"I’m going to live here forever."

I’ve heard neighbors, friends, relatives and strangers say this to me. It is a common theme and feeling.

Truthfully, I said it myself when I was comfortably settled in my last home, where I lived for over 15 years. I learned that forever can sometimes mean "as far as I can see at the time."

It is helpful to keep in the back of our minds that things change. We may find ourselves in a situation where we need to move. You can keep this in the back of your mind without being obsessive about it.

If or when the time comes when you need to or decide to move, then it won’t be such a daunting task. Because the worst position you may find yourself in is that you want to move, but just can’t do it. It has become too difficult. You don’t have to let this happen.

Most people like to have a home base, a place to settle. But as time goes by, whether we like it or not, things change in our lives. And darn, it seems to happen faster than we can imagine.

Today’s priorities can quickly sink to the bottom of our lists or disappear while new ones emerge. Some we can control and others take us by surprise.

Through all this, our houses still need care and updating, which can’t be ignored. Being proactive about your home’s needs will pay off big in the long run, as will doing it right the first time.

I remember talking with two neighbors who were arguing over placement of a barn. One neighbor woke up one morning to see survey stakes in the ground which appeared to be four corners of a building that were very close to the property line and her home.

She knew this was contrary to the covenants. After confronting her neighbor about this, the corners were moved and building progressed. But during the conversation, the neighbor building the barn said she was never going to move.

She promised to be a good custodian and keep the barn clean. It didn’t matter where the barn was built, as she would always be a good neighbor and this was a non-issue. Six months after the barn was built, her husband was transferred and they sold their home.

They didn’t have to worry about explaining to the new owners why the barn was too close to the property line. It might have even delayed the sale. The old neighbors who stayed didn’t have to worry about new residents not conforming to the neighborhood standards.

Another time, I remember talking with someone who built a new home. They thought this was the last home they would ever own. As they were building, they only planned for three bedrooms and put in a septic system accordingly, even though the cost was not much more to allow for future expansion.

Later, when they were selling the home, they realized that the room they had converted in the basement required enlarging the septic system. While the cost was not exorbitant, it still held up the sale of the home and cost more than if they had done it originally.

People often want more room in their home. Sometimes the garage seems like the only choice for expansion, but it can be a poor choice if you are giving up indoor parking and storage.

Montanans love their garages, especially during cold snowy winters. While a den and extra space can seem enticing at the time, when it comes to selling, buyers won’t like it.

I have seen more than one home languish on the market until the sellers tired of hearing that there was no garage. Buyers wanted the storage for their cars and overflow of bicycles, skis and boxes.

As soon as the garage was converted back to its original intended use, the home sold. This is more common than you would imagine.

There are so many stories like these. And so many circumstances that we find ourselves in when doing home projects. We aren’t thinking about selling our home at the time, but our decisions can definitely affect a sale if we ever do sell.

***

Here are some suggestions to keep in mind next time you have a choice about which direction to take on an update to your home.

Always find out what the building code requirements are in your area and follow them.

Do not cut corners, as often you will regret that decision, especially if you end up selling.

If you enjoy home maintenance and doing it yourself, that’s great. But don’t do it to save money. Much of the time it will take you longer, you won’t have the necessary tools and it won’t come out as nice or last as long as the professional job. Again, if you end up selling, buyers will see the difference and you won’t get as much for your home in the end. Quality work pays off in the short and the long run.

As I get older, I am more careful to never say never. When I hear people say they are never going to move again, I remember when I said it myself.

***

Joy Earls is a broker/owner of Joy Earls Real Estate. She writes a monthly column for the Missoulian's Booming section, and can be reached at 531-9811 or at joyearls@joyearls.com.

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