Downsizing for Seniors – Tips and Advice for Making the Move
The second largest group of people who buy a new mobile home are the folks looking to downsize to a smaller home.
But “bigger is better,” especially in Texas – so they say, but that’s not always the case!
Whether you are ready to retire or just planning ahead, going to a smaller size home is only one item on the list to think about, and this blog is intended to act as a helpful resource to guide you through this transition and what should be considered along the way!
Often the best time to downsize is shortly after the kids “leave the nest.” When your house empties out, you will often have extra square footage to spare, space that you still have to clean, heat in the winter, cool in the summer, and pay taxes on.
Who needs that extra burden?
Downsizing earlier in life means you have more energy and mobility to deal with moving than when you get, as they say, “old.”
Most people are in a better financial position before retirement, which also makes moving easier. Finally, you don’t want to move when you are working through significant health issues because moving is hard enough when you are healthy. You will be glad you moved early!
Your Time: When You Are Over 55
You may be surprised, but time is something we hear about the most often when it comes to downsizing. Even in retirement, people are busy, busy, busy.
As one retiree told us, “You’re called re-tired because you’re twice as busy as before making you twice as tired!” When you get older, you realize you didn’t do all those things you talked about when you were younger.
Now is the time to live out some of those dreams.
If you have an old, broken down house, you may keep yourself from living your ideal retirement as you keep sinking money and time into fixing that old house. Yes, the house may have given you many wonderful memories, but does that give the old house the right to keep you from new wonderful memories?
That’s really something to think about.
Life is too short to waste constantly fixing up an old home or cleaning a giant house. It is time to let loose and go have some fun!
It is not just about saving time on maintaining the house.
A right sized yard means you will only worry about the yard work you want to do. It can also mean saving time driving with shorter trips to and from your favorite stores, your preferred doctor, and your closest family and friends. You may want the peace and solitude of living in Loving County, Texas (population 211 in 2020), but you might not like the hours you spend on the road each month.
Some people find they like the convenience and amenities of communities made for folks 55 and over. These communities may have a club house and a pool, as well as a barber shop, beauty shop, and doctor’s office. Often these communities will take care of most of the property maintenance as well, allowing you to maximize your time doing what you want to do and not worrying about landscaping details.
Your Money: When You Are Over 55
A lot of people go into retirement on a fixed income. Once your Social Security is set, you are only going to see small increases for cost-of-living adjustments. Pensions will remain relatively fixed. You may also have some investment income that is coming in at a fixed rate. The last thing you want is a big financial surprise.
That’s never fun!
Renting may lower your maintenance responsibilities, but future rent costs are out of your control. Owning your own home still means charges for taxes, utilities, and insurance, but these costs are more stable over time than monthly rent (with the one exception of utilities during freak Texas winter storms in 2021).
Speaking of property taxes, be sure to pick property taxes that you feel will be reasonable while you have fixed income during your retirement years.
Some communities charge a lot more than others in property taxes every year and living even one mile further down the road could save you hundreds of dollars every year! We should also note that some counties and cities freeze your tax rates after you hit a certain age, which is definitely a plus. Like everything else, be sure to do your homework.
Be sure to also check out the cost of living for where you want to move to and compare it to where you live currently.
By way of example, did you know if you moved from San Antonio to Austin in 2020, you found your transportation costs 10% higher, your grocery bill 5% higher, and your utilities 5% higher. That would be like a pay cut moving from San Antonio to Austin but a pay raise moving in the other direction!
A final thought about money, many people buy a new home close to retirement because they know it will be many years before they run into any major repair costs.
Less financial surprises can give folks some peace of mind – which to me – is absolutely priceless!
Your Home Layout: When You Are Over 55
When you are in your 50’s, 60’s, and for some your 70’s and 80’s, you can be vibrant, and full of life, but if you want to stay in your home as long as possible, you want to plan a few details of your home carefully.
It would be a good idea to make sure you have larger doorways and handicap friendly bathrooms. Wide doorways make it easier to move things in and out, but it will also be extremely important to have wide doors if you ever need to use a walker or wheelchair at any point in time. It is a lot easier to buy a home with wide doorways than it is to install wide doorways later on, less stress too!
Another idea to consider would be having handicap friendly bathrooms.
Why the handicap friendly bathrooms? Even if you are fully abled, a handicap friendly bathroom will be easy to move around in. There will be handles that come in handy if you happen to feel off balance suddenly or if you have injured yourself participating in community activities. Safety and stability are key in slick areas of the home.
Not ready for handles quite yet? That’s perfectly okay!
Many people will ask that handles aren’t put in right away, but still have the supporting boards installed in the wall during the build, so the walls are ready for handicap friendly handlebars.
Thinking ahead can save time & money!
It costs very little money to put the supporting boards in while the house is being built but adding in the support boards after-the-fact may cost the same as an entire bathroom remodel – just something to consider beforehand.
A lot of folks like a single floor layout because that means no stairs!
Sounds like a win to me! Imagine doing something as simple as carrying a full laundry basket becoming more than just a chore when a flight of stairs is involved. No need to set yourself up for an accidental injury!
Many people like avoiding stairs in their home later in life because their knees just have a harder time making that trek. Stairs can be hard on the knees, and a single-story home will be a lot easier to walk around.
How Many Rooms?
How many rooms should you have? Well, it depends!
Normally you want to keep as small of a house as you feel comfortable in, so you have more time for fun and spend less time taking care of your stuff.
For some people, that means a 2-bedroom house. For others, they still want to have three or even four bedrooms because they like having guests stay over on occasion, whether it is the grandkids enjoying a weekend sleepover or your out of state friends coming by for another visit.
On average, a three bedroom home makes sense because it allows for flexibility. They have their bedroom, a room open for activities such as a sewing or a space to exercise! That way, you can just close the door when folks stop by! And of course, one room for a guest to call “home” while in town which is always nice to have.
But What About All of My Stuff?!?
Sometimes the hardest part about moving to a new home or downsizing is that it means you may face some consolidation. Now, is getting rid of some of the stuff that you’ve acquired over the last few decades the end of the world?
No, but we do understand that it may take some time and planning.
This can actually be a good opportunity to take advantage of downsizing, as a way to free yourself of what you no longer use. Things that we once considered a treasure, may have since become a trinket that just adds to the clutter.
First, admit it, your spouse, significant other, or alter ego has stuff that has not been touched in 10 years… and maybe you have just one or two items like that as well. You can finally let those things go (be sure to check with him or her first and don’t just blame us!).
No big deal, it happens to the best of us.
Less is more when you’re downsizing, so let’s keep that top of mind while going through items that can be sold, donated, gifted or tossed!
What about heirlooms and keepsakes, you ask?
Certainly, keep some items that represent precious memories, but also think about giving heirlooms away early and not when your health is failing. When you give heirlooms away early, you get to tell the story that goes along with the item which creates new memories between you and your loved ones.
How special would that opportunity be?!
An heirloom with a story that was a gift from you is more precious than “that antique” grabbed when you were no longer in the home. You will increase the value of family heirlooms when you pass them on as a gift with a story, setting an example, and ensuring the heirloom will stay in the family for generations to come.
Now, let’s talk about those things that you only use once a year.
This is where “strategic gifting” may come in, which works best with family close by. Gift or “permanently loan” items you almost never use to people who will use it more often, then borrow it back for the few times you actually want it. You both win because they get to use it without having to buy their own and you get to use it without taking up valuable storage room.
How about your set of cookie cutters?
Give those to the kids, and maybe even make cookies with the grandkids in their home, then leave the cookie cutters with them to use the rest of the year. Do the same with the apple sauce maker, that 14-quart Dutch oven, and whatever else makes sense to share.
I am sure you may have more creative ideas of what to do with your stuff, but we recommend you don’t just pay to store it. An unused item is a useless item, so don’t hide it in a storage garage or a back shed. Instead, give it new life with someone else.
So that’s it: Downsizing for Seniors – Tips and Advice for Making the Move. This blog has been revised to keep information and images previously shared, current. We would love to chat with you or hear about your experience on our Facebook page or through our Contact Form.