Should You Sell Your Home?

Should you sell your home or stay put? Five women face their real estate demons and find their way home.

By Amanda Robb

Will Selling Your Home Be Worth It?

If money is freedom but home is where the heart is, what should you do about that little split-level ranch you settled on many years ago, but which is now worth more than all of the Hamptons combined? Should you pitch a "for sale" sign in the front yard this instant, before interest rates creep up another quarter of a percent? Or real estate prices plunge? Or oil hits $100 a barrel? Or aliens land?

Or maybe you had better hang on to your hitherto humble homestead because (a) now that you can actually afford to move to Molokai, your fantasies about sunset walks in the surf have turned into nagging worries about hurricane insurance (b) your middle son — the one with the MBA — doesn’t actually have anywhere else to live, and© your elderly mom isn’t exactly getting more self-reliant.

Whether or not the housing bubble bursts, odds are, if you are reading this magazine, you’re at a point in your life when you’re ready to open a new door. Here’s what five women discovered when they considered making a move.

Guilt-Tripped by the Kids

Sharon Maffei, 52, event planner

The House

A 3,250-square-foot, four-bedroom, 120-year-old Victorian "money pit" in Baraboo, Wisconsin, that she and her husband bought for less than $50,000 23 years ago (and which is now worth five times that).

The Dilemma

Maffei had her eye on a sweet little condo on the eighteenth hole. But when she told her three children — who are all in their 20s — about her plans, "they all agreed their dad and I would be staying in their childhood home forever," she recalls. "My daughter said, ‘I want my kids to sleep here.’ My youngest son suggested that we could leave — but keep the house so he could live in it!" Even Maffei’s attorney husband argued for the other side: "He told me he loved the house too. I said, ‘What happens if in 10 years our knees go and we can’t make the stairs? Maybe it’s better to make the move before we’re forced to?’ But he just told me he would deal with being old when he is old."

The Decision: Stay

Rather than think of the house as an albatross, Maffei began seeing it as a magnet, the place her daughter travels four hours round trip on weekends to visit. "We’re lucky to have kids who want to come home," she concedes, adding that she’s ready to break out the glucosamine to keep her knees strong.

Pull Up Stakes and Start a Business?

Nancy Blaney, 41, restaurateur; manager at a credit card processing firm

The House

A 4,000-square-foot, six-bedroom ranch in Highland, Utah, that she bought on her own in 1998 for about $180,000, and spent $60,000 remodeling.

The Dilemma

"I think anytime anyone gets divorced, they feel as if they’ve failed," says Blaney, whose marriage ended in 2003. So she wanted to do something to feel successful. One thing Blaney had always been extremely good at was flipping houses for a profit; she had done it five times and always traded up. But after her divorce, she thought, "I’m not going to upsize again. I’m not going to buy a more expensive house. I’m going to use this revenue to start a business.’" And she wanted to do so in Salt Lake City because that’s where her "main" job is located. But Blaney was conflicted about moving her son some 60 miles from his father.

The Decision: Sell

"I didn’t want to take him away from his dad, but I was the primary caregiver and the primary financial person," she says. Blaney sold her Highland home for $300,000 and then bought a 2,000-square-foot 70-year-old Tudor-style cottage – move-in condition — for $255,000. Now she was ready to scout business opportunities. Blaney didn’t want to own just any kind of company: She wanted a cafe. "I used to waitress when I was younger, and I absolutely loved it," she says. "I wanted countertops and stools set up to drink coffee." A few months after her divorce was finalized, the cafe at her favorite golf course became available. Blaney rushed in a bid and won. The first year or so was rough, but in 2007 she hopes she will turn a profit. "I always wanted to demonstrate to my son that you can do anything you want," she says. "Now is the opportunity."

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