When to Downsize Your Home: 6 Signs It’s Time to Sell

How do you know when the time is right to downsize?  Timing a move is critical. Many of my clients leave the decision too long and end up with a big house that overwhelms them with maintenance and upkeep.

The key is knowing both if and when to downsize. Delaying downsizing even a few years can result in tens of thousands of dollars lost. It can also be much harder later in life due to health issues or mobility restrictions.

That’s why we’ve compiled this handy list of 6 clear signs it’s time to downsize. We hope to calm your concerns, quell your indecision, and empower you to know if you’re making the right decision at the right time.

1. You’re feeling overwhelmed with home maintenance

One of the biggest reasons seniors decide to downsize is to rid themselves of the burden of maintenance. Taking care of minor repairs, painting, mowing the lawn, and shoveling snow are time-consuming tasks that aren’t most people’s vision of a relaxing retirement. Even worse, these projects may become too physically challenging for people as they age.

Hiring mowing crews, painters, or a handyman may be cost-prohibitive.

By selling your home while it’s still in good condition, you can save money on preparations because it shouldn’t need major repairs. You’ll also save years’ worth of maintenance expenses.

“If you make the move too late,” Swanson warns, “your home just starts deteriorating. You’re going to have to spend equity to repair your house before it goes on the market.”

2. Your home no longer fits your needs

While some seniors desire to “age in place” in the home they’ve loved for years, they may experience challenges to living in it as they grow older, such as:

  • Stairs make it difficult to access living spaces
  • A steep driveway presents a fall risk
  • Large walkways and long driveways require shoveling snow
  • Mowing the lawn has become difficult
  • Cabinets or storage spaces are hard to access
  • Too many windows to keep clean
  • Landscaping requires high maintenance
  • Bathtubs and showers without grab bars

Many seniors want a Main Floor Living that features hallways wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, zero-step entries, walk-in showers with a bench, and proximity to hospitals, clinics, and public transportation. Jones talks about the desire of older homeowners to move out of a “two-story monster house to a single story.”

These features are hard to find, due to a shortage of affordable housing that meets the needs of older residents – particularly the 43% who have mobility limitations. The most recent statistics date back to 2011 and indicate that only 3.5% of U.S. homes offer these amenities and only 0.9% feature electrical controls within reach of a wheelchair user.

Thus, planning ahead is crucial.

3. You’re the oldest resident in your neighborhood

In addition to the financial savings of moving to a retirement community comes the social aspect. If you stay in your home for a long time, you’re bound to watch neighbors move or pass away, leaving you isolated and maybe lonely – a condition affecting 25% to 60% of older Americans.

“Family neighborhoods tend to stay younger as families keep moving in, so seniors end up isolated by aging in place in that neighborhood,” Swanson observes.

Moving to a 55+ community can provide that social network – and more, including transportation, activities, support, and security, all of which can improve your quality of life, thereby preventing depression-related health issues.

“When you downsize into a retirement community, you can actually raise your happiness by meeting more people from your generation,” notes Swanson. “A lot of the adult communities have amenities like tennis courts, billiards rooms, woodworking shops, classes that teach you how to knit, clubs that play cards and board games.”

Just be advised that communities that provide activities, amenities, and services typically charge more, so be sure to determine what your budget permits.

4. You’re not using all the property (unused rooms or amenities)

Once the kids are grown and gone, their bedrooms may be used only for occasional visits. But you still have to clean them, heat them, cool them — and pay insurance and property taxes on them.

If you’re retired, you may not need a home office. Perhaps your new lifestyle keeps you too busy to make use of a game room or home theater. Features like these, plus swimming pools, three-car garages, exercise rooms, and fire pits may not suit your retirement plans but are great selling points.

5. You want to be closer to family

Many retired Baby Boomers choose to move closer to their adult children. In fact, this group is the most likely to move the farthest after selling their home. The trend to live near family began prior to the pandemic, according to the National Association of Realtors®, and has continued unabated.

More than Baby Boomers, however, the Silent Generation is the group most likely (53%) to buy a home near family and friends.

“The tipping point,” Jones says, “is grandchildren.” When young adults find it difficult to afford their first house, he says they may leave the state – and their parents follow out of a desire to be closer to their grandchildren.

While some seniors are moving great distances to be near their grandkids, others are downsizing to a condo or senior community in their current city, which enables them to travel – to visit family and to enjoy other locations.

6. You want a lifestyle change

Seniors have many options when it comes to housing. We’ve already discussed the benefits of 55+ Communities.

Sometimes, lifestyle changes are thrust upon us. For those with physical limitations or medical needs, there are independent living communitiesassisted living communities, and nursing homes, where they can get the level of assistance required.

People going through a divorce may no longer need the big house without a full-time family, and find it more economical to downsize to a more affordable home.

Some seniors move in with their adult children, which can provide benefits for both generations, such as built-in babysitting and reduced housing costs.

Other seniors opt to take a “gap year” or two or three by living in an RV. Call it wanderlust if you will. It can be an economical option that allows them the freedom to pick up stakes and move any time they want.

Or, you simply might free up funds to enjoy life by traveling or engaging in activities you like, such as frequenting restaurants, taking classes, or picking up a new hobby.

Perhaps you just want to simplify your life and eliminate the time and effort that goes into maintaining a large home.

If you are thinking about making a move but not sure where to start, Reach out to me for a Free Home Salability Assessment.  I can come out to your home and give you tips and tricks on what to do to get your house ready for the market.   Call me (267) 397-6291. 

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