The Kids Are Gone! Is it Time to Downsize?

When your family is growing, you want more space. But you've passed the point of peak growth and your family is shrinking - or at least moving a little farther away. Do you still need all that space or would you prefer to have less space to manage?

Your home feels so empty, now that the pitter patter of little feet (or the large crash of nearly adult feet) is gone. Or maybe your home feels just fine, and you’re enjoying every inch of the extra space, throwing parties and having overnight guests, all the things you’ve wanted to do for years. Here are some things to consider when you’re thinking about a smaller place.

Are the kids coming back?

How often, and are they being fruitful and multiplying? If they’re settling far and wide, and considering adding partners and children to their lives, you may want to reserve a bedroom or two to preserve your own sanity when they come visit.

How much do you love or hate the maintenance of your home?

If yard work and gardening are great pleasures for you, it will be hard to leave them behind, especially if you’ve spent years cultivating them. Or do you feel nothing but relief at the prospect of a small patio, maybe a little container herb garden, and nothing to do but take an occasional broom to it?

Can you afford to keep your larger home?

Now that the kids are gone, can you justify the expenses of heating and cooling a larger home? Or if your master suite is downstairs, could you turn the heat and air off upstairs when no one’s home? Are those bills easy enough to pay, or would you rather have the extra money for travel or to pursue other hobbies?

Is your home part of your retirement plan?

Some parents choose larger homes in their younger years, with the intention of downsizing and using the profit to help fund retirement. Before you make that decision, know your capital gains tax rules. Right now, married couples can exclude up to $500,000 of profit on their taxes, while singles can exclude $250,000. You may also use some of the profit from your larger home to buy a smaller one. Consult with a qualified professional to find out what this would mean for you, and decide if your home plays a part in your retirement.

Is your home appropriate for you now?

Maybe you’re working from home more often and would prefer a dedicated home office space, or maybe you’ve started hosting large gatherings and prefer an open kitchen, so you can chat while you cook. If your bedroom is upstairs, would you prefer a downstairs bedroom if you become less mobile as you grow older? Take note of which rooms you use regularly, and imagine if there are some you could do without. Should you move, or just remodel?

Where would you move?

Consider whether you want to settle near your current home or go farther afield, maybe to be closer to grandchildren, your own parents, or other relatives. Explore real estate options before you make the leap to a smaller home.

Your home is full of memories, most of them good ones, we hope, but building memories in a new, more manageable home could be the key to your happiness. Don’t be shy about considering downsizing, and do look at all your options!