As the countrys population ages, retirement and estate planning are two topics increasingly in the public dialogue. Yet some of the most creative options for financing retirement — and leveraging ones assets — are often not even explored.
Consider Marguerite Murray who, approaching her mid-80s, decided not to spend her life savings on the rent for a retirement home. Instead, she used the money to finance a two-level addition to her daughters home in Alexandria.
The upper level would accommodate an elegant mother-in-law suite for Murray. The lower level would be a master bedroom for her daughter and son-in-law.
Mom had looked at lots of options, including a retirement village near my sisters home in Oregon, said Murrays daughter, Jen Lapp. But it was my husband, John, who first broached the idea of the addition.
Murray had lived alone in Garrett Park, Md., since her husband passed away in 1997. But after she stopped driving, staying in the family home proved to be increasingly difficult — not to mention a source of anxiety for Jen, who lived more than an hour away.
Remodeling Equals Retirement Home
Looking at our choices, the decision was fairly simple, Lapp said. An addition to our home cost about the same as a place in the retirement community — but thats before annual fees that range as high as $60,000. Obviously, expenses like that can eat up your nest egg pretty quickly.
John Lapp made a preliminary attempt at designing the proposed space, using software on his home computer. This exercise, however valiant, only heightened Lapps awareness of his comparatively limited experience in design and build practices. A neighbor recommended Foster Remodeling Solutions.
Company president David Foster — who said the elderly make up about half his client base — suggested a stairway that could be retrofitted for an electric chair as well as a low-threshold shower, a plan for accommodating prized possessions and a number of universal design ideas.
Id overlooked lots of small things that matter, like making the doorways 36-inches wide, said Lapp, who also re-sized the kitchen at Fosters insistence and added a large storage pantry. But once a sensible plan emerged, we wanted the project to start right away.
With Foster on board, Murray took out a line of credit on her Garrett Park home to finance the construction. Her particular living requirements then dictated nearly every phase of the design.
Older Style, Newer luxury
Foster went the extra mile for Murray, recreating many of the details from the family home she had occupied for decades. The dining room, for example, was configured to accommodate her prized china cabinet. The vaulted ceiling and four large windows were directly inspired by her Garrett Park living room. This meant Murrays classic furniture and decorations looked perfectly placed in a new location.
Yet there are also certain luxuries Murray never had before — such as a sizeable walk-in pantry and a completely modern step-saver kitchen. And while the new quarters are on the second-floor, they open onto an upper deck that surveys a bountiful garden replete with bird feeders and a fountain.
Meanwhile, the younger Lapps also have something new: a plush master bedroom suite — the projects bonus. To accommodate a 600-square-foot mother-in-law suite above, the footprint of the L-shaped home had to be extended.
While a first-level master bedroom was always envisioned, Foster added elegant practicality to the design. Theres an opulent bath with double-headed shower, but also an 18-foot walk-in closet — and even an added room for John Lapps new workshop.
This project is undoubtedly the smartest thing we couldve done, said Jen Lapp, who says her mother often cooks for John and her. Everyone has their privacy, but were also together as a family. Its very comforting to know Moms just upstairs and shes thrilled with her apartment. The whole experience has strengthened our relationship.
After moving into her new abode, Murray sold her two-bedroom Cape Cod in Garret Park where she and her husband raised three children. The proceeds were used to pay off her construction line of credit, preserving the rest of the estate for living expenses and a comfortable lifestyle.