Should You Downsize When You’re an Empty Nester?

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A beautiful house with an outdoor area.

When your kids are still at home, you need all the space you can get. In fact, even if your home is relatively large, it can feel like you’re busting at the seams at times. Then, once they move out and you’re an empty nester, that all changes. You might feel as if you have a lot of unused space in your home, which could leave you wondering whether or not you should downsize.

When you downsize, the idea is to move to a smaller and typically less expensive home. There are upsides, like the ability to free up equity from selling your home. There are also downsides. For example, you might no longer have room for all of your furniture and other items, so you could have to rent a storage unit for things you don’t want to get rid of. You also might have less space when your kids do come back to visit.

How do you decide the path that’s right for you as an empty nester?

What Are Your Goals?

Moving to a smaller and less expensive home is only one goal you might have for downsizing. Think about what you want out of your life. If you downsize, maybe you’ll be able to buy a second home where your family can all gather, or you might want to move closer to friends or family.  You might also like the idea of starting a new phase in your life outside of raising your children.

Whether or not you should downsize is something very personal to you and what you hope to achieve in this next phase or time of your life.

The Benefits of Downsizing

The benefits of downsizing your home can include:

  • A smaller home can mean less maintenance. Then, you’re spending less money and also probably spending less of your time on home projects. If you opt for a townhouse or a condo, you can take yardwork off your to-do list every weekend, and you can instead spend time doing things you enjoy.
  • If you’ve been in your current home for a while, it’s probably gone up in value. You may either have already paid off your mortgage, or you could be close to doing so. When you buy a property that’s smaller and cheaper, you’ll have equity that you can use how you want.  You can also be in a position to buy a home in cash, which is going to give you a lot more options and a faster, easier process.
  • You can think about your needs going forward when you choose a home. For example, maybe you get a one-story or a property with a smaller yard that doesn’t require so much work so that you can age in place comfortably.
  • With a smaller house, you might be able to reduce your energy usage and carbon footprint, which is good for your wallet along with the environment.
  • Moving to a smaller home can be good for your mental health. You might have more of a sense of peace of mind knowing that you have less work on your plate, and you can take the time to do things you’ve always wanted to.

Reasons NOT to Downsize

While there are benefits, there are also reasons against downsizing to weigh as you make a decision.

These include:

  • You might like to have a lot of space. You could have gotten used to it, and now you can’t envision how you’ll fit all your items into something smaller.
  • Just because you want a smaller home doesn’t necessarily mean you want a big location change, but it might be tough to find something smaller in your current community. You could also find the smaller houses are more expensive than you thought they would be, so you question if you’ll benefit from selling your home.
  • A lack of availability is a big hurdle to downsizing. Bungalows and other similar home styles are very hard to come by.
  • Downsizing can reduce your entertaining options. You might not be able to host all the family holidays or out-of-town guests as easily. If this is a priority for you, then having a bigger house can be the right path.

Questions To Ask Yourself

If you’re still trying to decide whether or not downsizing is right for you, take some time to answer the following questions:

  • What lifestyle do you want? How do you want to spend your time, and is your current home, as well as its location, conducive to what you see for yourself? Maybe you like the idea of spending your time working on a large garden or doing home improvement projects. At the same time, you might instead think it sounds nice to be able to leave your home and travel for periods of time without it needing a lot of maintenance and upkeep. Downsizing can also be the chance to move closer to amenities such as restaurants and shops that are within walking distance, which may be something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t been able to because you’ve been in the suburbs.
  • Do you see yourself in a different setting? Do you think you’d like to be by the ocean, in the mountains or close to a big city, for example? Could moving help put you in a location you’ve always wanted?
  • What will the financial benefits be if you downsize? If you’ve owned your current home for a decade or more, you’re probably going to profit from selling it.
  • If you downsize, will this be a home you can stay in for retirement? A lot of people equate downsizing with retirement, which isn’t the reality. You could be in your 40s when your kids head off to college—decades away from retirement. Is the home you’re considering now going to work for your needs later on, or will you likely have to move again as you near retirement?
  • What are you going to do with all your stuff? Are you going to be okay with letting go of some of the things that are sentimental to you?

You have a lot to weigh as you decide whether or not downsizing is right for you, and not everyone is going to come to the same conclusion.

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