The Sometimes Hidden Expenses of Downsizing

Should I stay or should I go?  This question can plague older adults tackling the decision whether to remain in the family home, even if it’s larger than they need or to downsize into something more manageable – perhaps on one level.  The decision becomes more complex when taking into consideration proximity to family and friends, necessary repairs or updates in order to sell, and the carrying costs of a new home. 

According to a recent New York Times report, many older adults are caught off-guard at the upfront expenses of getting their family home ready for the market while also shelling out for entrance into a retirement community, building a new home, or competing with younger buyers for smaller homes in walkable neighbourhoods.

Property taxes do not necessarily drop with a move to a smaller home, and monthly fees for condos or retirement communities can be steep, and may not cover all expenses.  Buyers should always check agreements closely to avoid unpleasant surprises that can throw off a monthly budget significantly.  It’s also important to consider whether older adults will make use of the amities they are paying for, like swimming pools, tennis courts or fitness facilities, and if the new community will provide the support they will require over the next 5 to 10 years. 

For those considering a move, talking with a certified financial planner can help homeowners get a clearer picture of the benefits, and drawbacks of downsizing.  The Move-or-Stay-Put-Calculator created by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College can also help older adults financially plan for a move.  Keep in mind that the decision to downsize or move can be difficult, and should be based not only on finances but also on a healthy, socially engaged lifestyle where transportation is available when driving is no longer possible. 

If the maintenance of a home, especially the outside, is overwhelming for older adults, a move into a rental or condominium can make sense but check thoroughly to see what is covered by monthly fees.  Senior move managers can also be hired to help older adults manage the transition to a new home, prevent family conflict and save time and money.   Learn more by following this link to the National Association of Specialty and Senior Move Managers website. 

Downsizing is the answer for many but not all.