Retired couple having coffee together under a tree outside.

Cutting Back After Retirement: Helping Seniors Downsize So They Can Live Bigger

Carla Ayers5 minute-read
July 11, 2022

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Retirees aren’t sipping sweet tea with their feet up. People are living longer, and they are living healthier, better lives. Whether it be volunteering, working in a new field of passion, or helping with their grandchildren, the aging population isn’t slowing down … they’re only getting started!

During the pandemic, many older Americans decided to stay in their homes and weather the lockdowns in comfort. They also had the added advantage of growing an incredible amount of equity in a short time. Now that travel has resumed, workers are returning to the office and the service industry is ramping up, older Americans are ready for their next big adventure.

Read on to learn how real estate professionals can help the aging population plan their next big move.

How Are Americans Aging?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the life expectancy of the average American will increase in age from 79.7 years old to 85.6 by the year 2060. And we’re not just living longer, we’re aging better.

A recent report from the University of Michigan suggests that increased preventative care and medical innovations are improving the everyday quality of life for senior citizens. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is forecasting an increase in the workforce from 10.6 million to 13 million Americans age 65 and older by 2024.

This generation is well educated and understands they need to stay active to stay well. Instead of retiring and leaving the workforce, many are opting to reduce their hours from full-time to part-time or consulting on a project basis. Others have shifted industries completely and use retirement as a good place to start fresh in a new area of interest. Some use their experience to start their own business, something many were not able to do while maintaining a household or raising children.

For a lot of people, retirement is the first time they have had the freedom to take a risk or try something new. With less responsibility at work and at home, they have more time to devote to hobbies, their health and their passion. After a person turns 55 years old, a whole new world of benefits become available to them. Below are a few of those benefits.

  • Larger tax deductions
  • Discounts on travel and lodging
  • Larger retirement account limits
  • Affordable health insurance
  • Free or reduced college tuition
  • Retail discounts

Housing Options for Older Americans

Housing options for aging Americans have come a long way from their sterile, hospital-like beginnings. We have identified the most common living arrangements for older adults below.

Aging In Place

“Aging in place” is a term used when an older person chooses to live in their current home instead of moving to a retirement community or nursing home. Many homeowners upgrade and modify their home to meet their needs as they age. This could include building an addition for more first-floor living space or renovating kitchens and bathrooms to accommodate mobility aids and add modern conveniences.

Downsize To A Smaller Home

When the family home has become too much too handle, many aging homeowners sell their current home and purchase a home that is easier to manage, like a condo or single-level home. While having a place to swim in a big backyard may have served them well when the kids were little, maintaining a pool and lawn can be a lot of work. A smaller home doesn’t mean they can’t entertain or have access to the amenities they’re accustomed to. Finding the right home with a place for everything and the amenities they enjoy using, can be the perfect start to your client’s golden years.

Lease An Apartment Or Single-Family Home

For some, the transition from career to retirement is a time to reflect. They may need some time to sort their affairs before choosing where they want to be long term. Leasing a home leaves the maintenance and upkeep in the hands of the landlord in most cases and not your busy client. If your client is interested in building a new home, they could consider leasing one until their home is complete. 

55+ Retirement Communities

Age-restricted communities are limited to people over a certain age. If you think of Shady Pines when you think of a retirement community, you will be pleasantly surprised when you explore the options in your trade area. Many of these communities look and feel like any other neighborhood or apartment community, the only difference is they’ve been designed to enrich the lives of aging people. These communities may have very little lawn maintenance, single-story floor plans, wider entryways, and amenities like a pool or gym. Homes are available for sale and lease, so it’s helpful if you take a tour and get to know how the communities work in your area.

Multi-Generational Living

The number of Americans living in multigenerational living arrangements has nearly quadrupled in the last decade. Merging households can be helpful for the whole family by lifting the financial burden of owning and maintaining a home. A family may decide to buy a larger home with all of the upgrades and square footage necessary to live comfortably. Others choose to move in with relatives and make modifications and upgrades to their liking.

Helping Seniors Plan and Prepare

Real estate agents play an important role in helping the aging community start retirement on the right foot. Below are few ways you can prepare to help mature adults make informed real estate decisions.

Continuing Education

When working with seniors, your clients will be incredibly diverse, so it’s important to stay open-minded and one step ahead to make sure their needs are met. If you’re interested in working with mature adults, the Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation can help you become an expert when assisting them with life changing housing decisions. The SRES continuing education course is available online and in-person and covers a wide range of topics that affect the senior community. 

Help Your Client Develop A Plan Of Action

Thinking about the rest of their lives can be overwhelming for those considering retirement and they’ll need guidance. Take the time to consult with your client about their goals and the life they imagine living. Understanding their long-term motivation will help them clarify their immediate needs. It will also help you provide the best possible customer service to your client.

Be A Source Of Information

Most people are not aware of all the benefits and resources that become available to them as they age. By taking the time to become familiar with the resources and issues that affect older adults in your service area, you become a trusted partner in their search for new beginnings.

State Units on Aging (SUAs) are agencies at the state level that advocate and provide assistance to older residents. These organizations are a wealth of knowledge and have the most up to date programs and resources available in each state.

It's also a good idea to have an area vendor list with contractors, legal counsel, insurance providers and financial advisors you can refer clients to when they need professional services.

Conclusion

Retirement looks different for everyone. You may have a client who needs to relocate to be closer to their grandchildren and another who needs to downsize so they can travel across the country in an RV. Both will need your help sorting through their options, so it’s a good idea to be prepared for anything.

Want to increase your knowledge and stay on top of market trends? Check out the Rocket ProSM Insight Learning Center.

Carla Ayers

Carla is a Realtor® with a background in commercial and residential property management, leasing  and arts management. She has a Bachelors in Arts Marketing and Masters in Integrated Marketing & Communications from Eastern Michigan University.