Regardless of where you went on vacation or for how long, you likely came back wistful and yearning for more of what made your Ftrip special. And for many, after spending time away where space is not at a premium and the great outdoors are close by, we come home wishing we could live differently.
For some it is simply a vague notion that something is not quite right while others feel the desire to pull up stakes and move elsewhere.
I call it the annual, “itch to switch”. Regardless of where you are on the continuum, I have some ideas to share with you having gone through the process myself many times.
Now you may love being a New Yorker and cannot imagine calling anywhere but New York City home. Yet perhaps you want more space or simply different space. Make a list of the top three things you loved about your vacation home and the three things you don’t like about your current home. Being realistic, ask yourself which of these six items on your list you can change.
Also realize that many of us have an emotional attachment to our home. Having a safe place for your emotions inside your four walls is as important as having a safe place to store your belongings. How do you feel in your neighborhood? Are there people and places which make you happy on a daily basis? Perhaps these are the real items which spark joy on a daily basis and a redo of your current place is all that is needed.
With your list in hand of what you want and what you don’t want, consider these five steps. When you are done you should be able to live in your best home possible.
1. Assess your budget. In today’s mortgage rate environment, many homeowners locked in a low rate a few years ago and are reluctant to move and give up that low mortgage payment. If so, stay and change what you can. Yet if you are a renter facing escalating monthly costs or can afford a move, this is an ideal time.
In NYC higher rates have dampened buyer demand which have brought down prices. You can always refinance in the future but when mortgage rates go down, prices will go up. There is a famous real estate saying, “date the rate but marry the house” and that is truer today than ever. You could consider a new neighborhood. Moving to a Murray Hill condo which offers value could give you the space you need.
Even if a move isn’t in the cards for you, how about some small upgrades or a renovation? Take a look at your finances and see how much you can afford to spend to make your home work better for you, incorporating some of the elements which made your vacation spot so enticing. Then move on to step number two.
2. Review your functionality, space and layout. How we live is always changing and you might notice there are portions of your home that are heavily used while others go untouched. Take a more global view of how you live instead of simply tossing items you deem as clutter. Really notice how you move through your space on a daily basis. Is there a way you can reorganize your furniture or even remove larger items which has outlived their purpose?
For example, does that bean bag chair, futon or massive chest of drawers really need to be there anymore? What about switching to digital options for your media consumption? If you are a true bookworm, you might find that once you start reading your books on a handheld device you have more room to move about. Overall is there a more streamlined way to achieve the same resting, entertainment and storage needs than you have today? Doing this exercise will free up square footage.
Do you actually have enough space or have you outgrown the size of your current apartment? If the walls seem to be closing in on you, one option might be to change your layout. Many upper west side condos and upper east side condos were recently built. You may have a beautiful new home but perhaps something as simple as smaller doors might help.
Developers build to scale as it would be impossible to customize for every buyer. For example, in one Harlem condo the walk-in closet doors are all thirty-six inches wide in compliance with recent building codes. The result is the inswing door precludes using two thirds of the closet space. Simply switching the door out for two twelve inch bi-folds has allowed many homeowners to maximize their storage space. Simple solutions such as these might make your home not only feel more spacious but also make it more enjoyable.
Of course, there is no end to the home improvement suggestions and ideas you can easily access online these days but before you go down that rabbit hole go back to your budget. You should also create a full list of all the projects you wish to undertake and then prioritize them so you don’t become overwhelmed and not do any of them!
3. Reorganize. If the thought of clearing out your closets and tossing the clutter is as appealing as a root canal, take heart. There are plenty of professionals who would be more than happy to help you assess your home and figure out how to make it function more efficiently. Some are truly gifted at understanding how space can be better organized, helping you create systems tailored to how you live which put everything where it belongs. If you get down to step five and realize you actually do need to move, remember that you will still need to purge and pack.
Some reorganizing before you get to your next place will help you avoid recreating systems which don’t work for you in your current place. Seriatim is a top notch moving and organizing company which specializes in this process.
4. Renovate. Renovating can be as simple as finally tackling that bathroom or kitchen project you keep putting off all the way to a full gut renovation. No matter what needs to be done this is the point where you want to call in the experts to help you make decisions. It is very easy to over or under spend and not get the return on your investment you had expected. You also want to keep your future plans in mind. If you are likely to sell in the next few years, a streamlined renovation is in order.
If you overspend you may not recoup your investment. Keeping an eye on your return on investment is critical. Call in a local real estate professional to give you a sense of what upgrades buyers value in today’s market. What you think is important and what current buyers are looking for could be different.
You should also talk to some contractors to get an idea of pricing and what the project you envision actually entails. They can give you some excellent feedback regarding the current condition of your home and simple ways to make it look great.
5. Assess the Current Real Estate Market. Selling and moving elsewhere is clearly this is the most drastic of the options but for many it may be time. Adding more people to your home may require more space or even different space. For example, looking at Harlem Brownstones for sale you may realize that spreading your living over a few floors allows for more privacy and functionality while adding square footage.
If your emotional connection to the home is strong but it doesn’t make sense financially any longer, it could be time to sell. This is particularly true if you have lived in your home for a very long time with many happy memories. It is very likely you also have a long list of projects to upgrade various parts of the home which you simply haven’t gotten to you as you go about living your life. In that case it is time to leave them for the next happy homeowner.
How to make your home work better for you is a very personal decision so there is no one right answer and this truth makes the process even more confusing. Weigh the pros and cons and reach out to those who know you and your home. Your trusted advisors are likely to have some keen insights.
As time distances you from your summer vacation, you may discover that what you thought was unlivable isn’t such a big deal after all and that simply booking your next break from your beloved city is all you really need.