Creative Living

by Joy Earls

Colder weather is here and it’s a good time to settle into your current home for another winter.

But it’s also time to think about the future. Are you rambling around a house that has more room than you want to deal with? Are you thinking about the mounting costs of heat, taxes and maintenance? Are you also thinking that you want to be some place warmer, at least for part of the winter?

Of course, you may not be ready to sell your home yet. There are probably some good choices besides making a drastic change. If you’re open to some ideas, it doesn’t hurt to consider something a little different. I guarantee, if nothing else, you will have great dinner conversations during the holidays.

Before I go further, I want to be sure that anyone reading this knows I am using creative thinking.

I hope I don’t get a letter from a local government employee telling me this is an absolutely prohibited use for a residence. On the other hand, as members of the Baby Boomer generation, we are often ready to expand on or change the status quo.

And when it comes to our homes and living choices, perhaps that is a good place to start. My caution is to know your building codes, zoning, covenants and anything in place in your neighborhood. And then take your ideas and see if they will fit into the current guidelines, or if they may need some tweaking.

After that long disclaimer, let’s talk about some possible ideas for you to consider so you can enjoy
where you are a little longer.

There has been a lot of talk lately about Air BnB, Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) and others. Air
BnB started as a way for some young San Franciscans to pay the rent by blowing up air mattresses and
renting space in their apartment.

It worked so well that renters and owners around the world are using the website as a way to meet
new people and make a little bit of extra money each month.

VRBOs are similar. If you have a large home or a spare bedroom, it may be something fun to try. We
were in Colombia last spring, stayed in a fabulous condo with a roof-top pool and a doorman.

Believe me, we don’t live like that or travel in such style. But when people open up their homes, they are able to travel themselves and have others experience their surroundings affordably. I was sold after that trip.

There are other sites and services where people exchange their homes for more extended periods of
time. You could find someone who has a home in a warm Southern town and wants to explore a winter
in the snow. You could then experience the season in an urban environment where it’s warmer, while
they get to go skiing and freeze their tootsies off. Or you could look even further and try an extended stay abroad.

By traveling overseas and staying in an exchange home, you can settle in one spot. This makes some
of the challenge of moving from place to place while exploring a new environment easier. And it is the
perfect opportunity to really get an idea if you want to move from your current home or just have a
change for a while.

When my father-in-law retired, my in-laws had planned on lots of trips. They bought a new car and set out on the road soon after the last cup of congratulations was raised at his retirement party. They headed east first to visit my sister-in-law, and then came out west to visit those of us who lived out
this way.

After that round, they stayed close to home. They were comfortable with familiar surroundings and
preferred us to come in their direction. They got their taste of longer trips away from home and learned that it wasn’t what they liked.

I have known other people who took more drastic approaches. They sold their homes, bought big RVs
and intended to roam the country, with long-term stays in their favorite locales. For some people, it
may be everything they had hoped for.

But others, after the thrill of being footloose, they decided the rambling life wasn’t for them. The old house looked a lot better after being on the road, like it did for my in-laws.

For the people who sold their homes, it might have been a better idea to rent their home first on a long-term basis, find a house-sitter to oversee things for a time or even shut things down until their return. Keeping their home would have left them that option.

Some houses have enough room for a family member to live in one area full time, and the owners
can come and go knowing someone is around most of the time.

This can work well as a person ages. The space can also accommodate a potential caregiver or roommate
that isn’t too close for comfort, but is there to assist if needed. The options seem endless when you start daydreaming.

It is helpful to know that there are so many choices. Selling your home is on one end of the spectrum,
while sharing it or completely renting the entire premises is on the other.

Joy Earls is a broker/owner of Joy Earls Real Estate. She can be reached at 531-9811 or at

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