Downsizing A Home

Jeff,

My wife and I have lived in the same home for over 30 years. We raised our four children here and made a lot of good memories. But now, all the kids have moved out and our home is full of empty rooms. We have been discussing whether we should sell it and move to a smaller place but we struggle with leaving the neighbourhood. We love our neighbours and worry that we’d regret the decision to move. But, the money we could earn from moving would really help out our quality of life. I was hoping you could give us some advice on what things we should be considering before we make this decision.

Peter R.
Kamloops, British Columbia

 

Peter,

This is a common issue seniors face as they struggle with their “empty nest”. You bought a house that fit your family as it grew, but now that it is has shrunk you are wondering if you should cash out. But, it’s not as simple as taking the money and running away, is it?

Homes are a part of who we are. And with 30+ years of memories locked up inside those four walls, it’s tough to leave it all behind. I can’t give you a definite answer of what you should do, but I can let you know a few things that you should consider that will make your decision easier.

  • Your finances – A lot of times, this comes down to a financial decision. Can you afford to stay in your home or not? I suggest you sit down with your wife and a financial advisor and plan out the rest of your life financially. The plan needs to include what money you will have coming in after you retire. And, don’t forget to include the amount of money (if any) that you would like to leave behind for your kids. Once you get this all down on paper, you’ll have a better idea of what your budget is and if you need the cash infusion from a home sale to live the life you want to live.
  • Your desires – What does retirement mean to you? Is it taking care of the grandkids in your home, or do you expect to spend much of your time travelling around the globe? Do you like eating at fancy restaurants regularly, or are you content to just enjoy home-cooking? You need to lay out how you expect to live in retirement so you know how much money you’ll be spending.
  • Your values – This is a big part of your decision. How much do you value that specific home in that specific neighbourhood? I’m not talking about how much the house is worth on the outside market; I’m asking you what value it holds for you. It’s quite possible that you could sell it, move to a smaller house and have lots of money left over – but will that make you happy? Really think about that before you make a decision.

And finally, if you are still stuck between a rock and hard place because you need the extra money you’ll get from the sale of your home but you really don’t want to leave the neighbourhood, these two tips may help you get the best of both worlds –

  • Move close – Lots of neighbourhoods have homes of different sizes and shapes. Walk around your area and see if any smaller homes are up for sale. You might get lucky and be able to move a few streets over to a smaller home. Not only will you come out ahead by downsizing, you’ll also save money on other things (especially if you move from a large older home to a newer, smaller one). A smaller house will decrease costs when it comes to heating, electricity, water and taxes. These savings will support you as you grow older while allowing you to stay in the area you love.
  • Fill those empty rooms – Making your home into an income generator can help you stay in it longer. Convert the basement into an apartment and rent it out. Or, start accepting students as borders to stay with you during the school year. The extra money you bring in each month could help you have the money to enjoy your retirement without having to leave your neighbourhood.

Jeffrey Schwartz
Executive Director

Jeffrey Schwartz is the Executive Director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada and President of the Credit Association of Greater Toronto (CAGT).

If you have a question about a debt management program or just about finance in general, Jeff is here to help. Send us an email with your question to AskJeff@ConsolidatedCredit.ca. You’ll get the expert advice you need and your question may be featured here on our website.

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