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Downsizing Wisely: Leaving the Stress out of the Empty Nest

Courtesy of Real Estate Agent Kathryn Oti – If you’re interested in reading more of her work, check out Kathryn’s blog.

We have a lot of buyer clients who are empty-nesters looking for their next home. It’s an exciting time, but mistakes can be costly and time-consuming. I’ve compiled a list of tips for folks beginning the search for their perfect ‘next’ home.


Five older firends laughing and hanging out

Will you be a social butterfly when the kids leave the nest? Make sure to consider what you want to do, when considering where to move.

Who Are You Going to Be?
The first thing you must ask yourself is who you’re going to be in your next phase of life. Are you going to be a single woman living alone? Are you going to be a married couple with lots of visiting children and grandchildren? Are you going to be a farmer? A social butterfly? A hermit? A philanthropist? Will you still be working or do you want to go fishing every afternoon? Get clear on what your life is really going to look like for the next 10 years. Just as one would live in a place conducive to their work and family life, empty-nesters need to live someplace that will support their next life phase.


a couple walking together on the street

City life can put people in the middle of all of the things they want to do, but make sure to consider the home’s amenities and layout.

Walkability and First-Floor Master Bedrooms
Most of my Empty Nester clients to want to move ‘back to the city’. They want to be close to the museums, theaters, restaurants, breweries and shopping that the city has to offer. And, they want to be able to walk to these amenities. But, if they also want a first-floor Master Bedroom for when the knees and hips give out, they are going to be disappointed. Some of the Northside bungalows do have them, but most houses in the city limits are older and historic and don’t have bedrooms on the first floor. A few older homes have been retrofitted with a downstairs bedroom, but rarely. Buyers should be prepared for this, as it’s one of the biggest challenges for Empty Nesters looking for a house in the City of Richmond.


An older couple on a motor scooter

Retirement may seem like the perfect time to live like you’re on vacation everyday, but that can get tiring.

Beware of Buying Vacation Property
We go on vacation to ‘get away from it all’. To slow down, take time to relax and spend quality time with friends and family. Often people envision life like this when they retire. But, it’s not always what you might expect. Buyers should be mindful of this and ask themselves if ‘getting away’ is really what you want for your everyday life. I’ve seen Empty Nest buyers regret buying that house in the woods on the lake or on a remote mountain top, because frankly it can be lonely. Another complaint about this scenario is that in vacation communities, people who own homes there are rarely there or they rent their homes to strangers. No one wants to be bored and feel disconnected from friends and their community.


A couple with boxes stacked up in an empty room

Downsizing isn’t just about reconsidering where you live, but also the things you can live without.

Get Rid of Stuff
I mean it. Get rid of your stuff. It’s sentimental and it’s difficult. Our possessions hold dear memories. So, take pictures of your kid’s favorite stuffed animal and soccer trophies and then get rid of them. Donate and recycle as much as you can. Sometimes I feel like buyers are more concerned with ‘storage’ in their new home than they are with their own comfort, budget and needs. You are more important than your stuff! Pair down to the essentials for your next phase of life so you can start fresh. We have organizers and junk haulers who can help.


An older couple, working together to plant something.

It can be a fun change of pace to get into gardening during your retirement years.

To Yard or Not to Yard
If you think you NEVER want to do yard work again, think again. While you probably don’t want to mow a giant yard and pull weeds every weekend, you should consider some outdoor space. Many folks use their new-found freedom to putter in a small garden and enjoy entertaining in their back yard. On the other hand, if you and your spouse want to be able to get up and go at a moment’s notice, and on a regular basis, maybe a yard is not for you. Something to consider.


Adult Children Handing Gifts to Their Parents

It’s tempting to consider letting your adult children stay at your new place, but is that really best?

Houseguests and Fish
Be honest with yourself about houseguests in your new home. I’ve seen Empty Nest buyers become frustrated trying to find affordable homes with lots of bedrooms for their visiting children and all the houseguests they imagine will come to stay with them in their new home. But, the reality is that your kids are busy and so are your friends. You’ll certainly have visitors from time-to-time, but I recommend that you not buy your Empty Nester house based on other people who may or may not come to visit.


An older couple looking a spreadsheets and calculator in front of a computer

Making informed and well-planned financial designs are essential when considering a move.

Borrow or Pay Cash
Empty Nesters who’ve sold their homes often wonder whether to take out a new mortgage and hold on to proceeds from the sale, or to pay for their next home with all cash and have no mortgage. There are many factors to consider such as liquidity, mortgage interest tax deductions, closing costs, and re-sale that’s not tied to market conditions, etc. This is an important question, and I suggest you talk to your tax consultant to figure out what’s best for your finances in the long-run.


These are just some of the tips and challenges that face the Empty Nest buyer in today’s market. I hope you find this helpful and I look forward to helping you find your perfect next home!

a couple standing in front of a door of a house

Contact a Realtor at Rashkind Saunders & Co about your next move!