Senior Downsizing 101: How to Plan for Your Big Move

You love your big, beautiful home, but these days, it’s starting to feel more like a burden than a blessing. As age catches up with you, housekeeping and yard maintenance take longer and tire you out, leaving less time and energy for the rest of life.

Instead of feeling like a slave to your home, downsize! Moving to a smaller home lets you reclaim your time so you can do more with your retirement years.

Popular Living Options for Seniors

Seniors interested in downsizing have a few options for where to live.

If making your own decisions about your house is important to you, a downsized single-family home is best. You’ll keep full control over your home but with less square footage to maintain.

Are you willing to pay association fees in exchange for not worrying about home repairs? If so, a condo or 55+ community is a good fit. Since you only own the interior of your home, not the external walls or surrounding property, there’s less responsibility associated with condo living.

Staying Put vs. Moving to a New City

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Moving down the street has its benefits. Staying in your community means maintaining the relationships and routines you’re used to instead of starting over.

Unfortunately, some communities aren’t ideal for aging. Older adults need access to quality healthcare and transportation, which may be lacking in rural communities. But seniors move to town for more than practical reasons: In a vibrant community, retirees can shop, dine, play, and make the most of their newfound free time.

Before picking your retirement location, gauge the affordability of cities you’re considering. Most seniors hope to save money when downsizing, but a smaller home doesn’t guarantee a smaller price tag. Research the average cost of recently sold homes in your size range to find the location that fits your lifestyle and budget. Estimate your monthly expenses and mortgage payment to get an idea of how much you can spend on a new home.  

Buying the Right Size Home

What is the ideal home size for seniors? There’s not one answer for every senior, but you can determine your ideal size range by answering a few questions:

     What size is your current home?

     How much square footage is currently wasted?

     Do mobility problems limit use of your home?

     Can you afford housekeeping help, either now or later?

 Any square footage that isn’t used or used only for storage can be cut out of your future home. Some seniors keep a spare bedroom for guests or a home office, but others find the extra space becomes a haven for clutter.

Mobility matters, too. Seniors with mobility limitations do best in smaller homes where everything is nearby. Going from a 2,500-square-foot home to 1,500 square feet or less may seem like a big leap, but modern designs make small homes feel spacious. However, a larger home can still be practical with extra help around the house.

Ultimately, the size of your home is a matter of preference. Whether you downsize a couple hundred square feet or a couple thousand, what’s important is that your home works for your lifestyle. 

Executing the Big Move

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Once you’ve found the right home, you need to downsize your stuff. This is the most daunting part of the move for most seniors, so give yourself plenty of time to sort through your home and decide what to keep. You can hire professional packers to help, but this can cost up to $2,000 depending on how much packing needs to be done.

Spare bedroom furniture, holiday decorations, extra dishes and linens, books, and belongings left behind by adult children should be the first to go. Don’t hesitate to get rid of things you don’t use, because your decluttering efforts will make moving far easier.

A senior downsize isn’t the time for a DIY move, but if you’re concerned about cost, keep moving costs low by packing and labeling everything, so your stuff is ready to go when the movers arrive. Another way to save is renting a moving container for a few weeks. All you need to do is pack up the container at your convenience, and a transporting company will pick it up and bring it to your new home.

Downsizing is a big undertaking, but when you settle into a home that’s just right, you’ll be glad you made the move. Start planning your senior downsize while you have time on your side, then kick back and enjoy your low-maintenance retirement living.