Ask Brian: Downsizing Tips for Seniors

Ask Brian is a weekly column by real estate expert Brian Kline. If you have questions about real estate investing, DIY, buying/selling a home, or other housing questions, please email your questions to [email protected].

Question from Lynda in IL: Hi Brian, I don’t really have a question. I just wanted to share with others the best real estate decision I made as I entered old age. I am 71 years old and my husband was nine years older than me. He passed away five years ago, leaving me with a large four-bedroom garage home, one den, three bathrooms, and three cars on a large lot in the suburbs. I don’t even know why we had such a big house since we had never had children, but that’s where I found myself. After being alone for four years, I found myself living in only a few rooms, the master bedroom with bath, the family room and the kitchen. I no longer had much in common with the neighbors. At first I thought the neighborhood had changed because we often visited the neighbors, but that was no longer the case. Then I realized that I had changed more than the neighborhood. Over the years, the old friends had sold and moved. The new neighbors were families with children much like 20 years ago. I had become the local old lady and didn’t have much in common with any of them. I became lonely and isolated.

It was then that I decided to do something to improve the last years of my life. A year ago I moved into a 55+ condo with one bedroom and one bath. I am much happier here. I am also much better off financially. I have a lot less expenses here – no yard maintenance, less utilities, almost no repairs, less insurance, etc. After a short year, I still don’t know too many people here, but I started reaching out to some of them. activities and getting to know more people closer to my age. Life got much better than the first few years after my husband passed away and I just wanted to share my experience with others.

Answer: Hello Lynda. I’m glad things went so well for you. Since you didn’t ask a specific question, I’m happy to share your story and also share some tips and ideas for baby boomers who are considering downsizing. A starting point is to think about how technology has made downsizing easier and more convenient. For example, in the age of Uber, Lyft and other car services, aging drivers have less need to own a car. If you don’t own a car, you don’t need a garage. Those who like to read also no longer need a den with shelves full of printed books, because today every book is available in the cloud and is read from a Kindle or a notebook. . Community living means having a clubhouse with all the amenities available for entertainment. The overall result is less need for a big house.

Finding the perfect time to downsize isn’t easy. If you’ve just retired, your new lifestyle will take time to adjust to. Luckily, now you have the time to make these adjustments exactly the way you want.

However, prioritizing how you will spend your time (hobbies, grandkids, travel, etc.) is an important part of the downsizing decision. Above all, downsizing is a real estate transaction. Making the best real estate decision can include entering the market at the right time. This includes consideration of market strength and interest rates. Today might be the right time to enter the market. The market seems to be stabilizing near the highs. Home values ​​continue to rise, but at a slower pace. Very importantly, interest rates have reached historic lows, but remain reasonable for the time being. Nobody knows what the market will be like in several months or years, but the exceptionally high rate of appreciation has probably disappeared, at least for a while. It still looks like a good market for people who want to sell a house to buy another. For people who are downsizing, this is an opportunity to exit the deal with a significant amount of money in their pocket (depending on your situation). But for baby boomers, your downsizing decision must support your lifestyle goals…

You have many options when it comes to downsizing… some you might not have considered. It could be a small single storey house or a 55+ planned community. Tiny houses are a relatively new option that may be preferable to apartment living. Your retirement home doesn’t even have to have a foundation. It can be a houseboat or a motorhome.

The first consideration is your lifestyle goals…

Leisure lifestyle. There are many senior citizen communities emphasizing tons of leisure activities. Shared amenities can include tennis courts, walking paths, a golf course, swimming pool, lake access, clubhouse (with scheduled activities), fitness center, and more. Full-size homes designed for seniors often include a screened porch, chef’s kitchen, RV parking, each bedroom with a separate bathroom (perfect for guests), and more.

Small children. Visiting your grandkids frequently keeps you active while remaining young at heart. In the right house, you can play games with your grandchildren and bring them to your kitchen to teach them family recipes. You have to think about how a new home will affect your children and grandchildren. Do you want room for everyone to visit, is it a lot of work? You may want a place with a playground. Almost all senior communities welcome grandchildren to visit, although you want to understand all the rules before committing.

Travel. Going out on the road poses its own set of decisions. This could mean a need for RV parking at your home, or it could make your home close to the airport. Another consideration could be that your home is suitable for rental to save you extra cash while you’re on the road.

What’s important to you should be your main concern when choosing where to live.

Downsizing can be a big chore after a lifetime of accumulating memories and artifacts. Fortunately, in retirement, you have the time to do this methodically over several weeks or months. Start by separating the elements that are easiest to separate. You probably already have a list of garage and kitchen items in your head that you’re willing to give up. You also probably have at least a partial list of items you want your kids, grandkids and others to have. These are good lists to start putting things together.

Move on to rooms with less emotional attachment and to rooms you won’t have in your new home. Most people aren’t too emotionally attached to the laundry room, and you’ll have to do without a 4th or 3rd bedroom and a basement. A good rule of thumb is to only separate things into “hold” or “let go” piles. A “maybe” stack will lengthen the process by making you think more than once. The exception for having a third stack would be a stack of what you sell or give away.

Take the time to give each element a moment of attention. You will quickly discover that you are developing a logic to make the decision. Go through each room one by one. You may find that you have a different decision process for each piece. You will also avoid regrets by giving at least a moment of reflection.

Items that are easier to get rid of include duplicates and things you haven’t used in a few years or rarely use. That oversized rotisserie you only use at Christmas could go to a grandchild who can bring it once a year.

People have collections that they find difficult to dispose of. Photo albums can be digitized. You can select a few favorite Hummel figurines to keep and sell the rest for a handsome sum of money. Family members may be interested in at least part of your collection or perhaps you can split it among several relatives.

Make sure your family knows that a big part of your downsizing means giving up your treasures. Ask them to tell you what they want. Giving treasures that are hard to share can always bring you happiness. Giving your son the grandfather clock means you can see him enjoying it now and you can always enjoy it when you visit. You may also learn that you have things you didn’t think anyone would want, but your granddaughter actually wants your old sewing basket. Pick a weekend to invite the family over for a day to show them what you’re giving up and tell some stories behind your most cherished possessions.

One reason to start downsizing early is to give yourself time to reminisce. There’s a reason you’ve kept this material all these years, even though you haven’t watched it in a long time. Now you have the time and the reason to enjoy it again.

There are many options and tips for retirement. Please comment with your thoughts.

Our weekly Ask Brian column welcomes questions from readers of all levels of experience with residential real estate. Please email your questions or requests to [email protected].

Comments are closed.