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July 2004

Making a smooth transition to a larger home

Whether you're planning a family, starting a home business, or moving in with a partner, there comes a time when you outgrow your home. Magazines and newspapers frequently offer tips and ideas on downsizing (perhaps because so many Boomers are starting that process), but upsizing requires just as much thought and planning.

Here are some guidelines for a smooth transition to a larger home:

Be realistic about how much space you need. It's easy to underestimate your space needs and then have to move again in a few years. Think practically about your requirements. Are you considering starting or adding to your family? Do you need a home office? Is a big yard important? Ideally, you should buy a house that will meet your space needs for at least five years. On the other hand, don't buy more home than you need, unless you're comfortable with the extra time and cost involved in maintaining it.

Choose a knowledgeable REALTOR®. An experienced REALTOR® can help you evaluate your needs and make decisions about different neighbourhoods and home types. For example, if you're considering both townhomes and houses, it's important to understand the pros and cons of each. A good REALTOR® will also help you get the best possible value for your current home.

Don't confuse size with living space. Picture this: two houses are both 2,400 square feet, but one has eight generously sized rooms on two levels, while the other has 12 small rooms on three levels. Focus on optimal living space and effective room layouts, rather than square footage (unless you plan to tear down walls and renovate extensively). In some homes, a lot of space is wasted on stairways, hallways, nooks and crannies.

Budget for the extra costs. When you're upsizing, it's not just your mortgage that increases. Maintenance costs and utilities may rise significantly. Heating is usually one of the most expensive factors, so inquire about hydro and gas costs at homes you're considering. Don't forget about items that may have been covered by strata fees in your previous home, such as security and landscaping.

Educate yourself about home maintenance. If you've been living in a townhome or an apartment, you're used to a property manager taking care of all the details. As you get ready to move into a house, read a book or surf the web to get a basic understanding of home systems and seasonal maintenance. Even if you won't be doing the work yourself, you'll need to know how to identify problems and plan proactive maintenance.

Don't rush the decorating process. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by empty rooms, you may be tempted to buy furniture right away just to fill space. Why not relax and enjoy the space and explore your decorating options? After all, your home is the ultimate expression of who you are, so it's worth taking the time to choose colours, furniture and accents that you really love.