by Donna Leibow
Licensed Real Estate Agent
I work with many home buyers who are empty-nesters. The kids left home to live on their own, leaving them behind with emptier and quieter houses. What to do? Many people struggle with the many choices.
The questions I hear most often from clients include: Should we stay in the house although it seems too big now? Should we downsize to a smaller home or townhouse for less maintenance? Should we relocate to a home in an active adult community? Should we upsize to a larger home to accommodate visiting grandchildren?
Though your specific needs are unique, confusion about how best to approach this new life stage is common. What is the next step that best fits your needs and lifestyle? Unfortunately, this is a tough question. You will likely receive a great deal of well-meaning advice from family and friends, whether it’s asked for or not, but only you know what is best for you. Before making a decision, ask yourself what you want from this next phase. Consider location, neighbors, and your desire or ability to continue to maintain a house. Also factor your physical health into the equation, as purchasing a home where you can age in place might make sense.
One of my clients was house hunting for a year before she finally realized she loved her home and her deep friendships with neighbors, and didn’t really want to move. She had family close by, was active in the community and did not have physical issues that made her two story house difficult to navigate. I completely understood. If comfortable and happy in your current environment, don’t move! You may change your mind in the future, but now just may not be the right time.
Other clients can’t wait to move out of their neighborhood. The young families who moved into surrounding homes around the same time are older now, if they still live there at all. Neighborhoods are often cyclical: families age out of the area and are replaced with a new generation, especially if near an elementary school. When this happens, older adults, whose living situation once provided immense satisfaction, may no longer feel like an integral part of the community.
If you think you do want to relocate for the next phase, make a list of your wants and needs for a new living situation. Ask yourself the hard questions. A variety of housing options are available, and you will likely be able to find one that specifically meets your needs. The important thing is to have a clear vision of those needs .You may desire varying generations in your neighborhood, not just people your own age, but want to downsize or upsize. Traditional retirement communities are another option, but the term “retirement community” is a turn-off for some people. Finally, active adult communities are sprouting up all over. The fast growing 50+ market is hot for home builders right now, and they are taking active adult communities to a new level. Houses vary in size from large to small, single family or attached. Most have a community center and pool and often the community association takes care of maintenance. These communities are great for people who want to live with active people in their age group, and purchase their desired type/size home that allows them to age in place.
While you need to do the hard work to figure out where to live as empty nesters, educating yourself about the pros and cons of the different living situations is a good idea. Working with a professional realtor who knows the market is a good idea. Licensed real estate agents can present you with suitable choices based on your specific needs, and bring good negotiation skills to the table.