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Upsizing, rather than Downsizing

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  • Sat, Jan 25, 2014 - 12:54am



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    Upsizing, rather than Downsizing

Hello everyone.  I have been reading for several years on this and other boards, and agree with the general consensus, that with our collective uncertain futures, most of us will have to downsize our homes and lifestyles, be happy with more modest incomes, cars, things, etc.  It makes sense to me, or I wouldn't be hanging out reading this website all the time.  To that end, we have paid off our home, drive modest but serviceable cars, etc.  We are debt-free.

But I have been also thinking about our own unique circumstances, and how it might make sense to actually upsize our home in our dotage.  After getting certain projects done (solar, wood stoves are next on the horizon), we have been talking about expanding the house, either an addition &/or a guest house.  We have 3 kids, and the middle one has autism, and requires constant supervision.  This state is very bad when it comes to in-home supports, and the placements for adults look pretty scary, so he will be living at home for awhile yet.  However, we need a lot of assistance in our home to make it work, and right now have people coming and going to our home almost every day.  

We were thinking that an expanded living situation will allow flexibility for having live-in help, or maybe we could take in other adults with autism on occasion as a trade, or income in retirement, so we could maybe occasionally travel or have a break. It could also be a source of (rental) income for us in our retirement, as we are in a college town, live in a desirable walkable location, etc.  My parents are getting old, too, and it might be a place for them.

My question has to do with financing.  Our income is pretty good right now, and reasonably stable for the foreseeable future.  We don't want to take out another mortgage, yet we don't have building skills ourselves.  Has anyone done a large build project that they did in stages, as they could afford it?  As in several years, or would we go crazy with a half-built project for that long?  Is it reasonable to think we might be able to "help" the builder and do some of the work ourselves, given our low skill level?  Would a builder want to take on a project like this, or would they run from us?

Also would like to hear from others with a similar family situation.  Having a live-in means you lose even more privacy, and also you lose flexibility if the worker doesn't live up to expectations.  Autism has been such a loss for all of us, and loss of flexibility and freedom is at the top of the list- we would like to increase our options.  I would love to hear others' experiences in this regard.

  • Sat, Jan 25, 2014 - 08:57pm



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    Will local zoning affect your ability to build in stages?

Where we are, a project has to be completed within a year. (We're also interested in expanding/re-configuring our modestly-sized home to accommodate extended family). So you might not be able to put up a shell and work on the inside piecemeal. Depends on your local zoning office, and how flexible they are.

Re helping the contractor/doing some of the labor yourself: Depends on the contractor, how flexible he is, how much he needs the work. DH did this on a small but complex project we hired a contractor for, and learned skills he uses now on handyman projects he does for others.

Good luck!

  • Mon, Jan 27, 2014 - 01:40pm


    Amanda Witman

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    Joined: Mar 17 2008

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    These are such great questions!

I'm sorry I don't have any thoughts on financing, but in the area where I live, it is certainly possible to do upgrades in stages, though you might need to break it down and get a separate permit each time.  Check with your town office about the specifics.

I think if you're able to make your home flexible — so you can shut off unused parts of the house when the occupancy is small, and open them up when it increases — it could work very well.

I've thought often about the possibilities in my own house.  The main improvement I'll want to make in my house to make this work is to put an elderly-accessible tub or shower on the first floor.  The whole upstairs (both floors) can be shut off when not in use, but that space can be expanded into if we need to accommodate extended family.

Right now my kids are preteens/teens, but I'm well aware that many of their generation "come back home" as adults.  I love the idea of someday having a quiet home all to myself, but that may not be the reality, and I'll be glad to have been thoughtful about keeping the option open.

I've also talked with my parents about how they're welcome to share my house later in life if needed.  I think we all agree that it would be sub-ideal in many ways, but we're keeping the option open.

Good to be thinking about this.

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