Time to downsize?

Empty nesters are ready to seize their retirement years.
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Photo by iStock

While many empty nesters are eager to seize the opportunities presented by their retirement years — more travel, living that snowbird life, or even starting a new career — moving from the family home can be emotionally challenging.

For many empty nesters, this is the home they raised their family in. It has 20-plus years of memories and it’s a spacious abode that will require a lot of effort to downsize into a smaller space. Still, being able to follow your dreams and passions after years of working toward them is well worth the move.

Walter Perschbacher Photo by Werner Straube

“This is one of the hardest moves we deal with,” said Walter Perschbacher, vice president at Greenridge Realty. “There’s a lot of emotion, memory and comfort wrapped up in the home they are in. On top of that, generally, they are going to a smaller living space. Generally speaking, we as Americans are used to bigger and more, not smaller and less. This thought process of going to less can be a difficult one.”

Perschbacher encourages couples looking to downsize to do an inventory of their space. How often does that formal dining room really get used? Could an open floor plan in a smaller home or condo accommodate the occasional fold-out table and chairs to host larger family gatherings the couple times of year they take place? Is it time for the kids to start taking over the holiday entertaining?

Santiago Gomez Photo by Werner Straube

Santiago Gomez, realtor/broker at Santiago Properties, said figuring out what type of home and location fits the lifestyle you want is paramount. Do you want to be nearby hospitals or are you looking for a walkable neighborhood with a lot of restaurants and shops? Do you intend to travel and need something that doesn’t require a lot of upkeep?

“We’ve had clients who want to be able to travel as much as possible and want a place where the monthly payment is significantly less, (that’s) low maintenance, so a condo made the most sense.” But it’s important to read condo association bylaws. Gomez said clients who are eager to spend their summers boating on Lake Michigan may not be able to store their boats at the condo, for instance, so a smaller single-family home might be a better fit.

Gomez said one-floor plan he sees coming back is the bilevel. “It offers two bedrooms upstairs, one or two downstairs. Empty nesters like it because when the kids come visit from college or whatever, there is a separate living area downstairs. They like that sort of layout.”

He also said estate companies can prove very helpful in downsizing, but he advises to plan ahead, because there are a lot of baby boomers downsizing, which is keeping estate companies very busy.

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