Dreaming About Downsizing: Learn to Make the Most of Your Move

February 23, 2021

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Your family home has served you well. It’s been the site of many Thanksgiving dinners, birthday parties, and summer barbecues. It’s where your kids learned to take their first steps, laughed until they cried, and spent many nights studying for the next big test. It’s been everything you ever hoped your home could be.

But it’s not what you need it to be anymore…

Many couples decide to downsize in their retirement years. If this sounds like an attractive option to you, it’s time to think about how you can make the most of your move.

Now that your kids have moved out with their own families, though, the large home starts feeling a little too big. You don’t use all the space anymore, but you still have to spend time cleaning those rooms. The energy costs can be high, especially when you think about how you’re heating and cooling rooms nobody is using.

Sometimes, it starts getting hard to physically move about the house. It’s troublesome to climb stairs to get to your bedroom, and your body just can’t handle spending hours in the yard weeding and mowing.

You need a new solution. Something smaller. Something more manageable.

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Is it Time to Sell the Family Home?

Some people sell the family home out of necessity. Their health is failing, and they need to move into a home that offers the type of care they need. Retirement communities and nursing homes do offer some advantages. They typically offer prepared meals and have trained medical staff that can handle simple or complex health issues. Some even offer residents their own private apartments, complete with kitchenettes.

The biggest downside to this option, though, is the expense. These types of homes may be out of your price range. Many people also feel like living in a home like this restricts their freedom, especially if you’re in good health and live an active lifestyle. It’s not as easy to come and go as you like.

Other people opt for buying a smaller resale home. While this seems to be the most affordable option, hidden costs abound. Resale homes might allow you to live closer to your kids or to other amenities you might need. Unfortunately, resale homes usually come with big problems. As soon as you move in, you can be hit with expensive repairs.

At Sterling, we’re seeing a lot of retired couples turning to brand-new bungalow-style homes when it’s time to downsize. We think you’ll see that this is the perfect option for those who want a comfortable lifestyle in a space that’s more manageable.

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Why Buy a New Home in the Retirement Years?

At first glance, buying a new home for your retirement can seem like an odd choice. After all, when you think about buying a new home, you start to imagine starting to make mortgage payments from the beginning. Since you’ve probably paid off the mortgage on your first home — or are at least close to finishing off those payments — you’re naturally hesitant to take on another mortgage.

Surprisingly, owning a new home can be incredibly affordable. Many of the people who buy with us are able to use the equity in their current home to fully pay for the new home. Others are able to use it as a hefty down payment — 50 percent or more — which makes for very affordable monthly payments. Beyond the actual cost of the home, though, you’ll see other savings, like in energy costs and home maintenance bills.

A home isn’t only about its price tag, though. You’ve had a long, successful life, and you deserve to have a home that reflects this. When you design a brand-new home, you’re able to incorporate all of the little design details that will make your home feel like a palace. This might include things like hardwood flooring, granite countertops, and beautiful tiling in the bathroom.

You’ll even have extra space for when the grandkids come to visit! In short, buying a new home allows you to live out the rest of your life in the home you’ve always dreamed about.

Furthermore, living in a new home is just easier. You won’t have to worry about maintenance projects taking up your precious time. Everything in the home will be new, and things won’t break down the way that would in resale homes.

If you’re sick of yard work, you can get rid of that too! Sterling offers maintenance-free options. Let us take care of maintaining the exterior of your home.

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How Can I Start the Downsizing Process?

It’s overwhelming to think about the downsizing process. Sometimes, it can feel like you’re letting go of precious memories. It seems impossible to do away with all the things that have brought you so much joy over the years.

It becomes much easier when you’re able to take it a little bit at a time.

First, start thinking about what your needs are. For instance, you probably no longer need four large bedrooms for your kids, but it can still be nice to have extra bedrooms. You might look for a three-bedroom home, and use one of those bedrooms as a guest room for the grandkids and the other as a hobby room for whatever you want to do in your retirement years.

You’ll also want to think about where you want to live. Commuting is no longer a major concern, but you still want to be close to amenities like grocery stores or recreation centres. All of Sterling’s communities are close to the types of things you need for daily living. You could even save some money by purchasing a home that’s a bit further away from the city centre than you would have needed when you worked downtown. We promise that even the communities outside of the city limits are close to shopping centres!

Think also about what kind of home you want. Some retirees opt for smaller homes like townhomes and duplexes, but we often see retired couples turning to bungalow-style homes. The single-storey floor plans are perfect for those who have trouble navigating stairs, but there’s often the option of adding even more space by finishing the basement if stairs aren’t a concern for you.

Once you know what you’re looking for, start estimating some costs. Look at what homes in your area are selling for to get an idea of how much you might be able to sell your home for to get an idea of how much equity you’ll get out of it. Look at quick possession homes similar to the style you want, to see how much they’ll cost. If your equity won’t fully cover the price of your new home, use a mortgage calculator to see what your monthly payments will look like for the amount you need to borrow.

If you’re ready to get serious about downsizing, Sterling has a program (List with Sterling) to assist homeowners looking to sell their existing home. Sterling also provides a Comparative Market Analysis to give you a more accurate estimate of how much you can get for your home when you sell. The next stop will be to ask the builder for a custom quote on the exact home you want.

If your estimations are showing you that this can be an affordable option, it’s time to start the buying process. Talk to an Area Manager about what you want.

In general, it takes about one year to build a home, so you don’t want to sell your home yet. Our lending partners can speak with you about your options for borrowing money for your initial down payment. You won’t have to worry about moving out of your home before your new home is ready. And as an added bonus, we offer a list and sell for free program, where we will pay the listing and selling commissions on your current home!

Looking to move in soon? Quick possession homes are move-in ready for you.

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Decluttering While Downsizing

Now that you’re getting ready to move into a smaller home, you know you have to pare down your belongings. You may have entire rooms full of furniture that you won’t need in your new home. You probably have boxes and boxes of things that you’ve been saving over the years for sentimental reasons. Make a plan for getting rid of some of these things.

It’s probably easiest to tackle some of the large pieces of furniture. Check in with your children about the things that they might want. A child who recently moved into their first apartment might be eager to take a lot of that extra furniture. Kids may especially want things that are antique or higher quality than the items they currently have in their homes.

Once the kids have taken what they want, you can decide what to do with the leftover pieces. If they’re quality pieces in good condition, consider selling them through local Facebook groups or on Kijiji. You may be able to get fair prices for these items, and you can then use that money to help with your moving costs. Otherwise, consider giving the furniture away, either to people you know could use them or to a charity willing to pick it up from your home.

Now that you’ve made a plan to get rid of some of your bigger items, it’s time to tackle the little things, especially all the things you’ve been warehousing for your kids. It’s time to pass on all those things they’ve been asking you to hold on to.

What do we mean by that? Think about items like elementary school papers, high school sports trophies, and old favourite toys. Sure, they have some sentimental value, but you shouldn’t have to lug boxes of these things to your new home.

Touch base with the kids to see if they really want to keep them. If they do, make sure they take those boxes home with them the next time they visit. If something is not worth keeping, it’s time to donate if you can or throw it away. When it comes to all those old papers and art projects, you might consider scanning them or taking photos to store them digitally, then getting rid of the physical items.

Finally, as you pack up to move to the new home, pack each item with intention. Don’t pack clothes that don’t fit, gadgets you haven’t used in years, or any other items that you don’t think you really need. Set those aside for donations.

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Where to Donate Things You Don’t Need

Your favourite thrift stores are always willing to take on the things you no longer want, but some people like to be a bit more intentional with their donations.

For instance, clothing donations to the Youth Empowerment & Support Services or the Bissell Centre can go directly to families in need. Find Edmonton accepts furniture donations, and many of the things are offered free to families transitioning out of homelessness. They’ll come by to pick up your heavy items.

Other places, like Inclusion Alberta accept a wide variety of items, including clothing and small household items (but not furniture). They then sell these items at discounted prices and donate the proceeds to organizations that help people with developmental disabilities.

Taking the Next Step

Downsizing is definitely the right move for many people in their retirement years. There’s no doubt that it can feel like an overwhelming process, but it becomes much easier when you take it step by step.

We’re here to help you as you transition from your family home into a brand-new place, and are ready to answer any questions you might have. You’ll soon be enjoying your golden years in a home that suits your new lifestyle as you live life to the fullest!

Originally published Mar 8, 2019, updated Feb 23, 2021

Click here to get your free guide, Dreaming About Downsizing: Learn to Make the Most of Your Move, today! 

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