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Optimum size for retirement home?
Old 01-21-2013, 08:15 AM   #1
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Optimum size for retirement home?

The Bathroom remodel thread brings up a broader question that should prove interesting to members... What would/will you choose as a good size for a retirement home? Am thinking about that time in life, when your space needs may change: ie. when the kids are gone... if and when entertainment of friends is not a party of 16... when the enthusiasm for decorating and remodeling and do it yourself projects isn't quite as intense, and when going up and down stairs or cleaning the extra room isn't as much fun.

Yes... for some, doing car repairs or putting on a new roof, even at age 75, may be what keeps the body and spirit young. And yes... your YMMV if your income or plans include maintenance and household help. (Personally, I think I could handle being Master of Downton Abbey)... but 'tis not to be.

Maybe you are thinking of downsizing when you get older, or staying in the "homestead" that you have spent years in planning and building.

Of all things that may define retirement, the housing decision may be one of the most varied. Absolutely, positively, NOT one size fits all.

In our case, we initially moved from a 2400 sf home to a 400 sf park model and a smallish mobile home for a number of years immediately after retirement... That, along with camping and traveling. At age 69, we bought our current home in a full services retirement community. It is likely to be our long term residence.
The home is 1592 sf, 2BR, 2BA, 2-1/2 car garage, one floor, no basement, it has vaulted ceilings, and is designed with state of the art (as of yr. 2000) handicap-friendly space and accessibility features. HOA, with lawn/garden/snow and exterior maintenance.

So, even though younger members have no reason to make this kind of a "final resting place" decision, there may be good reason to consider the longer term outlook, when it comes to spending money on the current home.
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I suppose this falls into the category of being snoopy. Just as one should NEVER ask a farmer how many acres he owns, or a rancher, how many head of cattle... the difference between a 6000 sf mansion and a basement apartment is significant...
So... what do you see as an optimum size for a retirement apartment, condo, or home, and at what age might you make a change?

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Old 01-21-2013, 08:20 AM   #2
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I have 1800 sq feet. I would be fine with less if the floor plan was better.

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Old 01-21-2013, 08:33 AM   #3
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We've given this a lot of thought and looked at scads of houses in the past few years and 1500-1800 sqft seems like our sweet spot when we downsize. I've seen a 1300 sqft plan that I like, but DW says no way. However, we've had basements mostly, so the size depends on having some protected but unconditioned storage space...
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Old 01-21-2013, 08:36 AM   #4
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Quite a while for me to FIRE, but I've actually considered this question before.

Our current living quarters is a ~2100sqft townhome (if you count the basement, which is technically mostly finished, but we use a lot of it for storage) with 3bdrm's and 2full/2half baths.

Our intentions are to semi-retire to part time work well before our kids are in college (hell... we only have 1 of the 2 kids we want right now). So, we'd need to keep bedrooms for them.

After they left the nest, we'd have no problem in a 2bd/2ba home at roughly 1200-1500sqft.
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Old 01-21-2013, 08:39 AM   #5
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With 1500 sq ft. I'd feel like I was living in a mansion (currently living in 1200 sq ft). The only real problem is finding space for my 4ft wide printer. Actually, I think we could do with significantly less than 1200 sq ft if the layout was better.
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Old 01-21-2013, 08:43 AM   #6
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We will soon be moving to our 2BR 2BA condo with 1,800 sf inside space + 200 sf patio. Looking forward to it after caring for 5BR 3BA 4,300 sf walkout ranch on 1.5 acres for many years. I'm beyond tired of dealing with all the upkeep required. I think 1,700 sf should be about perfect for us.
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Old 01-21-2013, 08:50 AM   #7
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I downsized to my retirement home when I was in my early 50s. It's 1670 sq feet and 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, one story. I had the maximum insulation added so the utility bills are low. Both my kids lived with me then, which is why I wanted 3 bedrooms. Now I have a guest room, sewing room and master bedroom.

The only thing I might change is the 9 foot high double paned sliding glass door. It's heavy to open, and as I get older it might be a challenge to open and shut. Incentive to keep my muscles nice and strong just to open that darn door.
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Old 01-21-2013, 09:15 AM   #8
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My parents lived for many years after retirement in a house about 1600 sq ft on a 9600 sq ft lot. This was a nice size for the two of them, but both my mom & I, who have stayed here alone at various times since my dad died, find it too big for one person. It's on the slope overlooking Lake Washington. That gives it a fabulous view but also means rockeries and such. My parents eventually hired a yard service to mow and so on, but maintaining rockery gardens to any kind of standard is IMO well-nigh impossible. I don't think I could keep up with it myself single-handed, even now, and certainly not at my Mom's age. Paying for really adequate upkeep would I think be very expensive. The back third of the yard has essentially reverted to the wild. Blackberries and other weeds have gotten in and I have no idea if it's possible to get rid of them, short of tearing out and rebuilding or replacing the rockeries, which would be very expensive indeed. Whoever buys the house when my Mom sells will have quite a job ahead of them getting the garden back in shape!

I lived in an 1100 sq ft townhouse with a tiny courtyard garden and that was not too large for me as a single. I think I would have been able to keep up with the gardening almost indefinitely if I had stayed there, and if I had needed to hire someone to do it, it would not have cost much because it was so small. The multi-story design might have become a problem eventually, but the stairs were almost 4' wide, so there would have been ample space for a chair lift in that event.

The house I've bought is 750 sq ft or so on an 8000 sq foot, flat lot. It's almost all in lawn now, but I'm planning on a "Self Sustaining Garden" style, with probably some raised vegetable beds. I think both the house and garden are a good size for one person living alone, and I suppose if it ever became necessary I could have a live-in aide in the second bedroom. Even if I eventually become unable to keep up the house and/or garden myself, it shouldn't be anywhere near as expensive to have the work done as at my parents' home. Of course, it lacks the expansive lake view, but I couldn't afford that anyway!
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Old 01-21-2013, 09:53 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Lazarus View Post
I have 1800 sq feet. I would be fine with less if the floor plan was better.
This is precisely my situation as well.
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Old 01-21-2013, 10:04 AM   #10
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We have an 1100sq ft 2br/2 ba main living area which is modest for a retirement home. But that is only half our building. We have a 70ft by 17ft two story building that provides 60ft of covered parking (with hookups) for our motorhome and car, with a 10ft enclosed 2 story storage area at the back. This monster garage is attached to the main house via a covered breezeway - all same exterior walls, construction, etc. We also very large central courtyard, and a large back patio. These are also our "living" spaces as we get to enjoy a lot of time outdoors during much of the year. When the motorhome is parked in the garage, it's as if we have an apartment in addition to the main house.
Well, I thought I was retired. But it seems that now I'm working as a travel agent instead!
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Old 01-21-2013, 10:15 AM   #11
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I found a house almost exactly as I described as ideal. (All specs right on except the house was older than I wanted.)

There are two of us and the house is 1306 sq.ft. with a separate "utility room" and one car garage. The "carport" is converted into a "patio". It is 2 bedroom, 1.75 bath. It has a small extra room we use as an office. There is a small yard that we re-landscaped to "easy-care".

We are within 2 miles of all shopping, including big lot stores like Costco and the nearest grocery store is 5 short blocks away.

My perfect seems a little smaller than most people. It could be because we don't have children so no grandchildren to visit.
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Old 01-21-2013, 10:49 AM   #12
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Right now I am lord of the manor. But I don't have any help and so this lord does the gardening, mowing, house chores, painting, and even does battle with the rodents and wild turkeys that want to take over. DW wants to keep her largish art room.

Maybe at age 75 we will do a move. Am thinking of a romantic Tasha Tudor style bungalow in the country that still has easy access to all the city services -- probably a pipe dream.
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Old 01-21-2013, 10:52 AM   #13
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Our current 1,100 sqft condo (2 bedrooms / 2 baths) seems to be optimum for DW and me. We have all the space we need and none wasted.
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Old 01-21-2013, 11:01 AM   #14
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We have a 2630sf home circa 1955 that we are kind of restoring. Has beautiful hardwood floors that were covered by wall to wall in the 70's. Pulled that out, stripped, sanded and refinished the floors. BUT back to the question...

Perfect size? Too small for kids and g/kids to move "back home".

Would be happy with 1/2 the size. Den for office / retreat would be nice. Detached workshop would be great. Maybe a community that has gardening service for the front. And would probably prefer a gated community - more security when we travel. Oh, and a storage yard for our little 5th wheel.

Ya, that all sounds about right.
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Old 01-21-2013, 11:03 AM   #15
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I'd be happy with anywhere between 800 and 2500 square feet, I think, or else I am clueless about it (which is always possible).

I don't need any extra space in order to get away from a spouse, since I live alone. I only need a maximum of 800 square feet to live in. If all other people were considerate (yeah, dream on! ), I'd never consider living in more than 300-800 square feet. The main usage of extra space for me, is to provide a sound buffer between me and the outside.

Right now I have twice that, 1600 square feet, and this seems fine to me. I'd like a larger bathroom. BUT, it is wonderfully quiet in my home. The entire front of my house is rarely used and functions as a sound buffer.

I never use the yard and again, it functions only as a sound buffer for me.
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Old 01-21-2013, 11:10 AM   #16
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For just about 30 years, DH and I have lived in a 1440 sf 4/2 on a 6200 sf lot in the San Francisco Bay Area. We bought the house a year after a job transfer dragged us up here from north San Diego County. We never chose to come here, and I never thought we would be here this long!

Since ER 4 years ago, we have been looking around at places we thought we'd like to retire: Portland, OR and southern Washington; Redding, CA; San Luis Obispo and the Central CA coast.

We even considered returning to my native TX, specifically Austin. We both wanted more space in the house and more space outside because we enjoy the outdoors so much.

Like Audrey1, we also spend a lot of time outside in our back yard, so our patio is like another room. So is our front yard, really -- if we are out there having a glass of wine, we have had neighbors drop by and bring food and end up with an impromptu party!

After all that looking around, we have decided to stay put because we decided we like our weather better than the weather in any place else we've been, and that has turned out to be more important than we'd realized. Also, we're very close to the ocean, which is important to me, and we're close to everything else we want and need.

Our community is also getting better and better at preparing for the "Silver Tsunami" with great paratransit, several good volunteer programs for the elderly, etc.

Instead of looking for the next place to live, we are finally out of the limbo of the last few years and getting ready for a kitchen remodel, a new roof, and other things we have held off on.

All of these improvements will help resale if we change our minds, as is entirely possible, but for now, 1440 sf with outdoor 'rooms' it is and shall remain.

Gotta run. It's sunny now out on the patio and I need my Vitamin D
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Old 01-21-2013, 11:46 AM   #17
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My current residence is a condo, 1122 sq feet. It is well laid out and seems just right for me. If I lived in a warmer climate, more outdoor space might be appreciated. I spent 20 years in my last home, which was a slightly larger 1240 sq feet) house with a basement, and accumulated a lot of stuff, which was a pain to get rid of. Discipline is required!
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Old 01-21-2013, 01:20 PM   #18
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We sort of upsized. Went from a four br, to a three bedroom house. But this one has a three car attached garage.

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Old 01-21-2013, 02:09 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by FIREd View Post
Our current 1,100 sqft condo (2 bedrooms / 2 baths) seems to be optimum for DW and me. We have all the space we need and none wasted.
+1 Some possessions become liabilities...set them free!
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Old 01-21-2013, 02:34 PM   #20
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I think size matters but also other factors. A small home with the master bedroom upstairs may not be the ideal retirement home. For ERs that are planning to live 30 plus years in retirement, they may have several "retirement" homes. As we age DW and I will down size, but not yet.

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