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Downsizing for Retirees: What’s the Right Size?

by Jackie Heath on Sep 19, 2017

If you’re retiring soon and wondering if you should downsize to a smaller space, you elderly womanmay be wondering: What size is right? Rather than thinking in terms of room size, consider how you’ll live in and use the space. Here are some questions that can help you figure out how much space you need.

How many people will be in the space daily? If you are the daycare provider for a host of grandchildren, your space requirements will differ from retirees whose grandkids come to visit once or twice a year.

How frequently will you have visitors? If you entertain a lot and anticipate frequent and numerous overnight guests, you may want two guest bedrooms. If, on the other hand, you would prefer not to have a lot of overnight guests, you can certainly get a one-bedroom and direct friends and family to nearby hotels.

Do you or your spouse have hobbies that you need space for? Whether that’s a whole room for a model railroad set up, or room for a spacious sewing table, incorporate them into your must haves.

Are you a homebody, or someone who likes to get out and do things? If you anticipate being able to travel and an active life out of the house, then you may be able to get away with less space than someone who plans to stick close to home.

Do you like to cook, and want a large kitchen with plenty of workspace? If not, you may be able to look at homes with smaller kitchens with minimal counter space.

Do you want room for exercise equipment, or are you more likely to go to a gym or fitness center? If the latter, you may want to look for a home that has a gym, either in a central community center or as part of a condo building.

How much time do you want to spend maintaining your new home? Think beyond whether you want to care for a large lawn and take care of house chores. How much time do you want to spend cleaning your new home? A smaller home takes much less time to maintain than a larger one.

While you’re thinking about how you’ll use this new, smaller space, consider your health and how you’ll age. While stairs may not be an issue now, if you stay for ten or fifteen years, you may appreciate having everything all on one level.  And at a time when you’re less able to get out, will a really small place still be comfortable?

One other question you should ask is how would you rather spend your money, as a capital outlay in your downsized home, or on experiences once you’ve moved? This answer, more than any other, can help you clarify how much space you can afford and how much space you need. One goal of downsizing is to have more money, so knowing that you want to travel, for instance, can help you determine how much space you can afford.

In the end, think of it as a trade-off. What would you give up for that larger kitchen? What can you gain for giving up a formal dining room? Whatever your decision as to size, you’ll need to cull your belongings. Remember that while your kids may want some of your things, they probably won’t want everything you’re getting rid of.  See our post on what to do with all that extra stuff when you move to a smaller home. 

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