Downsizing has appeal for seniors

  • Article by: CHRIS FARRELL
  • June 11, 2011 - 2:16 PM

Q My husband and I are both 71. He sold his small business about 10 years ago and planned to retire. He quickly flunked retirement as he realized that golf and tennis weren't enough to keep him entertained. He also realized that we needed additional income.

About 20 years ago we had a significant amount of cash and built a large home in a very desirable location. At more than 4,000 square feet, the house is now too large for us. It is paid for. I am suggesting that we downsize, sell our home and move into a smaller condo. But, now that it's 20 years old, there are things that will need updating. I think we should sell our house immediately and take our knocks on the price, but my husband feels we should wait until the housing market recovers. We are currently fit, active and healthy, but eventually moving might become a more difficult endeavor for us physically. 


A I lean in your direction. Yes, the housing market is tough for sellers. You will probably take a haircut on price, although you have the advantage of owning your home outright. Yet you should be able to negotiate a good deal for yourselves when shopping for a smaller place. I would start looking and see what's available at what price.

Now, I'm a fan of smaller homes for most people, especially retired folks. The savings from running a smaller home compound over time. As important as the money savings is the fact that as we age, most of us are less inclined to do maintenance. Smaller yards and one-floor homes become much more attractive.

 I would strongly recommend moving while you're still healthy. Moving is mentally and physically hard. When my dad died, I talked to my mom about moving out of their large apartment into a smaller place. Yet she and Dad had moved about every two years of their long married life. She said, "Chris, I have moved so many times that this is it. I'm not moving again."

It was the right response for her. In your case, I would act sooner rather than later.

When you're shopping around for a new place make sure it's a home where you can grow old comfortably. I would steer clear of a place with lots of stairs and narrow doorways. I would also run a community audit of services for the aging. Is it easy to get to the doctor and hospital? Are there nonprofits offering services to the elderly, from delivering food to transportation to store? Convenient community services make it easier to age in place. Good luck.

Chris Farrell is economics editor for "Marketplace Money." Send your questions to

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