The Decision for Seniors to Downsize – And What It Means for Your Family Home

More seniors today are embracing the trend of downsizing. For some, their home is no longer safe or accessible, while for others, financial reasons drive this decision. Whatever the reason may be, one of the big questions you’re left with is what to do with the home you’re moving out of. The three main options you have are to either sell it, rent it to someone else, and or keep it to pass along to family members.

Where are you downsizing to?

Knowing the type of home you plan on moving into, and the costs involved, is an important factor that goes into making a decision about your family home. Do you plan on buying or renting a smaller house or condo? Or are you moving into assisted living? If you’re downsizing because mobility or safety is a concern, seniors and their family members should consider whether assisted living is best.

Retirees who are ready to make a change often confuse assisted living with the traditional idea of a nursing home. The goal of assisted living is for seniors to be able to live in an environment that feels like an apartment home, not an institution. Assisted living communities allow you to continue living on your own terms, while maintaining a good deal of independence. At the same time, they provide help with everyday needs like meal preparation, basic personal care, and managing medications. If you or your loved one decides to move to assisted living, look for a community that delivers this balance between care and the ability to stay as self-sufficient as possible.

The best way to find the facility that meets these requirements and feels right for you is to visit several different communities. Of course, cost is a factor that plays a role in this decision, too. Costs can vary depending on the type of amenities a place provides; the average cost for assisted living in Minneapolis is $3,946 per month.

How will you cover the costs of your new home?

Covering the costs of assisted living can be challenging for someone on a fixed income, but remember that your current home is an asset that you can use to help. One option is to turn your home into a rental property. Doing this provides income that you can put toward assisted living costs, and meanwhile, you can continue building equity in your home.

Another option is to sell your house. The Penny Hoarder explains how selling your home when you downsize frees up money for whatever else you need it for (in this case, assisted living). Especially if you own your home free and clear, selling gives you a lump sum of money, rather than the steady, but smaller, flow of income you would get from renting it. There isn’t a right or wrong answer to which option is better. The answer depends in large part on which option has a better impact on your bottom line, and which one best protects your finances for the future.

If you’re moving to another home, such as a condo or townhome, rather than assisted living, selling a larger (and more expensive home) may be the best choice if doing so allows you to buy your new home outright. Doing this lowers your cost of living, but you’re also maintaining ownership of a property that you can eventually pass on to family. Even when this is your plan, cautions against deeding the property to your children now because doing so could end up being costly for them.

For many retirees, your home is your biggest asset. In the best-case scenario, you hope this asset can stay in your family. However, this asset can also be a huge help in maintaining financial security as you move forward. Finding the best solution isn’t always easy. The most important thing is to explore all your options, and how they each fit with the bigger picture, before making a decision.

Jim Vogel is a guest contributor who writes about downsizing for senior citizens at

Photo by Elien Dumon on Unsplash

Moving on and Making a New Life After Loss

Losing someone you are close to is a devastating experience and one that changes the way you live your daily life. And as much as your family and friends are there to support you socially and emotionally, ultimately, you must find your own. If you have given yourself time to grieve but realize that your current home keeps you from moving further along in the process, a change of scenery can help you over the hurdles.

When Moving Makes Sense

Moving is not a cure for grief. It will not remove the memory of your loved one. However, the first morning in a new home is a page turned to a new chapter in your story.

Finding a new place to live might be a good idea if:

  • You can afford the expenses associated with moving.
  • You are not trying to avoid feelings of loss but are ready to move forward.
  • You cannot afford your current home without a second income.
  • You are ready to go through your loved one’s belongings and to let some things go.

The Costs

There are many expenses that you have to factor into your moving budget. According to Bankrate, these include transportation, the cost of living, and other purchase-related expenses. You will also need to look at what it will cost to get your own home ready to put on the market. Small home repairs, marketing, and realtor fees (realtors usually take 6 percent as commission) can easily add up to thousands of dollars. Even small expenses, such as having a cleaning service come in to perform a move-out cleaning can quickly add up if you don’t plan and budget ahead of time. According to Redfin, it’s also incredibly important to pay attention to closing costs, which can range between 2 percent and 5 percent of the purchase price.

On the flip side, if you cannot afford your current home, it may be necessary to move regardless of your cash flow. So, sit down and look at your finances. Calculate life insurance you’ve collected, your current income, and savings, but also don’t forget about other sources of cash, including employer-sponsored insurance policies and your children’s college savings, if necessary. Although you may feel guilty if you have to dip into their education fund, keep in mind that they will have the option of taking out student loans when the time comes, and your responsibility is to their safety and welfare today.

The Emotions

Grief is a complicated emotion, and it’s one that the Mayo Clinic stresses vary from person to person. Unfortunately,  it is one that we have to learn to manage before making any major changes to our life. Before planning a move, have a heart-to-heart with yourself. Look at your intentions. If you are moving to escape, you should know that you cannot run from the pain. What you can do, however, is learn to work through it.

Before speaking with a realtor, spend an afternoon or two going to your loved one’s belongings. If you move, you will most likely not take everything with you. Pay attention to how you feel as you sort through their clothing, collections, and other personal items. When you realize that you can let these items go, you will be one step closer to starting your new life. One thing that many people find helpful is to donate their loved one’s things to a charity in their honor. You may find comfort in knowing that a child’s toys, for example, will no longer sit in an empty room.

Help Along the Way

No matter when or where you decide to move, or how long it takes to give yourself permission to go, there are resources that can help you along the way. Your family and friends, church congregation, therapist, and realtor are all in your corner, and they can offer everything from advice to a strong back as you make this transition. If you don’t have a strong support group in your area, there are online bereavement programs that can provide the assistance you need.

Grieving is not easy, and moving can be even harder. However, saying goodbye to where you were is sometimes the best way to accept where you are and get to where you are going.

Image via Pixabay

Lucille Rosetti is a guest contributor who writes about grief and loss at The Bereaved. Her latest book is Life After Death: A Wellness Guide for the Bereaved.