I have had a lot of time to think about things these last few months. With no yard work or home improvement projects, no staging the house or cleaning up for showings, my calendar has opened up considerably. Combine that with the fact that the boys can play with any of the 2 dozen kids that live in the complex, and I’ve had plenty of time for day-dreaming.
While my thoughts have ranged from “maybe I should try surfing” to “I wonder if we could run away in an RV next year”, I kept coming back to the thought that the decision we make about how and where to live next will create the backdrop for some of the most vivid memories in our boys’ lives. The next 5 to 10 years are the ones where they’ll be learning how to be members of society, and determining what kind of person they want to become. I find myself using this “backdrop” image as the starting point for where we go in the next stage of our lives and I have come up with a list of questions that helped me figure it all out.
1.) What do you want to be close to?
If you are considering a new location in the same metro area, this might be easier, but it applies to any move. Do you want to be close to the beach or the mountains? To be close to family or close to your dream job? How far you are willing to commute to work? Make a list of what is important first. Re-order it second.
For us, family and commute times topped the list.
Family: My sisters and mother live in the next county over and I wanted to be able to visit with them without too far of a drive. We were shooting no more than for 45 minutes by car to my mom’s place so that we have lots of opportunities for the boys to hang out with her, my sisters and all of the cousins.
Commute time: We considered how far we wanted to be to our jobs, the boys’ schools and big-city amenities and venues. Our upper limit for any of these was 30 minutes by car, shorter if possible. We wanted more time to do things, less time getting to the things we wanted to do.
Items that made the list, but were less important were closeness to the airport, closeness to the boys’ soccer fields, or to major shopping outlets. Also, we did not have to consider zoning for schools since the boys currently attend a magnet program, but we did noodle the proximity to their future schooling needs.
2.) What do you want to be walking-distance or biking-distance to?
This is different than the above because you can be 10 minutes from the beach by car, but the terrain might prevent you from biking there. You need to consider what things need to be the MOST convenient.
Are you picturing walking your dog to get your morning coffee at Starbucks? Do you want to be able to get gas or buy a gallon of milk without a long drive? How about your favorite restaurants? Is there a way to live close to one that you frequent?
If you are looking at neighborhoods with amenities, do you want to be really close to the community center or pool…or really NOT close. (Maybe you don’t want people walking by your home all of the time on their way to go swimming.)
For us, we wanted to be able to walk with the boys to get dinner at one or two neat places, or to be able to ride our bikes to the river or to a park.
3.) What kind of weekends do you want to have?
After we moved out of our last house, we said we never again wanted to have a yard that owned us. Our weekends were spent mowing, edging and blowing, mulching bagging and weeding. And when we finally caved and hired someone, we had to add in the extra funds into our monthly budget to cover the service.
Untamed rural and urban homes often have little upkeep, while suburban homes have more work required and might even fine owners whose yards are not kept in good shape. Condos and townhomes might have no upkeep required for individual owners, but you may be assessed for the costs to have a professional crew do the maintenance for common areas.
We decided our next house would have a smaller, more manageable yard; it would be big enough to kick a soccer ball around or let the dog out for exercise, but not so big we had to work on it all the time. We ruled out suburban neighbors with big lots, as well as condos or townhomes.
4.) How close do you want to be to your neighbors, literally and figuratively?
The obvious answers to this question address proximity to the next house or unit. Do you want to share a wall or share a fence? Do you want to run into people as you pull into the garage, or wave by them as you drive out of the neighborhood?
It is also about lifestyle. There are plenty of condo-dwellers who live on opposite sides of a wall who never speak to each other. Similarly, there are many suburban, planned or rural communities that have neighborhood events where people make a point to get to know each other.
We have missed out on making friends in a neighborhood for a decade. I envy those families who have neighbors who socialize in the street, whose kids play together, roaming in packs on bikes and passing effortlessly between houses, and who look out for each other. We were looking for a place with a robust, intentional community-feel.
Before we got clear on what we wanted, we were literally all over the map. This exercise helped us come to the conclusion that we need to limit our search to the neighborhoods in and around the city center. It has made taking the next steps in our search so much easier.
Considering moving? Let me know if you have other variables you considered or if these helped you with narrowing your search.