Your flock has left the nest, leaving behind a surplus of memories and a hallway of unused rooms. But if your empty nest doesn’t inspire a home makeover, complete with a Peloton-clad gym, a colorful craft room, and a sophisticated home office, that’s how you know when to downsize your living space. Paying less for a smaller place with fewer rooms might be a more suitable property option for your needs now.
Downsizing to a smaller home provides empty nesters with the opportunity to relocate, realign their priorities, and reimagine their dream living space. But, of course, there’s always some readjustment that comes with leaving a family home, too.
To make the process a smooth one, we’re discussing four downsizing tips for empty nesters looking to start their next journey in a smaller home.
#1 Review Your Finances
Downsizing to a smaller house can have many financial advantages, allowing you to cut costs when it comes to insurance, taxes, mortgage, and maintenance. Often, a smaller space also lends itself to lower utility bills.1
That said, before listing your current home on the real estate market, it’s important to calculate the cost of selling and buying a home. Once you’ve listed your house, the selling process can cost over $31,000 on average when taking into account closing fees, taxes, and repairs.1
Closing costs also factor in when buying a home, which can range from 8–10% of the total purchase price. Also consider moving expenses, potential HOA fees, and storage prices.
Before listing your home, it’s beneficial to create a long-term budget that accounts for hidden costs. Within the budget, you may also include ongoing expenses, such as college tuition and car payments.
Additionally, identify potential financial opportunities that can ease the burden of a move. For example, if you can sell your home for cash using a residential sale-leaseback program, you could eliminate the need to pay the mortgage on your next home.
#2 Dream Up Your New Home
As part of your long-term preparation, begin thinking about the pros and cons of downsizing. Making a checklist of what you’re looking for in your next home will be helpful during this process. You’ll want to factor in:
- Location – When you started your family, maybe you opted for a large four-bedroom home in the suburbs with a spacious backyard and close proximity to the premier school district. The location served you well, providing you and your loved ones with family-friendly spaces, neighborhood friends, and a school-bus route that made dressing the kids and shuffling to work a breeze. But you and your partner always dreamed of the big city, with its bustling cultural attractions and an array of late-night eateries. As you begin your home search, factor in location: Do you prefer a city or a small town? Would you like all-year sun or snowy winters? Do you prefer somewhere walkable, or do you enjoy long drives with the radio on?
- Size – Downsizing, of course, lends itself to a smaller space. But you’ll still want to factor in the needs of your family. If you or your partner work from home, ensure that there’s a designated office space to prioritize privacy. Similarly, if you’re planning to host your children during the holidays, a smaller house or townhouse may suit your needs better than a condo or apartment.
- Lifestyle – What’s important to you? If your mental health thrives after a long stroll, find an area with plenty of walking trails, parks, and outdoor attractions. Similarly, if you and your partner enjoy hosting, you may want to prioritize a home with a large kitchen or outdoor space. Downsizing also provides you with an opportunity to expand your hobbies and interests, too. Perhaps you’re looking to advance your water skiing skills and prefer a lakeside location, or maybe an arid desert landscape inspires you to make hiking a priority.
- Health concerns – As we age and reach retirement age, our mobility can decrease. To plan for the future, consider choosing a location that’ll be friendly to Future Mom and Dad: Opt for one-story floor plans and residential amenities when downsizing for retirement.
#3 Enlist Your Kids To Declutter
Decluttering is an essential part of downsizing your house. To commemorate your family home and streamline the decluttering process, invite your children home for the weekend to sort through belongings room by room.
While childhood notebooks and tchotchkes hold many memories, they likely shouldn’t make the journey to your new home. Instead, only keep items that hold sentimental value. Donate unwanted items, put valuables in a storage space, and take photos of old notes, crafts, and baby clothes to digitize your most special memories.
#4 Redecorate, Redesign, and Renovate Your Home
Remodeling your house before its sale can increase its return on investment (ROI), and thus, the value of your home.2 As such, consider spiffing up the exterior of your home, which can include giving your home a fresh coat of paint, restaining your wood deck, or landscaping your front and back yards.
Inside your home, seek to update appliances, bathroom fixtures, and kitchen cabinetry. And hire a professional to repair any structural issues before you list your home, including:
- Cracked sidewalks
- Bulging walls
- Leaky roof tiles
- Slow drainage
- Gurgling toilets
Similarly, redesign your home’s interior with a minimalist approach. Once you’ve decluttered, you’ll naturally have fewer items. However, to increase offers, you can also consider staging your home with limited wall art and soft, neutral tones.
Get Savvy with a Sale-Leaseback
There are many unexpected benefits of downsizing your home, and as an empty nester, you can streamline the downsizing process by creating a budget and ideating your next home prior to decluttering, renovating, and listing your house.
To shorten the sales process, consider a residential sale-leaseback solution. These solutions allow you to sell your home quickly and convert its equity into cash but remain in the home as a renter. Get the liquidity you need to pursue the next stage of life but remain in the home while you work out the details.
Empty nesters often opt to downsize to a smaller property to reduce housing costs and consolidate their space. That said, to make your downsizing experience an effortless one, we recommend:
- Planning for long-term expenses
- Beginning your home search prior to listing your old one
- Encouraging your kids to help declutter
- Renovating your home to improve its value and increase the number of offers
- Experian. Financial Pros and Cons of Downsizing Your Home. https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/pros-and-cons-of-downsizing-your-home/
- The New York Times. Downsizing in Retirement: Expenses They Didn’t Expect. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/09/business/retirement/retirement-downsizing-real-estate.html
- Investopedia. Will Your Home Renovations Pay Off? https://www.investopedia.com/articles/mortgages-real-estate/08/add-value-to-real-estate.asp#