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Downsizing Perils
Old 05-06-2019, 05:36 AM   #1
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Downsizing Perils

We are hoping to downsize from a larger suburban residential home to a smaller single floor house, in an over 55 community. It can become necessary for some to do so, as they age and are not fit enough to maintain a large residence. This is not exactly our situation, as we could easily live another 5-10 years in the large house. However, if we downsize to something smaller and more manageable, we could easily split our time between north and south during the cold winter months, without having to worry about storms, damage, security etc, amongst other things while we are away.

There are pros and cons with downsizing, and hoping to learn from others that have gone thru this process about any potential pitfalls. We are hoping to minimizes and avoid regrets not thinking thru these decisions. With the larger house, weve enjoy the prestige, beauty, style and all the wonderful things of having a large acreage. On the flip side, the over 55 retirement community offers a different opportunity - less maintenance, no more snow plowing, no more leaf raking, smaller taxes and utility payments. These over 55 communities can be equally prestigious and in beautiful settings.

Would appreciate any thoughts from couples that have gone thru this stage and lessons learnt. Many Thanks.
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Old 05-06-2019, 07:35 AM   #2
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Many of the 55+ communities tend to have homes built right next to one another and have very strict HOA's that are strongly enforced (not necessarily a bad thing). Make sure to read through all the documents (CC&R's, etc.) thoroughly to understand what you might face. I live on acreage but never looked at it as a prestige thing, the privacy and peace and quiet it brings is one of the biggest benefits I enjoy. You may be losing a lot of that in a 55+ community.
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Old 05-06-2019, 08:28 AM   #3
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Also live on acreage , not for everyone . The land does take a lot of upkeep but it keeps you moving . Someday we might move to a 55+ community nothing wrong with it . We lived in a subdivision outside of Houston before. Had fences around all of our houses had HOA , as said not all bad . We have a very small house that we built with our own two hands ( Not Great ) but it is ours I always wanted a barnimium and now I have one ! And keeping all of that old junk I built a barn for DW to store stuff from many years ago . looks like a warehouse ! I can work on things in my driveway that I was frowned on before . I used to get letters from the HOA . you need to trim your plants . We see some dead plants please remove . You need to not run your weed eater so close to the curb it kills the grass . , you have a bald spot in your yard. I remember once before I moved they seen a birds nest near the top of my house. " please remove " Now I do it my way , probably the only thing to my house built to code is all of the electrical and plumbing . Everything is my way , newest project is covering my house with Texas cut stone ! This would not match a subdivision .
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Old 05-06-2019, 08:35 AM   #4
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We did exactly that. The only cons that I can think of is that we kept too much stuff. Five years later we are still getting rid of some things that made it into our 16 foot container.

We gave away a fair amount of furniture. Five bedrooms, two living rooms worth of stuff. We asked people what they wanted and then told them to pick it up by a certain date because that was when the charity truck was coming to pick things up. A few things we could not give away but would have cost money to have hauled. A large freezer, etc. We put those in local paper at a low price and they sold immediately.

Our took seven months and three or four waves. We got more aggressive each time. We also learned that few people wanted our larger furniture such as the dining room set or large couches no matter what the condition. Smaller homes and condo require smaller furniture.

Absolutely no regrets. We did it as soon as I retired. Traveled for seven months, rented a furnished place for three months, then a four year condo rental. Then bought in a 55 plus community. No snow or gardening. We wanted lock and go so we could travel at any time. We are gone at least twice a year for 6-8 weeks at a time and quite often for a week or two in between. No pets, no plants. No perils whatsoever.
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Old 05-06-2019, 08:35 AM   #5
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also live on acreage , not for everyone . The land does take a lot of upkeep but it keeps you moving mowing.
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Old 05-06-2019, 08:59 AM   #6
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I wrote a post about this when we did it several years ago. Almost daily, one of us comments how glad we are we did it. Lots of things we miss about the old house, but the benefits of this one outweigh them - no contest.

We downsized (and are still married)!

Good luck to you! It was a fun adventure, and still is.
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Old 05-06-2019, 09:35 AM   #7
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For us it wasn't so much the hard product. We moved to our vacation home. Had it for years and has a nice neighborhood. Few friends there.

But the thing that surprised us was losing the day to day connection with our friends. Some for 25-30 years. It is hard to replace that history. Plus the friends in the "new" neighborhood are all working. So contact is hit or miss
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Old 05-06-2019, 09:57 AM   #8
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We moved from our first "forever" retirement home in VT to a small over-55 community on the MA South Shore. The VT home had 10+ acres but about 3/4 was woods that did not need regular care. (The remaining few acres were more than enough!) The community we're in now has only 14 units. Most of them, including ours, are duplex two-story homes of 2200-2400 sq ft. They are configured such that if it ever became necessary we could live just fine on the first floor. The overall square footage is about the same as the VT home and we have a large unfinished basement. As a consequence, we kept a lot of stuff that I would have been happy to get rid of. The community is pretty quiet. There are no planned activities, no clubhouse, no swimming pool, etc. like some of the really large retirement communities. About 25% of the residents still work, some from home. All of the lawn care, snow plowing, road maintenance, etc. are taken care of but the monthly fees are quite high. We have a private road, a community septic system and a fair amount of common land for the number of units, so the economies of scale are not particularly favorable. After all the yard work in VT I very much enjoy watching someone else do the outdoor work. I don't find the community rules and regulations to be too burdensome and everyone seems to be respectful of others. On balance, ity was a good move for us although I wish the condo fees were a little lower.
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Old 05-06-2019, 10:45 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Cammot View Post
There are pros and cons with downsizing, and hoping to learn from others that have gone thru this process about any potential pitfalls. We are hoping to minimizes and avoid regrets not thinking thru these decisions. With the larger house, weve enjoy the prestige, beauty, style and all the wonderful things of having a large acreage. On the flip side, the over 55 retirement community offers a different opportunity - less maintenance, no more snow plowing, no more leaf raking, smaller taxes and utility payments. These over 55 communities can be equally prestigious and in beautiful settings.
There are pros and cons in moving from any house to any other house. Most of what you mention actually has nothing to do with an over 55 community.

These days, there are a wide variety of such communities, in a wide variety of locales.

Just find one that meets your individual needs.
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Old 05-06-2019, 10:50 AM   #10
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We downsized from a bigger house with a HOA too a small one right in town in a old neighborhood. We love to walk downtown and people are much friendlier here. We love not getting letters for stupid stuff. To us our house is a welcoming place to invite family and friends. Totally don’t understand the prestige aspect.
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Old 05-06-2019, 11:01 AM   #11
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We have downsized, upsized and downsized again over the last 20 years. One thing that is key to a successful downsizing is willingness to get rid of stuff, even expensive stuff, that no one wants to buy. A smaller home can feel very spacious if furniture is scaled properly for it, but if you try to cram big furniture into a smaller space, it will look and feel cramped.

Weve never lived in a 55+ community, but we love living in a lock & leave condo. Read the CC&Rs of the HOA before you buy to make sure there arent any provisions you cant live with.
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Old 05-06-2019, 11:12 AM   #12
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One thing that impacted our choice of a new home was travel. We traveled for seven months, then rented a small furnished apt. for 3 months.

We stayed in all sorts of accommodation from no stars to six stars, tiny places to spacious condos. This experienced changed our thinking from what we thought we want to buy to the type of accommodation we eventually bought.

There were no pitfalls in downsizing. Only benefits that we had not anticipated.
I mean really, what were 2 people going to do with 3700 plus sq feet, six bedrooms, four bathrooms, two dens, etc. etc?? Not to mention the gardening, the snow removal, and general home mtce. Selling it felt great. Moving out felt even better.
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Old 05-06-2019, 03:41 PM   #13
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For us it wasn't so much the hard product. We moved to our vacation home. Had it for years and has a nice neighborhood. Few friends there.

But the thing that surprised us was losing the day to day connection with our friends. Some for 25-30 years. It is hard to replace that history. Plus the friends in the "new" neighborhood are all working. So contact is hit or miss

This is one of the main reasons we stay here. Our church community and local friends are a huge part of our lives, although we've known most for fewer than 10 years. I'm pretty introverted, so I'm reluctant to restart my social network in a completely different place. If we had more $$, I'd be tempted to find someplace out west or southwest with warmer, sunnier weather, but I'd still be concerned about the social disruption.

As for the 55+ community and downsizing, we downsized to a townhome/condo with HOA and exterior maintenance from a high maintenance SFH. It's not officially age-restricted, but there aren't many younger than 40; most are retired.

We love having the smaller unit and outside maintenance. Since our neighbors look out for our place and the HOA handles and snow and lawn, it's lock and leave. 'd rather spend time down south snowbirding during the long winter and locally biking and boating the short summers instead of doing house stuff or, almost as bad, managing contractors.

So do you want the freedom to do whatever you want on your land or do you want to "lock and leave" so that you can do something else somewhere else?
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Old 05-06-2019, 03:58 PM   #14
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My parents just moved to a nice newer 55+. While they didn't really downsize (3/2 to a 3/2), they did get rid of:

All external maintenance (lawn mowing in Florida), including painting and all trees/shrubs
Pool Upkeep - now enjoy large community pool and gym without worry about upkeep
Non-retired neighbors - a recent young family next door had two small kids who liked to spend afternoons screaming in their pool, and letting their dog run loose and then screaming after it - not fun
Traded a ~40 year old home for a 7 year old one, which in florida means moving from a pre-andrew house to a totally storm-coded one.

Most of their neighborhood friends had already moved out where they were. They moved in years ago when a family SFH neighborhood was perfect. It stayed that way, they no longer felt it was a fit.

In their new place, one side the couple are the same age as then, but they're snowbirds so will be gone for the rest of this year. Other side also about the same age, and everyone seems quite friendly. It's fully gated and safe for lock and leave.

The homes are closer, yes, but designed the homes are designed for privacy, including divider walls at the edges of the patios and stuff.
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Old 05-06-2019, 06:01 PM   #15
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We are in the process of downsizing 2 places in an effort to move to a smaller place.
The closing of our Arizona snowbird condo is set for June 7, and we plan on selling furniture to the point that we leave the place empty, taking less than a pickup truck load back to Illinois with us in a couple of weeks.

The illinois house downsizing has already been started. Plan is to put it on the market for sale around June 1. Downsize as much as possible during the summer, and sell our Illinois furniture after getting a contract on the Illinois house. We plan on moving from our Illinois home to a new Arizona hone with a single U-haul truck load when our house in Illinois sells.

It's easy to downsize when you realize that the alternative is packing, delivering cross country and unpacking everything that you keep.
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Old 05-06-2019, 06:18 PM   #16
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It's easy to downsize when you realize that the alternative is packing, delivering cross country and unpacking everything that you keep.
If it helps, I downsized three times before I finally moved in 2015, and ended up with about 50 boxes of stuff which apparently is not much. Still, I was just thinking yesterday that I should have got rid of half of the stuff I ended up moving.

If I ever move again, I will pack a couple of suitcases and put them plus my easy chair and ottomon, plus two or three boxes with whatever else will fit into them, into the back of my SUV. That is all I will move. I'll have an estate sale and get rid of the rest.

I think I am too much of a packrat! I neither need nor want so much stuff. Humans must be descended from squirrels or something, because we squirrel away so much unnecessary stuff.
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Old 05-06-2019, 06:27 PM   #17
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None that I can think of. After renting three dumpsters and then filling them for my mom, who had an obsessive compulsive hoarding disorder, all I can say is: paper is evil, hoarding is evil, too much stuff is a burden. Lighten up, and enjoy the freedom you'll feel!

If we could only stop accumulating kitchen appliances, LOL. Reality is, we use almost every one, every month, except for a meat grinder. [Breville smart oven, Jamba Juice Blender, compact and full-size food processors, Sous vide machines (one that cooks eggs), Belgian waffle maker, Crepe maker, air popcorn maker, smoker (ok, this one is used infrequently), coffee grinder, coffee pot, espresso machine, microwave, Bamix immersion blender, air fryer....list keeps going!
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Old 05-06-2019, 07:13 PM   #18
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Thank you all for chiming in with your perspectives, thoughts, and experiences - all very helpful for our thought processes. It seems that the 'pros' of downsizing far outweigh the 'con's' and rightfully so. It's logical that we would want to reduce the burden of keeping stuff and minimize the effort of maintenance as we age. On reflection, my anxieties from downsizing stem from the loss of what was before. It seems a question of 'letting go', and accepting that the past is done! and it's not coming back. It's also a question of taking courage and building confidence that the new phase or chapter is the smart thing to do and will yield better benefits of life. Thanks again for your input - and please continue to offer any additional insights. Thanks ������������
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Old 05-06-2019, 07:34 PM   #19
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There are two issues. One is downsizing and the other is moving to an over 55 community. They really are totally different issues related to each. I would never live in an over 55 community. I would find that too limiting and it would not appeal to me at all.

But - we did downsize. Stage one we went from about 2 1/2 acres, 4500 SF house with a guest house to one acre and about 2900 SF. That stage lasted several years. Stage two we ended up at about 2200 SF on a .3 acre lot.

Overall, I am extremely happy with the downsizing. The lot size is fine. We do have a pool and we have a dog. But for those things I wouldn't actually mind having something with less yard.

We are closer in to more amenities. We went from the closest grocery store being 20 minutes away to having multiple stores within 5 minutes. For long term life, I like being so close to everything.

But - you asked about pitfalls. The main one is that the current house has enough space overall but specific things aren't as large as I would like. We are actually getting ready to remodel and redo an inadequate bathroom. The bathroom had the closets in it and it was all too small. We are reconfiguring some other closets to increase master bedroom closets (outside the bathroom) and are redoing the bathroom to give more space to the bathroom part. We knew going in that this work would be necessary.

The other negative is lack of enough storage space. It isn't terrible but I could do with a few more closets and wish the living area was a little smaller and the closets were a little bigger.

Oh - space for guests. We have one guest room now which is usually adequate. But our son is about to come stay with us for a few months. That would normally be fine. But we are going to do this remodel and we will need to use the guest room for that. In our old house, we had two rooms that were guest rooms. Now we have one so our son will likely have to sleep on the couch for awhile.

Overall I am very happy with this house and despite the above would buy it again.
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