ properties, then that’s another point in his favor. Lastly, he could point out that if you own the garage space(s) in the condos, you’ll be hit with a semiannual assessment by the condo board. How do I know all this? Because I live in an co-op in Arlington, and everyday I see McMansion-size homes going begging, along w/expensive condos. Not only that, when investors own the units in my building, they rent them out for very high rents.


  8. Bonnie J. Weissman

    I understand your mutual angst. I loved our last home and its location in Vienna, VA; so convenient, and near a new Metro stop. Prior to 2013, when we moved to Louisiana to be near my older girl, her husband, and our twin grandsons, we lived in the DC area for 28 years. Our solution after the move was a smaller house in town here in Baton Rouge, and a beach condo on the AL Gulf Coast near the FL border (yes, I know it’s AL, but it’s very luxurious, and you’d swear you’re in FL). We rent it out for two months in winter and most of the summer which pays for most of it. In mid August when kids return to school around here, we go there for three to four weeks, returning in mid September. We can use it throughout the fall, and odd weeks in the Spring between Spring Break renters. It sleeps eight. As I remember, the DC area, besides condos, has a lot of nice townhouses too.


  9. We recently moved and now we wonder why. My advice is to stay put as long as there is no compelling reason to move. We sold our house before we found another one. Big mistake! There were not many houses on the market at our price point. There were almost no ranches on the market. Here we sit in another large house that still needs a fenced backyard, a gas grill and misc. other items we still need. Guess what? We bought it for the same price that we sold our old house for….. We did not realize how expensive the market had gotten. It does have two downstairs bedrooms and two upstairs bedrooms. As we age we can close off the upstairs if we need to do so and just live downstairs. Why did we move???


  10. Susan silver

    Great comments, all.
    I think you should wait a few more years. Let it sink in to your thought process until you are both ready. I have just decided to give myself 3-5 more years in my loved neighborhood.


  11. We’re from the DC area and recently had the opportunity (on government per diem during training) to live for a year in Clarendon. Walkable, hip, fun… and with herds of noisy, drunk millennials roaming the streets at night. I enjoyed the year, but I no longer have any desire to permanently live in that urban apartment! We have a small house in the ‘burbs that is looking pretty good to me now. Although, my husband is annoyed that it doesn’t have a garage…


  12. Lauren Harbom

    Hi Nancy,
    Sounds like you have made up your mind to compromise. Continue to de-clutter; paint the house inside and out; put in a new kitchen and bath(s); and, stay where you are. You will be happy and so will your husband.


  13. Steve Lerman

    Great post Nancy. We have had the same discussion for five years. Instead we are redoing our kitchen.


  14. Miriam Daniel

    Good job!


  15. Jim’s right (of course!).


  16. Oooh, what did you decide?


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