Should I downsize my home in retirement?

If you are approaching retirement or are already there, you may be considering downsizing your home. It’s a big decision, with ramifications for both your finances and your lifestyle. As you think about downsizing, here are some things to keep in mind:

Decide if a move makes sense. You can expect your needs and priorities to shift in retirement. Perhaps you won’t require as much square footage as you did when raising children, or you may find it challenging to keep up with home maintenance like you used to.

It may be financially prudent and personally necessary to get out from under the costs and responsibilities of maintaining a larger property. Your location preference may shift, too. It is common for retirees to desire living closer to family members or in warmer climates.

Create a timeline for your move. Discuss the pros and cons of selling your family home now or in the future. External market factors can affect your next step. Timing the sale of your home and the purchase of a new one can be tricky. Be prepared in the event your home doesn’t sell quickly.

Consult a real estate professional. A real estate professional can help you determine what needs to be done before putting your house up for sale. Your home may need repairs to meet code or maximize its list price. Get an appraisal of current market value and decide what you’ll be comfortable spending on a new, smaller home.

Review your housing options. Once you decide to downsize, you can start looking for a new place that meets your needs and budget. If you’re considering a condo or townhome (two popular options for retirees) make sure to factor in any fees or assessments that are charged to residents when calculating the overall cost of ownership. If you’re in need of assisted living services, you’ll also want to get a handle on those costs – and whether they can be offset by any long-term care insurance you may have – so you can plan accordingly. In terms of location, you may want to think about the proximity of amenities and services including grocery stores, transportation and your doctor’s office.

Be prepared for a multi-gen conversation. A change as impactful as selling your home may prompt conversations with family members on the topic of your estate. Downsizing usually requires whittling down the personal possessions you’ve acquired over the years. If you’re moving to a residence with managed maintenance, you won’t need the lawn mower, snowblower, or other tools in your garage. That extra set of dishes might be more useful to someone else. If you’re thinking of giving items to family members, be prepared for the possibility of different generations having different interests and attachments to your home and belongings. It can be a good idea to establish how you want to explain to family members your lifestyle goals for retirement, so they can support you through the process.

Review your finances carefully. Take the time to thoroughly review the financial implications of your specific situation. Just because you are downsizing does not necessarily mean you will suddenly have a cash windfall or establish enormous savings. Remember that HOA expenses, lifestyle changes and upgrades in construction quality can add to costs. Additionally, if you choose to move to a retirement area that has more built-in services, it can increase your cost of living, as well. Taking the time to explore the intricacies of your situation can prepare you for the next steps. And remember: you don’t have to do it alone. A qualified financial advisor can help you navigate this complex process with confidence.

Michael Snyder, CRPC ®, is a Private Wealth Advisor and Managing Director with The Snyder Group a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC. in Red Bank, NJ.  He specializes in fee-based financial planning and asset management strategies and has been in practice for 16 years.
To contact him,  Office:732.383.2299 x 2259 141 West Front Street
Suite 140. Red Bank, NJ 07701


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