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Downsizing? Think “right-sizing” instead!

by Carla Griffin on August 15, 2011

Time to downsize? You’re not alone. This year, thousands of Americans will make the move from the family home, citing reasons such as retirement, an empty nest, loss of a partner or simply the need to cut expenses. But this won’t be our parents’ downsizing. Today’s older adults are younger – the average retirement age is now 62 – and they’re looking to right-size rather than downsize.

Health permitting, the majority of today’s downsizers are seeking to maintain an independent lifestyle. So granny flats and in-law suites, with built-in dependency on adult children, are less popular.   Instead, older adults want the freedom to continue the activities they’ve always enjoyed. Their lifestyles demand recreational facilities and senior-friendly parks and trails, as well as malls, access to cities, picturesque scenery and cultural activities.

Right-sized doesn’t mean small.   But small, in this case, is relative.   The majority of today’s buyers are looking for 1,200 to 1,600-sq.ft.-properties. As a result, sales of right-sized single family homes and condos are expected to increase at the expense of more compact options, giving today’s buyers room for overnight guests, good storage and spaces for hobbies.

As for luxury, large kitchens, spa-like bathrooms and quality finishes are the new essentials. Coming in close second are offices, family rooms and media centers. As well, walk-in closets and laundry rooms with shelves and cupboards (rather than a stackable washer/dryer in the kitchen) are must-haves. Upscale finishes such as granite countertops and stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, brushed nickel hardware, hardwood floor and high-end ceramics offer the luxury today’s downsizers require. Outdoor space remains important and that includes everything from full back gardens and large decks to shared outdoor living areas with barbecues, upscale outdoor furniture, water features and sound systems.

Interestingly, older buyers across the country are almost evenly split between condos and single-family homes, however in major urban markets the condo traffic outstrips purchases of houses.   The maintenance free condo lifestyle offers a turnkey solution to older adults who spend large blocks of time traveling.

Adult lifestyle communities built around golf courses or marinas offer a way of living that suits many. Some welcome the retirement residence lifestyle where they can transition easily to a nursing facility, if required, while another option is a life-equity concept. In this arrangement, older adults purchase the right to live in a high-rise or townhouse community for the rest of their life. The life-lease arrangement offers security, property maintenance, access to health care and recreational activities plus equity; life-lease holders can sell at market value or pass on their life-lease interest to their families.

In the final analysis, older adults are looking to enjoy this third ACT of their lives with the same enthusiasm they enjoyed in the first two ACTS.   And as in the past, their needs and wants will shape our society.   So you’re downsizing? Don’t hesitate.   Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life.



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