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Previous installments about the housing situation around these parts have brought sympathetic comments.

Many of you, like me, are long-time Middle Tennessee residents, living in homes where your children grew up, with space you no longer need. You know you could sell your current dwelling and make a bundle, but you’re in a dilemma about where to go.

Even if you downsize, you’ll pay handsomely.

Remember years ago, when you would see new subdivisions with signs that read, “From the low 300s” and just shake your head, knowing the one just above $300,000 was the one with the bare minimum, with features such as crown moldings and solid-surface countertops counted as “extras” that included an extra cost? Those were the days. Today the sign will say “starting at $1M.”

And if you’re in a two-story hoping to get into a one-level or at least another two-story with the master bedroom on the first floor? Good luck with that.

If you have decided to stay where you are, as my wife and I have (for now), then you have the question of how much you want to continue to spend to keep things current. That’s outside of routine maintenance.

There are those things you have to do, like replacing an old HVAC unit or water tank, or taking care of plumbing problems.

Perhaps less urgent, but eventual “musts” are roofs and painting.

Other maintenance items are more discretionary, I suppose, but eventually become more important.

If I’ve learned anything when dealing with those, it’s to shop around. I have a good example.

Until about a year ago, the exterior shutters that adorn our front windows were still the originals. Our house was built in the 80s and the typical shutter of the time was the wooden louvered kind.

I don’t know if they had ever been painted before we took possession of the house in 2001, but I don’t think so. We had them painted twice, once to change the color and another time when we were simply having routine painting done.

Both times, they took a bit of a beating, with slats falling out and showing wear. The painters put slats back in place and over time I even did it myself a time or two.

But a couple of years ago, as more slats had ended up on the ground and one shutter had completely fallen apart (and I was becoming less interested in trying to re-insert slats), it became obvious they should be replaced. My wife was really lobbying for that, even though I reminded her our house is set back from the street at a nice distance, and the decaying shutters were hardly noticeable.

She disagreed with that assessment and said she noticed it plenty. I did too; I was just testing how strongly she felt about it. I got my answer, and it was time.

I have a friend who owns a handyman business. I called and asked if I could have him do a shutter replacement. He said he would be glad for his folks to do the installation, but I would need to purchase the shutters.

I told him I had looked at them at one of the big box hardware stores and had also looked online, but he cautioned me against those sources, wondering aloud about the quality of the product. He referred me to a place in town that sells them.

My wife and I visited the said establishment. I took pictures of our house with me, both from a distance and close-ups of the windows and shutters, as well as measurement of the windows. A very nice lady showed us some samples and said she would take the measurements and send a quote on the cost.

Later that day, when the email with the estimate came, there was no one in the room with me, but I shouted, “What?”

There in front of me was the quote for the shutters: $10,000. That’s right, $10,000.

I called my buddy the handyman and told him I would be ordering vinyl shutters from Amazon and asked if his people would still install them. He said they would, and said he was surprised at the quote I had received. I know him and I know he would not have paid that either.

The cost of the shutters from Amazon? Less than $1,000 –  less than 10 percent of the original quote I received. My friend’s employees installed them at a reasonable price, and they look great. Scarcely a year later, they are showing no signs of aging.

Not long after that we had new windows installed, a major expenditure, but one well worth it. I can’t describe to you the joy I have opening and closing windows (because many of the previous ones no longer opened.)

What’s next? Well, the deck needs to be stained and sealed, and there are front steps that seem to be gradually sinking, as in one does not step up to my front porch as much as one might climb.

But, of course, we could always sell. New windows and shutters will not be extra.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].            

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather.