To Stay or to Go: Should You Downsize or Renovate as an Empty Nester?

project of construction and renovation houseThe last kid has left for college or to start their career. As the past few years have gone by perhaps you have wandered from room to room wondering why you are paying for all this space or wishing your space was better used. It could be time for you to consider downsizing or maybe your home is in need of a few simple renovations.

Before you make the decision to stay or go, here are a few things to consider:

Have they really flown the coop?

It is becoming more common for college graduates to move back in with their parents for a while as they find a job and establish a career. Do you want to stay in your home and wait to see if they need their space again? Before making the decision to move, think through the possible scenarios with your children to determine if it makes sense to hold onto the family home for a while longer.


What are your retirement goals?

Do you want to travel more? Is the yard work getting to be too challenging? Are the expenses such as taxes and maintenance too much? These are just some of the questions to talk through when making the decision to stay or go. Deciding what you want your retirement to look like is often a deciding factor in the choice to downsize. Work with your financial advisor to determine how real estate assets will contribute to your retirement goals.

What possible challenges are in your current house for aging?

No one likes to think about aging, but it is a reality that often becomes more apparent after the last child has left the nest. It is important to look at your current house to determine if you can age well there. For example, do you have many flights of stairs separating rooms such as your bedroom and laundry room? Is there a large yard which requires a lot of upkeep? Are most of the main living rooms such as the kitchen and bedrooms on the same level? For many, making the decision to move before the aging process accelerates gives them time to settle into and truly enjoy their new surroundings.

What type of home suits you best?

As you answer some of the questions we have already addressed, this question will likely answer itself. If you plan to travel a lot, a large home with a lot of maintenance likely doesn’t make sense. Perhaps you like being able to walk to the market and restaurants which suggests living in a slightly more urban setting. The variety of homes for empty nesters is vast. Patio homes, 55+ communities, condos, small ranch-style homes and townhomes all are possibilities for empty nesters who make the decision to sell.

How could your home be modified to meet your needs?

Before deciding to downsize, determine if adjustments can be made to your home to fit your changing needs. Work with a contractor to determine the costs of renovations and consider talking to a real estate agent. They can help you determine if renovations would positively or negatively affect your home’s value. Perhaps staying in your home is as simple as moving the laundry room into the upstairs master, installing hardwood floors or xeriscaping your yard.

After the children have flown the coop, making the decision to stay or graduate to your empty nest can be a tough one. Take your time making the decision and talk it over with your family, friends and trusted advisors. Many empty nesters find a new sense of freedom in a new home while others revel in staying in the family home. Whatever you decide, embrace your empty nest years and enjoy the ride.

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