Reflections 7 Weeks After Selling Our Home and Moving into a 55+ Rental Community  

In my March 10 column (read it at www.JimSmithColumns.com), I announced that Rita and I had decided to sell our Golden home and become renters for the first time in 50 or so years for both of us. A year ago, I could not have predicted such a decision so early in our youthful 70s. I thought you’d like to know how that has worked out for us, in case I got you thinking about a similar move yourself.

Our reasoning was simple. We felt that our home, which we could (and did) sell for 2½ times what we paid for it ten years ago, was unlikely to keep appreciating, and the money we would pocket from selling could more than support us for the rest of our lives. Since I’ll continue making a good income as a Realtor for several more years, we could pay all our living expenses without touching the principal, which we have since invested half in equity stocks and half in a Transamerica annuity with downside protection. (Ask me if you’d like references to our two advisors.)

Zillow and other valuation models show our former home continuing to appreciate, which is good news for our buyer, but it’s hard to predict how much longer that will be true.  I feel we may be at or near the peak of the market. The experience with other listings in the past month suggests that, yes, the market is softening, triggered primarily by the rapid rise in mortgage rates.

So, are Rita and I happy in our new 2-bedroom/2-bath rental? The answer is a qualified “yes.” It definitely was an exercise in “letting go” to move from a 2,639-sq.-ft. home with its 3-car garage and its 2,281-sq.-ft. basement full of “stuff” into our 1,096-sq.-ft. apartment.  I made countless trips to Goodwill, plus targeted donations elsewhere. We gave three unused bicycles plus accessories to the Golden Optimists’ Bicycle Recycle program, gave our gas generator to a Habitat for Humanity group, gave our air compressor to our handyman who uses it to blow out sprinkler systems, and, most helpful of all, included virtually all our furniture in the sale of our home.

It was, in short, quite a process of letting go, not just of miscellaneous possessions accumulated over the years, but also of family heirlooms which had been passed down over the years from our two families.

We had boxes and boxes of artifacts and papers in our basement which we spent many hours culling, recycling most of it. (I didn’t quite finish and have a few boxes in storage that I will get to “sometime.”)

Yes, we rented storage space — both a long-term unit at Public Storage and two small cages in our apartment building a short distance from our apartment for short-term storage — stuff that might otherwise go in a pantry or closet if we had a larger unit.

Long before we had decided to sell and downsize, Rita and I had purchased a week-long cruise of the Mediterranean, which began three weeks after our move into the apartment. We had barely settled in by that time, and the cruise allowed us to experience living in 200 square feet for long enough to make our 1,096-sq.-ft. apartment feel rather spacious when we returned.

As I write this, another 16 days have passed, and we are finally settled in and enjoying our new digs. We spend a lot of time on our south-facing balcony with its view of Green Mountain and the foothills. We watch less TV, having “cut the cord” and subscribed to YouTube TV. We watch much less news and more Netflix movies and programs.

We are also beginning to take advantage of the many programs at Avenida Lakewood, although the press of business is keeping me from taking the yoga and fitness classes which are offered. Shown here is a picture of the sign in our elevator listing the various facilities in the building, to give you an idea of what’s offered. A recent census reported by our community manager said that 70% of the 266 residents in Avenida’s 207 occupied apartments have participated in 9 or more activities, and that 57% of February’s programs were created and led by a resident. There were 314 programs on the March calendar.  Talk about “active living”!

Continental breakfast is served daily except Sunday on the main floor and is one of many opportunities to meet fellow residents. Being on the 4th floor, we also meet people in the elevator, and everyone is super friendly. Residents don’t pass each other, indoors or on the sidewalk, without saying “hello.” This is a contrast from our single-family subdivision, where there were few opportunities to meet our neighbors. I already know more neighbors in this building than I knew in that subdivision.

Rita has made use of the full-service salon, where I have already had a haircut. Rita joined a card game and a Mahjong group, meeting additional neighbors that way. I attended the men’s group where we discussed possible events. I will be driving up Mt. Evans with some of the men after that road opens.

At this time, 95% of the apartments at Avenida Lakewood have been leased. (It was only opened in the summer of 2019.) Soon they will start creating a waiting list. Call me if you’d like to know more or be introduced to the sales staff. Don’t call me if you smoke, however. It’s not permitted anywhere in the building or on the grounds — even within your apartment or on your balcony.

In conclusion, Rita and I feel that we made the right decision. Thanks to the nest egg we created by selling our home, plus Medicare and our long-term care policies, we feel that our future is secure and we can even splurge on more vacations.

I don’t know how many communities there are like Avenida, which charges rent with no “buy-in” that would tie up capital that could otherwise be producing income. Jenn Gomer of CarePatrol told us about Avenida and we didn’t look further. I recommend calling her at 720-788-2364 if you want to know other options.

For Rita and me, we like the flexibility of our one-year lease which gives us the freedom to stay or move a year from now.

With Prices So High, Many Homeowners Are Wondering If It’s Time to Cash Out  

Rita and I are both 74 years old, and, although I have no plans to retire at this time, we have decided for various reasons to sell our home and move into a 55-plus community. Knowing that many of my readers are seniors, I’ve decided to share some of our thinking.

When you’re our age, you can’t predict when you might have to sell, so I have always recommended that seniors do it while they can instead of waiting until they have to. It is also kinder to your heirs to downsize possessions yourself rather than leave that task to them after you die.

The run-up in home prices has been breathtaking, hasn’t it? It’s difficult to predict how much longer it will last, but Rita and I do know that we can be satisfied with the proceeds we will get from selling our home now. The income from those proceeds in a TransAmerica fund that guarantees a certain return despite market fluctuations would help pay the rent for our new apartment. And, since I’m not retiring yet, I’ll continue to have an income on top of that.

Social Security, Medicare and appropriate long-term care policies for each of us can provide additional peace of mind regarding our medical needs as we age.

Our decision to move into a 55-plus community also relieved us of the biggest dilemma facing homeowners who want to capitalize on selling their current home — how to find a place to buy in a very difficult market for buyers.

While it’s nearly impossible and highly frustrating to buy in this crazed seller’s market, and while the renter’s market is also extremely tight and expensive, there are many 55-plus communities like the one we chose that have units available. In addition, it’s the nature of these places that openings become available as other residents die or move into assisted living facilities.

You’ll want a professional to help you evaluate the different 55-plus communities that exist and that are opening every year. Some, like the one we chose, are straight rentals, but others require a 6-figure “buy-in” which can eat up the proceeds from the sale of your home. I suggest hiring Jenn Gomer, who is in the business of helping seniors find the community which is a right “fit” for their specific needs. You don’t pay Jenn for that service — she receives a fee from the community you select.

The dilemma mentioned above is solved by waiting until you have signed a lease on your rental (ours starts on April 1st), then putting your home on the market with a closing date 15 days after your lease begins. That way you have a reasonable amount of time to move into your rental (using Golden Real Estate’s free moving truck, free moving boxes and affordable laborers, if you listed with us). It also gives you time to dispose of your excess “stuff.”

It has been an interesting if exhausting process to let go of the family heirlooms, mementos, and other possessions that have slowly filled our unfinished basement over the years — stuff that we have lugged from one house to the next.

The Marshall fire had a psychological impact on us, too.  We imagined if our own home were to be consumed by fire unexpectedly and we had to start over, losing everything we enjoy daily as well as all that stuff in our basement that we have been dragging along each time we bought a new home. Would we miss it? Of course, but we could live without it, couldn’t we?

There’s a freedom to be gained by releasing the past and living solely in the present. It felt good giving away things to Goodwill and other charities as well as to friends and relatives.

For example, since acquiring an electric bicycle several years ago, the three conventional bicycles we owned had been sitting unused in our basement and were never likely to see the light of day again. So we donated them, along with bicycle parts and accessories such as paniers and pumps, to the “Bicycle Recycle” program of the Golden Optimists Club, which refurbishes bicycles and donates them to low-income people. Making that donation felt great, on top of the feeling we got from clearing them and other stuff from our basement.

We thought about giving most of our furniture to victims of the Marshall fire, but realized that an estate sale was more practical and then we could donate money instead. Except for a few pieces, we’ve decided to purchase all-new furniture for our 2-bedroom/2-bath apartment at Avenida Lakewood.

It’s amazing how many papers were in boxes in our basement. I found tax returns going back to the 1980s which needed to be shredded. We also had the closed transactions of Golden Real Estate going back well beyond the number of years we’re required to retain them, and we were able to move the more recent transactions to the company’s new office in downtown Golden.

We had carpet remnants for carpeting that no longer existed at home and office. Bye-bye! We took multiple carloads of nice things that we didn’t need to Goodwill, which thankfully accepted all of it.

The wheelbarrows and gas generator that we never used but lent to Habitat for Humanity for its pumpkin patch each October are now in that organization’s own storage facility, not in our basement. 

Anyone want to buy our really sweet upright piano?

55+ Communities Get More Attractive With Age  

Rita and I recently decided to sell our home and move into Avenida Lakewood, a two-year-old community near Colfax and Quail which boasts “Resort Inspired Living” for people 55 or older. (Actually, a spouse can be under 55.)

We were also looking at Vita Littleton, but Avenida is closer to Golden Real Estate’s office, and I’m not retiring.

But that’s the point. You don’t have to retire for living in a 55+ community to make sense. The rent for our two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with 4th floor mountain views is competitive with a comparable apartment with none of Avenida’s many amenities and activities which drew us to sign a one-year lease.  And there’s no 6-figure buy-in or “entry fee” as there is with many 55+ communities.

Jenn Gomer of CarePatrol specializes in helping seniors like us find the community which best fits our needs, and she recommended Avenida to us. (We hadn’t heard of it.)  If you’re in our demographic, I suggest you call her office at 720-675-8308 and discuss what might be best for you. Such communities vary greatly, with some, unlike Avenida, providing “continuity of care,” meaning that you don’t have to move if your health deteriorates and you require assisted living, nursing home or hospice care.