It’s long been the conventional wisdom that, as you grow older, it makes sense to retire and downsize from the house that has been home for decades. For many, that conventional wisdom may no longer be the case.

In fact, instead of downsizing, many retirees are upsizing. The idea that you need a smaller place as you grow older is losing some of the sparkle.

According to a Merrill Lynch survey completed late last fall, many Baby Boomers leaving the workforce are not participating in the traditional move to a smaller home. The survey showed 49% of them didn’t plan to downsize. In fact, 30% moved into larger homes!

 
 

Why Upsize Your Home?

Some retirees believe they’ve worked hard all of their life, so now it is time to treat themselves. These are men and women who rose through the ranks to top executive levels and have saved enough to really do what they want.

They can buy a larger home with all the extras in a location that matches the lifestyle they want to follow. The bottom line is they upsize their home, because they want to and they can afford it.

Many successful executives plan to maintain an active social life with a great deal of entertaining. They need a home appropriate for their lifestyle. Whether it’s hosting a social event for a charity they support or a dinner party for good friends, they want a home that not only fits their needs, but also the image they want to project.

There are other reasons. Some want the added space to accommodate their whole family on special occasions. A larger home would allow all of the children and grandchildren to live under one roof when they come “home” for a visit.

Then there’s the fact that more adult children, sometimes with families, are moving back home. There are college graduates who can’t find work. Others can’t afford a place of their own. Too often the “empty nest” older adults once lamented has turned into a home for returning children often with a spouse and children of their own.

Then there is the challenge of aging. Often this means helping parents who no can longer live on their own. Other times, retirees realize their own mortality and plan for the time they can no long navigate narrow hallways and multi-level homes with steep staircases. That’s when many retirees consider the value of a ranch-style home. That style can be roomier, but eliminates the need to deal with an upstairs or a basement.

Why Downsizing Is a Good Idea?

All that said, downsizing the home is still a good option for some. One very good reason is to move closer to grandchildren.

Sure, a plane ticket can get you to them quickly even if they live halfway across the country. Still the option of picking them up after school, taking them to a park or participating in their school and other social activities are pluses that are hard to ignore.

Downsizing also has the potential of saving you money on mortgage payments, utility bills and even property taxes. You may possibly save on maintenance fees and it’s almost certain you’ll be able to get rid of much of the junk that has piled up in the basement.

Here’s another very good reason, one I mentioned earlier. You may need a single-level home for medical reasons for yourself, your spouse or for elderly relatives who may live with you.

Sometimes, but, not always, selling your large home and moving to a smaller one could free up equity you have in your existing home. That extra money could allow for many extras you might not otherwise be able to afford. You might even have enough to allow you to become a world traveler.

Some Reasons to “Stay Put”

Too often retirees and others fail to figure in all the costs when they think about downsizing or upsizing. For those planning to downsize there’s a potential for a big capital gains hit.

Both types of moves will generate a lot of fees. There are fees for attorneys, real estate brokers, inspectors and needed repairs mandatory before the sale. And then there’s the mover’s expense. Even if you’re not moving across country, a move could add up to thousands of dollars.

There’s the emotional cost to consider too, especially if you have children. Selling the home where your children grew up can create friction, even if the children have moved away and seldom return for a visit. They still consider the place where they grew up as home. This is something to consider and discuss with the children.

So, you may be just as well off staying put. But, if you’re intent on downsizing or upsizing be sure to take a realistic look at all of the financial and emotional costs involved.

Are you planning on downsizing for retirement? Or, does upsizing sound more appealing, given your situation and goals? Please join the conversation.

Susan SpauldingSusan K Spaulding, is an author of Recalibrate for Life 2.0, Transition Stories for Business Leaders and Recalibrate, An Accelerated Guide for Strategic Growth, and principal of Recalibrate Strategies. She focuses on collaboratively facilitating great outcomes for her clients whether establishing a new brand, cultivating new markets, or recalibrating for personal and business success.

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