Confessions of a 20-Year Homeowner

By Maria Patterson


My oldest son turned 20 this year. In addition to realizing I’ll no longer be able to say, “I have two teenagers,” and that I’m probably not going to be his number-one concert buddy anymore, something else hit me on Jack’s birthday—the realization that we’ve now lived in our home for 20 years. Our first home had quietly turned into our only home.

Working at RISMedia for more than 12 years now, I’m well aware that my same-home longevity is not the optimal homeowner path. I’ve unwittingly bucked the move-every-seven-years trend, the move-up to a bigger home trend, and the second-home trend. And since I’ve skipped the move-up trend, there’s a good chance I’ll also skip right over the downsizing trend. Having too much space never became a factor.

The decision to stay in the same home long-term was never our plan—it just gradually unfolded before us.

My husband and I started out as your classic first-time homebuyers: parents-to-be who wanted more space and more stability for our forthcoming family. We loved our home the second we saw it, but bought it fully expecting to move on to a larger home in a few years. Keep in mind we were in the midst of the McMansion era and in Fairfield County, Conn., where bigger obviously meant better and was the goal of every young homeowner at the time.

Although we were happily nesting in our new home and spreading roots in the community, the intent to move onward and upward remained steadfast for several years. One time, we even toured listings with a REALTOR® in Maine, thinking a more rural lifestyle was the way to go. That exercise, however, only made us appreciate our home even more. When we pulled into our driveway after a silent, six-hour ride home, our mutual feeling was, “What were we thinking!?”

After that, the reasons to stay put mounted. The biggest one of all? Location, of course.

Our dead-end street and lovely neighborhood were hard to beat. Both of our jobs were within two miles of our home. I was less than an hour from my aging parents. Norwalk had both suburban and urban components, and as a native New Yorker, tapping into a city vibe was really important to me. We increasingly realized that we had it all right where we were—culture, convenience and community.

We also fell more in love with our home itself every year. Sure, we could’ve used more closet space and a proper guest room, but were those really reasons to leave? Was a finished basement an attractive enough trade-off? Instead, we chipped away at improvements, both in terms of square footage and aesthetics, until our starter home actually became our move-up home.

For real estate professionals, here’s the lesson in this story.

I still clearly remember the real estate agent who helped us buy our home in 1996—to this day, I carry a tremendous debt of gratitude. She was a sage guide to two people who knew zippo about real estate. She helped negotiate a lower price with the seller and convinced her to leave behind a couple of items we had fallen in love with. She connected us with her mortgage professional and her lawyer for the closing. She informed us, calmed us down, and made us see that we really could afford to become homeowners. She gave us a gift certificate to an awesome lighting store as a closing gift. I remember it all vividly—the connection was real.

Yet, we never heard from her again.

Had she kept in touch, perhaps she was the one person who could have convinced us to move at some point. And if not, we still would’ve built a relationship that resulted in infinite referrals flowing her way. I know you’ve heard it a gazillion times before, but please… stay in touch after the sale.

As my husband and I confront an empty nest this fall, the waves of nostalgia and the general malaise of feeling old are tempered by happy thoughts of being able to finally relax and really enjoy our home. After all, if the stats about kids moving back home after college are correct, it may not last long. We’d better seize the moment while we can.
 
This post was originally published on RISMedia's blog, Housecall. Check the blog daily for top real estate tips and trends.

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