Mar 11, 2022

The benefits of downsizing your house

Manny Cominsky

One of the most common trends we see with real estate for older adults is the desire to downsize when moving from the family home to the new retirement destination. Indeed, many studies show that roughly half of all retirees downsize when retiring. This is because many people often find when they retire that their lifestyles and needs are much different during their retirement than before their retirement. Before retirement, a house often needs to have plenty of space for a growing family, from rooms for kids to plenty of space for all their things like toys or sports equipment. But once the kids have moved out and the parents have become empty nesters, many people are left with homes that are too big for their current needs. Often times, the best solution is to move to a smaller home that is optimized for your needs and lifestyle in retirement. You wouldn’t raise a family in a home designed for retirement, so why would you spend your retirement years in a home designed for raising a family?  For those looking to relocate when they retire, downsizing can be an amazing decision.    

Less Upkeep

One of the nicest parts about having a smaller home might be one of the most obvious - a smaller home (which often comes with a smaller property) means there’s fewer rooms to be kept clean and less yard work to be done. For people with mobility issues, or for those who are simply sick and tired of yard work or shoveling snow, moving to a smaller house can free up valuable time for all the other exciting things you want to do with your retirement. And even if you decide to pay someone to take care of maintenance and upkeep of your home, this can be fairly expensive and only gets more expensive as the size of the home increases. Relatedly, if you move into a new home as part of your downsizing you might find that your new home has less maintenance related headaches, as often times newer homes have less issues that require upkeep or repairs. 

The only house maintenance you should be doing in your retirement is the type you love, like gardening!

Cheaper Housing

While it may seem obvious at a high level that downsizing will help reduce your housing costs, we often find that many people don’t realize the full degree to which downsizing can help reduce your overall housing bill. First, simply heating or cooling smaller rooms and spaces will lead to a smaller monthly energy bill. In addition, if you buy a new home as part of your downsizing you are likely to see even further reductions in your monthly utility bill as newer homes often have features designed specifically to keep your utilities low, like newer windows that provide more effective sealing, or more energy efficient appliances. Finally, if you move to a low-tax or low cost-of-living jurisdiction (which includes many retirement destinations, as we’ve covered here), you may see additional savings. 

That being said, there are certainly also costs involved with a downsizing, so it’s important to consider the full picture when determining how much downsizing can save you. For example, often times selling your home will subject you to a 6% broker’s commission. There are also additional costs when you consider buying and moving to a new home, including movers, professional organizers, or decorators. Even with these additional costs, however, people often find that downsizing and relocating saves them a lot of money in the long run. At the very least, make sure to consider whether your downsizing plan is the type that could save you money!  

Aging in place

One of the best perks about downsizing when you retire is that it gives you the opportunity to move from a home that was designed for raising a family or living your earlier years, to a home that is designed specifically for your retirement. One of the most prominent places where this shows up is in moving to a home that is designed for aging in place. As we’ve covered elsewhere, aging in place is the concept of designing your home to perfectly fit your retirement years. One feature that generally is considered good for aging in place, for example, is that a home only have a single level as stairs can present a mobility challenge as you age. In addition, houses can be designed with floor plans specifically with older adults in mind, like bathrooms with showers or baths that are designed to be easily accessible and easy to get in. And even if you aren’t ready for your older years right away, you’ll save yourself unnecessary time, effort, and stress down the road by making sure you’re already living in an amazing place to age when the time comes.  

Bon Voyage

One of the great joys of retirement is all the free time that you have to do the things you always loved but never had time for. For many people, this means finally getting to do all the traveling they couldn’t while attending to things like raising children or having a career. If you’re planning on spending a lot of your time traveling abroad on cruise ships or driving around the states in an an RV (which is truly an incredibly popular retirement activity), it makes sense to have as small (and therefore cheap!) a home as possible. After all, it doesn't make sense to be paying high bills for a place you're hardly ever living in! If you’re not going to be spending that much time at home, consider the smallest and cheapest possible option to simply serve as your home base in between adventures.  

Spend your retirement doing all the things you love, not yard work or house maintenance!

Whatever your retirement goals are, there’s a good chance that downsizing will make sense for you. Whether you’re looking to travel more, do house maintenance less, or just save a little money, there’s a reason why so many people choose to downsize when they retire.    

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