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Downsizing Wisely

  • July 20, 2018
  • Blog
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Downsizing Wisely

We have a lot of buyer clients who are empty-nesters looking for their next home. It’s an exciting time, but mistakes can be costly and time-consuming. I’ve compiled a list of tips for folks beginning the search for their perfect ‘next’ home.

Who Are You Going to Be?

The first thing you must ask yourself is who you’re going to be in the next phase of your life. Are you going to be a married couple with lots of visiting children and grandchildren? Are you going to be a farmer? A social butterfly? A hermit? A philanthropist? Will you still be working or do you want to go fishing every afternoon?

Get a clear picture of what your life is really going to look like for the next 10 years before making any decisions or narrowing your search. Your residence needs to be conducive to your lifestyle, so figuring that out first and foremost is key.

Walkability and First-Floor Master Bedrooms

Most of my empty-nester clients want to move back to the city. Whether it’s the museums, theaters, restaurants, breweries or shopping, they want to be close to what the city has to offer. And usually they want to be able to walk to these amenities. But, if they also want a first-floor Master Bedroom for when the knees and hips give out, they are going to be disappointed. The occasional Northside bungalow might have one, but most houses in the city limits are older and historic and don’t have bedrooms on the first floor. A few older homes have been retrofitted with a downstairs bedroom, but rarely. Buyers should be prepared for this, as it’s one of the biggest challenges for Empty Nesters looking for a house in the City of Richmond.

Beware of Buying Vacation Property

We go on vacation to ‘get away from it all’ – to slow down, take time to relax and spend quality time with friends and family. Often people envision life like this when they retire. But, it’s not always what you might expect.

Buyers should be mindful of this and ask themselves if ‘getting away’ is really what you want for your everyday life. I’ve seen Empty Nest buyers regret buying that house in the woods on the lake or on a remote mountain top, because frankly it can be lonely once the initial novelty wears off.

Another complaint I often hear is that, in vacation communities, neighbors are rarely there or they rent their homes to strangers. No one wants to be bored and feel disconnected from friends and their community.

Get Rid of Stuff

Get rid of your stuff. I know it’s sentimental and it’s difficult, but I mean it.

Take pictures of your kid’s favorite stuffed animal and soccer trophies and then get rid of them. Donate and recycle as much as you can.

Sometimes buyers are more concerned with ‘storage’ in their new home than they are with their own comfort, budget and needs. You are more important than your stuff! Pair down to the essentials for your next phase of life so you can start fresh. We have organizers and junk haulers who can help.

To Yard or Not to Yard

If you think you NEVER want to do yard work again, think again. While you probably don’t want to mow a giant yard and pull weeds every weekend, you should consider some outdoor space.

Many folks use their newfound freedom to putter in a small garden and enjoy entertaining in their backyard.

On the other hand, if you and your spouse want to be able to get up and go at a moment’s notice, and on a regular basis, maybe a yard is not for you. Something to consider.

Houseguests and Fish

Be honest with yourself about houseguests in your new home. I’ve seen Empty Nest buyers become frustrated trying to find affordable homes with lots of bedrooms for their visiting children and all the houseguests they imagine will come to stay with them in their new home. But, the reality is that your kids are busy and so are your friends. You’ll certainly have visitors from time-to-time, but I recommend that you not buy a house based on other people who may or may not come to visit.

Borrow or Pay Cash

Empty Nesters who’ve sold their homes often wonder whether to take out a new mortgage and hold on to proceeds from the sale, or to pay for their next home with all cash and have no mortgage. There are many factors to consider such as liquidity, mortgage interest tax deductions, closing costs, and resale aren’t tied to market conditions, etc. I highly suggest you talk to your tax consultant to figure out what’s best for your finances in the long-run.


If you’re looking for the perfect Empty Nester home, there is a lot to take into consideration. After all, this home needs to grow with you and cater to the lifestyle you’d like to live out for the next phase of your life! There’s a lot of thinking and planning that goes into that, particularly as you attempt to predict just what your day to day needs will be.

These are just some of the tips and challenges that face the Empty Nest buyer in today’s market. I hope you find this helpful and I look forward to helping you find your perfect next home!

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