Rethink That White Picket Fence

My in-laws have decided it’s time to make a move.  It’s just the two of them and a small dog in their spacious 3 bed, 2 ½ bath home on a corner lot.  They’ve made a decision that a lot of people in their generation are making.  They are ready to downsize to a townhome.  When I first started selling homes here in Sioux Falls, that’s exactly what townhomes were – the first step of retirement housing in that gradual journey to the nursing home.  Now let me be clear – in no way am I implying that my in-laws are that old.  I’m just sharing why they made the choice they have…… I mean…….uh, anyway……..  While this is still the case for some people, the typical townhome buyer is changing.

If you are dreaming of your very own single-family, picket fence bird housestand-alone home with the white picket fence, you may want to rethink that regardless of your distance from the nursing home.

“Why?” you ask?  Well, let’s use my in-laws’ reasoning as a framework.

Price – As the housing market continues to strengthen and prices go up, the smaller amount of structure and land often keep the price of a townhome more affordable.  What may be a 5% down payment on a single-family home may be a 10% down payment on a townhome.  With a larger percentage down payment also often comes better interest rates, better mortgage insurance rates, and a significantly lower monthly payment.  By applying extra to each payment, you can pay that mortgage off in significantly less time.  Utilities will often be less as well since you have less space to heat and cool and generally have a shared wall rather than all four walls exposed to the elements.

Space – The reality is that we Americans are generally a fat culture.  I’m not making a statement about weight, but rather stuff.  We like stuff.  We have a lot of stuff.  If we have space, we tend to fill it with more stuff.  But the smaller area of a townhome is actually attractive to people looking for motivation to have less stuff.  The smaller space forces them to pare things down and focus on the essentials.  It’s also less space to clean when we get around to doing that.

Lawn MowerMaintenance – Owning a home takes a significant about of time.  For those of us in the typical white picket fence, there’s the maintenance, repairs, mowing, snow removal, tree and brush trimming, landscaping, and on and on and on and on.  Many townhomes are included in a ‘Home Owners Association’, or HOA.  While the HOA involves another fee, the HOA can take care of a lot of the work for you.  Often the HOA deals with lawn care, landscaping, and snow removal.  Depending on the specific HOA, it can also take care of all exterior maintenance, garbage service, security, and even insurance on the structure.  Be sure to look at what is included and find the HOA amenities that fit your needs and wants.  This isn’t just about physical ability, but lifestyle desires as well.

Don’t worry.  If you are still set on the traditional white picket fence, I have nothing against that.  In fact, I totally encourage that…. if it’s the right opportunity for you.  My point is, be aware of the different options out there and make sure you are picking one that truly fits your lifestyle rather than buying what everyone else tells you to.

Let’s be honest.  There is a whole lot to consider when buying a home.  So much so, in fact, that it can overwhelm and even terrify prospective home owners.  If you would like a little guidance, the Center for Financial Resources provides free Homebuyer Express classes that will educate you on the buying process.  We don’t tell you what you should do, but rather educate you so that you can make your own best-informed decision.  You can find out more about our classes on our calendar, or call us at 605-330-2700.  If the scheduled classes just don’t work, still give us a call.  We’ll figure something out to make sure that you are as informed as possible.



written by Breck Miller
images courtesy

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