Movin' on up!

From starter home to family castle, the move up requires careful consideration says Paul Stickney

Last month's column I focused on seniors considering rightsizing options as they plan for the golden years. When these (often larger) family homes come on market, there is a homebuyer pool ready to move in. These buyers are often young couples either family planning, or those who have recently traded in the Dodge Challenger for a Dodge Grand Caravan. The decision to "take on more house" involves careful consideration and planning.

Before taking the plunge and calling your Realtor to tour homes, challenge yourself with the following few questions:

1. Are we ready to take on a larger mortgage payment?

2. Why does my family need more house, and how do we plan to utilize the extra space?

3. What's the state of our current home? Have we maintained the property, and realistically can it be "show ready" with a quick turnaround time?

A move up is essentially a lifestyle shift. If you need more house because your current home space cannot support your growing family, that's one thing. It's an entirely different situation if you live a social lifestyle, because taking on more home will probably require a redistribution of your disposable income. A move up means more expenses beyond the mortgage payment. Property taxes, maintenance of a larger property and higher utility costs are just a few items that will require a greater financial commitment. Also, worth noting is any transfer of property in Ontario means you pay land transfer taxes, closing costs and likely last-minute home improvement bills to get your home ready for sale.

If you are moving up, space is likely the biggest factor. The great thing about Waterloo is literally every neighbourhood in town presents an opportunity to move up within the neighbourhood itself. This may mean you're ready to jump from a townhome to a single detached residence to attain the extra space desired. When considering extra space, it's worth evaluating your current home and seeing if opportunity presents itself where you are. If all you really need is an extra bedroom, is there a chance that space can be created in your unfinished basement? Perhaps it's worth calling a couple reputable renovation contractors to quote for an addition? If you love your current neighbours, street or commute, what value does that play into your decision? Talking to your mortgage broker about refinancing could allow you to stay put while achieving the extra space you need.

If it's truly time to move on and up, how prepared are you to list your current property? Your Realtor will give you the best advice (depending on what you're looking for) on whether you should buy or sell your home first. If it's a hot neighbourhood, chances are you'll be in a multiple offer situation and a "sale of a buyer's property" condition may put you out of contention.

A move up shouldn't be a daunting decision, but rather a very exciting milestone. That said, carefully considering your finances, space needs and current home marketability must be factored into your move forward.