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It’s a bittersweet feeling for families when the last child leaves the nest. For many parents, the big question becomes–now what? And when we have a spacious house like so many Northern Virginia families, we may also ask ourselves whether we really need so much room. In today’s hot seller’s market, more and more couples ask themselves whether downsizing makes sense. And in many cases, the answer is a resounding yes!
What Are Some Reasons I Should Consider Downsizing?
Families and individuals downsize for several reasons, mostly involving finances or lifestyle changes. Here’s a look at some of the factors that come into play:
- Life changes like children moving out and/or retirement. When your kids move out, you need less room. You’re also not tied to your public school district, so location options expand dramatically. If you’re looking at retirement, you may have a list of wants and needs that’s very different from the ones you had as a commuter/parent. Recreation and amenities may take a lead role as public school ratings take a back seat.
- Desire to save money for retirement. Many of us want to lower or ditch our mortgage when we downsize. A smaller home on a smaller lot can bring those payments down dramatically, especially if you’re ready to consider a market that’s not as “hot”.
- House and yard maintenance becomes overwhelming. Many empty nesters and older adults decide that the large yard they enjoyed when their kids were young is now a burden to maintain. And cleaning a 3000 square-foot house no longer seems worth the effort when several rooms are unused. Downsizing can help you reduce or eliminate yard work and make cleaning and maintenance more manageable.
- Selling in a hot market. When you’re in a highly desirable location like Loudoun and demand for spacious houses and large lots is through the roof, it’s certainly tempting to cash in on your investment and sell. Many empty nesters also find great joy in passing on their beloved homes to young families–swing sets and all.
What Should I Look for In a Smaller Home?
When we downsize, we still want comfort and livability. Choosing a smaller home may allow us to splurge on decor and unique features we’ve always dreamed of. Here are a few highlights empty nesters often ask for when they downsize:
- Bathrooms: even with the kids gone, you’ll still want more bathrooms than you may have had in your starter home as newlyweds. 1.5 baths just won’t cut it for most couples anymore. Clients want at least two full baths or three if they entertain or host houseguests frequently. Having that extra bath helps with privacy and organization.
- Kitchen: many empty nesters find more time to enjoy cooking and eating together and with friends. So having a spacious and user-friendly kitchen is a big plus.
- Room for guests and college-age/adult kids. Even as empty nesters, most of us can expect to see our grown kids frequently, so plan for a guest room or two. It also allows you to host visitors and enjoy your newfound free time with friends and family.
- Low Maintenance Yard: Had enough of mowing all summer? Time to ditch the garden for the farmer’s market? A small, low-maintenance yard is often on the list.
- Will I need to accommodate an aging parent? Often our children start to need us less just as our aging parents need us more. If the possibility of having aging parents live with you is part of your vision, include first-floor living in your search for your new home. It can also help you age in place down the road.
- Is travel a priority? So many of us want to use our newfound freedom to start checking trips off our bucket list. If travel is a focus of your empty nest lifestyle, keep in mind proximity to an airport. Sticking with a small, low-maintenance yard also makes sense if you’re planning lots of time out of town.
- Do you have grandkids near your current home? If you’re blessed to have grandchildren nearby, you may want to stay within easy traveling distance when looking at smaller properties. Grandparents sometimes relocate to their dream retirement town only to realize they miss family and social networks in their longtime community. Have a good think about the role family and friends play in your world before you plan a big move.
Should I Consider A 55+ Community?
Active adult/55+ communities have a lot to offer, but not every empty nester is ready to make that leap. Here’s a look at some of the pros and cons as you consider the next steps:
55+ Communities: The Pros
- They’re quiet and mostly kid-free. Of course, adult children and grandchildren can visit, but you won’t have school buses driving through the neighborhood and the noise and chaos of full-time children.
- They’re low maintenance: at most active adult communities, you live in your own home and take care of the interior, but the lawn and landscaping are minimal maintenance or maintenance-free.
- They offer an excellent opportunity to connect with other active older adults.
- Amenities are often a selling point, including fitness centers, pools and other venues that offer opportunities for socialization.
- Many offer models designed for aging in place, including smaller homes with first-floor living.
55+ Communities: The Cons
- Many active seniors find they enjoy the fun diversity of a mixed-age neighborhood.
- A smaller yard and closer neighbors may be a hard transition if you’ve been used to more acreage, space and privacy.
- Active adult communities are set up for an independent living, so if you eventually need a higher level of care, you’ll need to plan another move.
- Restrictions may prevent you from inviting a younger family member to live in your home.
Thinking of Downsizing? Now May Be The Time
For empty nesters and older adults, downsizing has plenty of upsides in the current real estate market. You can make a bundle on your larger home in a desirable neighborhood and put aside funds for travel, retirement or college. It’s also an opportunity to check out cool new neighborhoods you might not have considered when raising a family. The first step is connecting with an experienced realtor, well-versed in selling in your area. She can help you look at real numbers, so you can decide if now is the right time to put the sign in the yard (or post your property on the internet). With decades of experience in Northern Virginia real estate, Yvonne Holland can help you sell your empty nest for top dollar and find the perfect cozy new home you’re craving. With today’s seller’s market, there couldn’t be a better time.