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The Pleasures – and Perils – of Maintenance-Free Living

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By Bill Primavera

Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

For many years, I lived in a high-maintenance house, as high-maintenance as it could be: an early 18th century colonial with very few modern updates when I first bought it. In fact, there was still an outhouse on the property when we moved in.

I’m not sure how long indoor plumbing had been installed, but the waste pipe was held up in the basement by wire hangers, which collapsed our first week in the house.

Our first night we had a huge rainstorm and the roof leaked, so right away we had to replace the roof with our first home equity loan, one of several that followed. The list went on and on with upgrades we did slowly but surely over the years. We upgraded the electrical system to be assured that the house wouldn’t burn down.

The boiler system that had originally burned coal and was later converted to oil (and was covered with a mixture of asbestos and cement, which had been applied before the prior owners could have known about the dangers of asbestos) was next to be replaced. Just having it removed from the house was a major project. The bathrooms were next, and then the kitchen.

The exterior needed to be painted and the windows, not being insulated, needed to have storm windows installed each fall and taken down each summer while air conditioners were lugged down from the attic and placed on the windowsills.

Outdoors, the lawn needed to be mowed and the gardens tended, and we didn’t have the money when we first moved in to have contracted services take care of it. When I wasn’t working at my full-time job, I was commuting an hour each way, or I was working on the house or property. There was no time left for anything else. I am exhausted just thinking about all the maintenance work required in those early days.

But I must say, there were advantages to all the maintenance work: it was my exercise program. I was never in better shape than when I did all my own yard work from all the bending, lifting, digging and carting. Inside, all the physical activity related to the sanding, getting up and down on ladders and climbing up and down stairs from the attic to the basement to retrieve the supplies needed to get things in shape kept me on the move all the time.

During those years of high energy activity, I sometimes fantasized about the day when I might live in a maintenance-free situation or I might be able to outsource all the work. Slowly, as I got busier and had more income, I was able to outsource some, but not all the chores.  And then, finally, a couple of years ago, I sold the high-maintenance house and moved into a condo where, literally, there is no maintenance burden whatsoever on my part. The landscaping is done by a crew, and internally every need is tended to. All we have to do is make sure the interior of our unit is clean.

Am I joyously delirious over this situation? There’s no denying that it’s a nice way to live but there is a trade-off. The perils of maintenance-free living are that I may be lacking in Vitamin D because I seldom get my fair share of sun. There is a great gym on site to get the exercise to replace what gardening formerly did for me, but now I have to motivate myself to do it and it’s a chore rather than fun.

Now, of course, I miss the satisfaction that always came from a project well done, whether it was the planning and planting of a new garden or the weighty decision of totally changing the color scheme of your dwelling’s exterior and doing the work yourself.

I guess the moral of the story is to be careful what you wish for. Sure, it sounds great to live totally maintenance free, but only in hindsight can I recognize the fun and satisfaction that accompanied all those projects that helped burnish my handle of guru.

Now I must rely on all my past experiences for source material about do-it-yourself projects around the house when I write about them. But that does free up time for other pleasurable pursuits that we all anticipate as we approach our golden years.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( His real estate site is, and his blog is To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.



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