While owning a home remains the American Dream, “aging in place” or staying in one’s own home as you age is also considered part of it. However, staying at your bigger home isn’t always the best option. And as you get older, downsizing or settling into a smaller home could also be one definition of “living the dream” and aging in place.
Older Americans, more of whom are homeowners, are now more likely to downsize. At least 37 percent of baby boomers said they plan to move at some point in their life, and 42 percent of that number said they would prefer to live in a smaller home, according to a 2016 study released by the Demand Institute, which is jointly operated by the Conference Board and Nielsen.
In an article by Time Magazine, the current US housing market is said to have more good news towards the empty nesters and homeowners who are looking to downsize, so many are calling it the “empty nester’s housing market.” Builders and developers are now catering to the 55+ crowd or the Baby Boomer market, creating more age-restricted communities, compact townhouses, and even high-service luxury condominiums.
SO WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO DOWNSIZE?
While downsizing may be daunting at first, it offers many financial and emotional benefits in the longer run. People who are taking the proactive approach see and do it out of necessity, choosing to downsize before they get older and it becomes more difficult to do so.
Offers many financial advantages. While your six-bedroom farmhouse with a spacious garden holds so many memories of your children, maintaining it now takes time and has larger costs compared to living in a two-bedroom flat. Downsizing means there are fewer maintenance costs, cheaper utility bills, or even lower taxes and monthly mortgage costs. A smaller house also undoubtedly has fewer rooms to clean. This is a great chance to increase your retirement savings and allocate this fund for other better investment options, or you can even spend more time in travel and vacation.
You can focus more on your lifestyle and well-being. Especially in age-restricted communities and luxury condominiums, the focus is not only on the accessibility of the place to main city places and attractions, but it’s more lifestyle-oriented as well. These communities offer a wide selection of homes and resort-style amenities and better accommodate active retirees, making them ideal retirement destinations. You can focus more on engaging yourself in new activities and hobbies you’d always been dreaming to do.
Best for any of your health concerns. While we always say that we’re “as young as we feel,” we may encounter some health problems as we age. There are many housing options if you want to avoid going up and down the stairs because of arthritis or fear of falling when doing your own cleaning. You could also choose a home that’s near a clinic or hospital if you want a shorter trip to your next medical appointment.
Here are some tips to make downsizing “rightsize” and a positive experience:
Seek help from an agent who specializes in senior home purchases. The purchase process itself for this kind of communities is not much different from any home purchase, except that there's a level of detail in selecting a home that allows you to live exactly as you want. There are real estate professionals who are downsizing specialists and have profound education in senior housing and the moving process for older adults.
Be assured that your housing options are not limited. Whether you’re looking into moving to a smaller home, an age-restricted community, or even into assisted living, remember to choose a home that meets your needs and current lifestyle, where you’ll be more comfortable and happy.
Set a definite but realistic timeline. Unlike when buying your first house, looking for a perfect smaller home or an age-restricted community may take longer than expected. There are websites that specialize in providing active-adult community information to help with your search. Many people are also starting to look for these areas two or three years before making a purchase. Just remember that you are now looking for the perfect location and community that suits your needs.
Minimize your storage by knowing what you’ll own and what you can throw away. Downsizing also means you'll have lesser storage space, so you’d want to keep only the things you need. You can opt to sell, donate and throw some items you have accumulated over the years, and just keep those that you deem valuable or those things that have increased their value over time. Experts also recommend doing an estate sale once you’ve sorted out your items, so you’ll be able to collect money as well. If you’re having a hard time to let go, just remember that the true memories and experiences you’ve had are indefinitely stored in your mind and heart and not in these physical items.