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Scott McGillivray’s Guide To Downsizing

Most empty nesters have to face this decision at some point—to keep the family home or downsize to something smaller.

Deciding to move from the home where you raised your kids can be an emotional process. For some it’s sad, while for others, it’s an exciting new chapter. Whatever you may be feeling, don’t let your emotions get in the way of making a smart decision. Like any real estate investment, there are many things to consider when downsizing to a smaller home.


The first thing to figure out is why you’re downsizing. Some people choose to leave because the family home has become too much to manage; for some it feels too empty without the kids in the house; and others want a lifestyle change. Whatever the reason, it’s important to understand why you’re downsizing so you can determine the needs of your new home.


Before you settle on your new digs, you have to determine what matters and what doesn’t. Start by making a list of the best and worst features of your current home. Do you love your big family-style kitchen? Will you miss it if you move to a tiny condo? What about the backyard? If outdoor entertaining is important to you, a small bungalow with a yard might be a better option than a condo. While compromises will always have to be made, there’s no point in moving to a place that lacks the things you love.


Downsizing to a one- or two-bedroom condo can be a tempting prospect for people who don’t want to deal with a lot of upkeep, but make sure the space can accommodate your lifestyle. Do you host a lot of holiday get-togethers? Do family and friends come for overnight visits on a regular basis? In that case, a guest room is a must. And keep in mind that your kids may have moved out of the family home, but that doesn’t mean they might not come back! If this is something you want to encourage, make sure there’s somewhere for them to stay.


Location is as important when downsizing as it is at any other time, and the area you move to will affect your cost of living. While moving from a big home to a condo might seem like a money-saving venture, cutting square footage might not save you money if you move to a prime real estate location. Remember that condos come with maintenance fees that must be budgeted for. When deciding on a location, you also need to think about what’s important to you now and in the future. Staying close to family is very important for some people, while being close to specific amenities is important to others.


As an empty nester, you need to think about the needs of tomorrow as well as today. Townhouses can be great in terms of size and upkeep, but they tend to have a lot of stairs, which can become difficult as you get older. Other elements of universal design are also worthwhile to keep in mind. Think about things like curbless showers, door handles instead of knobs and under-counter appliances. While these things might not be a concern now, they could be important in the future.