Retiring baby boomers are finding that downsizing is not always the answer. Empty nesters transitioning from their longtime houses are finding they still need plenty of space, The Washington Post reports.
“Older home buyers today are ‘smart-sizing’ rather than just downsizing,” Mollie Carmichael, a principal with the housing research firm Meyers Research, told The Washington Post. “Affordability is a big priority before and during retirement, so people think they need to downsize for financial security, but that’s not always true.”
Carmichael says her organization’s research has shown that 30% of people who have moved to age-restricted communities end up moving to a larger place within the community after they’ve lived there for a while. The average home size in active-adult communities—which are geared for ages 55 and older—is 1,500 to 1,800 square feet. “They just want a little extra space and yet want to stay in the neighborhood,” Carmichael says.
For example, Robin and Stefanie Wohnsigl told The Washington Post that it took them four years to find the right place for retirement. They sold an 8,000-square-foot home outside of Washington, D.C., four years ago to downsize into a 1,500-square-foot apartment. But then they realized they had downsized too much. “We wanted a backyard for our dog,” Robin Wohnsigl told The Washington Post. They have since upsized to a 3,700-square-foot single-family home.
Figuring out the type of home to buy for the preretirement-into-retirement phase can be difficult, Alison Bernstein, president and founder of Suburban Jungle, told The Washington Post. Bernstein recently opened a “ReSizer” division that is aimed at consumers in their 50s and 60s. She helps clients evaluate their financial situation and emotional goals as they try to decide whether to move to a smaller or larger home.
“The people we work with aren’t retiring yet, but they are in a ‘now what’ phase where they can choose where they want to be based on their lifestyle rather than on their kids’ schools,” Bernstein told The Washington Post. “We talk to them about what they want out of their next home and provide them with free advice and then recommend our partner real estate agents to help them find a specific home. … We take a personal inventory of what people hope to accomplish with their move, such as reducing their commute, eliminating home maintenance or downsizing to something less expensive so they can use their cash for something else.”