We drove to Long Branch Lakes yesterday to check on the construction progress of the condo we are buying. Things are moving along rapidly. The unit is completely shelled in and framed, with rough plumbing and electrical completed. The garage is finished and our horse’s shoe was embedded in the garage floor surface as we asked.
The developer finally completed his condominium documents and established the first year monthly condo fee: $125. That is less than I thought it would be. It is bound to go up of course but that is a reasonable starting point.
We spent some time visiting with our friends who have been building a large house on five acres in Long Branch Lakes. I feel bad for them because they are acting as their own general contractor and things are going very slowly. Our condo will be finished way before their house will, even though when we bought last summer, no dirt had been turned at the condo site, whereas our friends expected to be in their home by November 2009! At their current pace, they will now be fortunate to be finished by November 2010.
I think this is somewhat indicative of the differences between downsizing and upscaling in retirement. Our friends’ house will be magnificent as well as roomy, with elaborate outdoor spaces. They will have a great deal of privacy on their five acres.
Our condo is only a mile away from our friends’ house. It will be compact and efficient. It will have all the amenities of a much larger home but without the energy and maintenance demands of a large, self-contained structure. It will have no stairs to negotiate as we age. Our only private outdoor space will be a large deck overlooking the water. However, there will be a community pool, dock, and grilling/dining patio shared by the 64 condo units but maintained by fees from all of Long Branch Lakes homeowners (including our friends.) This is an advantage I can embrace.
Upscaling like our friends is a popular choice for retirees and I have no criticism of it for those who can afford it, as our friends can. (Upscaling into a mortgage is not a good idea, however.) Many boomers and retirees consider an upscaled place to live after the nest is empty to be a payoff for years of hard work raising children.
There is another angle to explore in the downsizing vs. upscaling comparison. Our ultimate plan is to have two homes in retirement, both smaller than our primary residence now. One is our lake house which we purchased seven years ago. The other will be the condo. Although I don’t know this for a fact, I believe the combined cost of our two homes will be substantially less than what our friends are spending on their one home. I like the living and recreation options that our strategy presents, for the same investment. We know of many retirees who are snow birds for this same reason. We shall see how it works for us, although we will not be moving for weather changes. Our condo and lake house are only a few hours drive apart.
What are your thoughts on upscaling vs. downsizing in retirement?
A couple of reads to pass on. First is this post from the My Dollar Plan blog that illustrates the benefits of making 401k Catch Up Contributions. Also, don’t forget to take a look at the articles in this week’s Carnival of Personal Finance.
Have a great week and thanks for reading.