Couple downsizes while staying close to home

After selling their Johns Creek home in three weeks, Carol and David Harms dreamed of downsizing locally to stay close to their golf club, friends/family, and favorite shops and restaurants. In addition, they planned to use some of the extra equity to buy a second home on Florida’s Palm Coast.

The Harms found their next Atlanta home in Brookhaven at Johns Creek, a 55-and-up community. Carol, retired from American Airlines, and David, who is the president and CEO of a software company in the aviation industry, talked about their home in the gated active-adult neighborhood by Jim Chapman Communities.

Q: Why did you decide to sell your home and move?

Carol: The big house with the 1 acre-plus yard required a lot of constant maintenance, time and energy. We also loved the idea of having a secondary home in Florida to call our own. David has a home office and has customers all over the world. Since we both like to travel, working and living out of two cities would be easy for us.

Q: Did you make any changes to sell your home?

Carol: With the help of our agent, Sue Marshall with Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby's International Realty, we created a checklist of needed upgrades and staging work. Ultimately, we changed a lot of interior paint colors from vivid to neutral tones. We also changed out old carpeting, refinished hardwoods and added new flooring where necessary. We updated the master bath with light wall colors, tile floor, refinished cabinetry, granite countertops, new fixtures and hardware. Also, instead of replacing all of our outdated interior brass door hardware, we powder-coated it to an oil-rubbed bronze finish. This completely updated the interior look but with significant savings. Since we wanted a home with great curb appeal, we decided to landscape with lots of summer color using annuals/perennials and tons of fresh ground cover.

Q: What did you do when you got the offer?

Carol: I called Sue and said, "Now what do we do?" She spent a week with us, discussing our next purchase or lease options and going everywhere. We wanted a self-contained community that was gated and a low-maintenance home we could easily walk away from. We narrowed it down to Brookhaven because of its proximity and adult-oriented amenities. We got lucky, but I was surprised how few home options exist for active downsizing baby boomers.

David: Yes, we were excited to be selling our home but quite frustrated with so few buying options like Brookhaven at Johns Creek (north of Atlanta). There are so many baby boomers like us that don't want to hang on to a large home during our "golden years." We want to simplify our lives but maintain the lifestyle we are accustomed to.

Q: What else did you want in a home?

Carol: We really wanted a master on the main. We had a master upstairs for the past 20 years. I said, "I'm tired of those stairs." Now, our home is virtually one-level living with an extra large bonus room upstairs. David has his office up there as well as our media room.

Q: How did the home and neighborhood offer less maintenance?

Carol: The (homeowners association) takes care of the entire home exterior and yard (trimming/maintenance/fertilizing). Also, the irrigation and trash pickup is included in our dues (HOA fees). It is hassle-free and economical.

Q: What is great about the location for you?

Carol: We belong to the Atlanta Athletic Club, so we love the fact that it is an easy commute of roughly 10 minutes.

Q: How did you deal with downsizing?

Carol: We're still dealing with it. I have about half my house in climate-controlled storage units. I can't tell you how many photographs, clothes and kids toys that I haven't parted with yet.

David: Rather than leave it in storage until we are forced into an estate sale, the units allow us to take our time to sort through and maximize the stuff we acquired. We can consciously determine what treasures to give our kids/grandkids, keep for our Florida home, sell through concession shops, give to charity or toss.

At a glance

Carol and David Harms’ home, built in 2010 in Brookhaven at Johns Creek, has three bedrooms (two bedrooms used as offices), 2 1/2 baths and about 2,900 square feet. They moved into it in late August. Homes range from the low $300,000s to the low $500,000s.