When it’s time to downsize into a smaller house, do you know what to look for? When shopping for a home for your golden years, searching for small square footage isn’t enough. You need a home that matches the needs of older adults, and when you move, you need to be smart about what you bring.
Follow these steps when downsizing your home so you only have to move once.
1. Assess Your Needs
The perfect home for aging in place looks different for everyone. Determine what you’ll need in a home by assessing your health and how it may change in the coming years.
Take note of changes to health, mobility, vision and hearing that you’re experiencing and any difficulties you currently face at home. Tasks that are bothersome today will likely grow more challenging in the future. It may be helpful to talk to your doctor about what to expect from your health, particularly if you have a chronic illness.
2. List Must-Have Home Features
Once you understand how your health may affect life at home, it’s time to list the home features that will enable you to age in place safely and comfortably. For most seniors, a single-story home with a step-free entrance is a must (or alternatively, a multi-story home with a stair lift or elevator). These are some additional features seniors should prioritize:
Open concept floor plan and/or large rooms with turning space for a wheelchair.
Wide doorways and hallways that can fit a walker, wheelchair, or scooter.
Nonslip flooring and level thresholds.
Bright, even lighting, including both overhead and task lighting.
Variable-height kitchen counters.
These aren’t all the features that make a home ideal for aging in place. However, these features are some of the most difficult and expensive to modify. For that reason, it’s wise to purchase a home that already includes these designs. For additional features that will make your home friendly for older adults, read Common Sense Home’s guide.
3. Research the Housing Stock
Next, see what’s available in your housing market. By researching homes in your desired size range and location, you’ll get a feel for what a new home will cost. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, for example, you’ll find that homes have sold for $265,000 on average in the last month. If available homes are out of your budget, try looking in more affordable neighborhoods, searching for smaller homes or adding multi-family housing into your search.
4. Buy and Sell
With a solid understanding of your needs and budget, it’s time to list your house and start shopping for a forever home. When you have specific design needs, finding the right home can be tricky. A real estate agent is an invaluable resource to aid in your search. Seek an agent with experience serving senior buyers and follow USAA’s advice to find an agent you can count on.
5. Plan Your Move
Once you’ve purchased a home, you need to plan how you’ll move in and what you’ll bring. Start by taking stock of your belongings. Sort through your storage and start selling, donating, or gifting items you don’t plan to keep. A smaller house will feel cluttered if you bring everything along, so find a home for anything that isn’t essential. Measure furniture and compare the measurements against your future home’s floor plan in order to determine what will and won’t fit.
After downsizing, get moving estimates for everything you plan to bring to the new home. You may have taken a DIY approach to move when you were younger, but it’s safer to hire movers now that you’re older. Not only do you spare yourself the time, labor and potential injury, but also your belongings will be insured if anything is damaged during the move.
As you downsize your home, leave room in your budget for future home modifications. Although you’ve assessed your health today, we can’t always predict what the future holds. Setting money aside for aging-in-place remodeling ensures you can keep living safely and independently at home for years to come.