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Say good-bye to rising house maintenance costs

Couple says their move to Brooksby makes financial sense

Created date

November 14th, 2014
Bruce and Marjorie Wedlock traded rising house maintenance costs for predictable monthly expenses at Brooksby, the Erickson Living community in Peabody, Mass.
Bruce and Marjorie Wedlock traded rising house mai

Bruce and Marjorie Wedlock are all too familiar with the escalating costs of house ownership.
The couple loved their Colonial-style home in North Reading, Mass., but the increasing expense of maintaining the house and surrounding garden were taking a toll.
“We used to do all the upkeep ourselves,” says Bruce, a retired professor of electrical engineering at MIT. “As time went on, we found ourselves paying professionals to take over more and more of the chores.”
Bruce estimates he was paying $5,000 to $6,000 a year in landscaping expenses alone.
“We had to pay people to cut the grass, trim the trees, spread fertilizer, and mulch the flower beds,” he says. “It was adding up to a significant amount.”
Marjorie, for her part, found herself spending the better part of her days keeping up the interior.
“I washed all 26 windows inside and out twice a year,” she says. “Then there was the everyday cleaning. I didn’t have much time for my needlework or knitting because I spent so much time keeping up the house.”
Exploring their options
Convinced there had to be a better alternative, Bruce and Marjorie began to look at retirement communities in 2011.
“I was looking for a place with a woodshop,” says Bruce, an avid woodworker with an interest in building American Federal period furniture (1789–1823). “That was at the top of my list.”
Marjorie’s top priority was finding an active community where she felt safe.
“I wanted to live someplace with lots of amenities and activities for residents,” she says.
Their search led them to Brooksby, an Erickson Living community in Peabody.
“We liked the full calendar of activities and friendly staff and residents at Brooksby, but the woodshop wasn’t comparable to what I had at home,” says Bruce. “We looked at another retirement community in North Andover, but it didn’t have any woodshop at all and the monthly fees were higher than at Brooksby.”
The couple put their search on hold until rising home maintenance costs caught up with them again in 2013.
Everything’s going up
“I was looking at our bills in early 2013,” says Bruce. “Everything had gone up significantly. Our tax bill took a $1,000 jump to fund a bond for a new high school in the area. We had to pay $500 each time we filled our heating oil tank. I knew we had to do something.”
So Bruce put together an analysis of the monthly expenses in their house versus what they would spend on the monthly service package at Brooksby.
Some retirement communities operate on a rental basis, often charging a hefty monthly fee that, once paid, is gone forever. Other continuing care communities, like Brooksby, require an entrance deposit but have lower monthly service fees.
At Brooksby, the entrance deposit is 90% refundable to the resident or his or her estate. The convenient low monthly fee covers all utilities (except telephone), amenities, flexible dining options, property taxes, and maintenance costs.
“Bruce looked at our finances and said it was going to be less expensive for us to live at Brooksby than it would be to continue living in our house,” says Marjorie. “Clearly, our expenses weren’t going down. They would continue to climb.”
The couple visited Brooksby once more. This time, Bruce says he was really impressed with the woodshop.
“A new resident was in charge of the woodshop, and he had done a great job getting it in order,” he adds.
Ideal location, amenities
Bruce and Marjorie joined the priority list at Brooksby in June 2013, putting down a fully refundable $1,000 to reserve their place in line for the apartment home of their choice.
“We wanted a two-bedroom apartment near the woodshop,” says Bruce. “The sales team called in September to tell us a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment had just opened up across the hall from the woodshop. We drove over that afternoon to look at it.”
The couple liked the floor plan, a Kingston, and decided the time was right to move. They listed their house in mid-November 2013. It was under contract almost immediately, allowing Bruce and Marjorie to settle into their apartment on December 19.
“We used the proceeds from the sale of our house to cover the entrance deposit at Brooksby,” says Bruce. “We even had money left over for upgrades, including new kitchen and bathroom cabinets, custom shelving in the office, plantation shutters, and a closet system of my own design.”
‘Positive cash flow’
Now that they’re approaching their one-year anniversary at Brooksby, Bruce and Marjorie say they couldn’t be happier.
“We’re doing activities we love instead of spending time and money keeping up a house,” says Bruce.
Marjorie, who maintains the checkbook, says bookkeeping is a breeze.
“I sit down and write two checks every month, one to Brooksby and one to the credit card company,” she says. “I’m not writing checks for heating, landscaping, new gutters, and all the other things that go along with owning a home. It’s wonderful.”
And although Bruce hasn’t done a detailed financial analysis since they moved, he says the increasing balance in their bank account assures him they made the right decision.
“We haven’t denied ourselves anything, and we still have a positive cash flow each month,” he says. “That tells me something’s going right.”