The 10-county region of Atlanta is experiencing a dramatic increase in its older population, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission. When their years in the workforce are over or maybe when the kids have ﬂown the coop, the vast number of retirees (the ARC projects that one in five Atlanta residents will be over age 60 by 2020) will be deciding what to do with all that extra space in their homes.
Some retirees are opting for home gyms and ofﬁces, but others are choosing a more drastic change—moving into a new place to suit their new lives. Whether it’s downsizing to a two-bedroom rental by the park in Midtown, or a condo in Buckhead, ﬁnding the right home—in the right place—can be a challenge.
A few key questions can help you decide where to spend your time and how to make your retirement years the beginning of your “second act.”
Is downsizing right for me?
A change of scenery can open doors. Atlanta was historically known as the “New York of the South,” and for good reason. There are a wealth of cultural events, museums, restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques that, depending on the neighborhood, can be within walking distance of your new home.
Downsizing in Atlanta can also be a way to unyoke yourself from the maintenance headaches and costs that come with owning a bigger home.
On the other hand, a long-held home can hold important memories, which, for some people, can be an emotional attachment that is difficult to break. Regardless of which camp you fall in, think the pros and cons through, and talk with friends, family and trusted advisers before making a decision.
What type of home do I need?
Before you begin the search for your new home, it’s important to determine what type of lifestyle you want. Here are some guidelines about what different housing types can offer:
Condominium: Condos are a great option for downsizing your space, as they provide an escape from yard work and major maintenance. They can also offer a range of options when it comes to ﬂoor plans and amenities like swimming pools and workout facilities—and usually at a lower purchase price than single-family homes.
Townhome: Like condos, townhomes are located within a larger complex; however, most townhomes are closer to a single-family home in style, with at least two stories and individual roofs. You’ll also enjoy ownership of the land your unit is built on, along with any garages or small yards that come with it. Townhomes are popular with retirees because they can offer more space than condos while still limiting property maintenance and lawn-care needs.
One-story house: For those who don’t feel at home in a complex, a small single-family home can be just the ticket. If so, you’re not alone—buyers over 50 make up the nation’s fastest-growing category within the housing market, the National Association of Home Builders reports. Open ﬂoor plans, modern kitchens, large master bedrooms and easy-to-maintain outdoor spaces are key items on these buyers’ priority lists.
What will I do with all my stuff?
Start early: You’ve likely accumulated a mountain of personal belongings over time, from sentimental knick-knacks to valuable furnishings, collections or even art. Don’t underestimate the time you’ll likely want to give to sorting through it all. Or, the emotions that you might encounter when doing it. Getting a head start on areas like your basement and attic—where many mementos and collections are stored—can decrease the amount of work you have to do later on.
Stay organized: When preparing for the big move, hiring a professional organizer may help things run more smoothly, if it’s in the budget. That also goes for professional organizers, who can create checklists to help you pack efficiently and then stage different areas for packing and coordinating with movers and create a checklist you can use to pack efﬁciently. There are many Atlanta-area organizers who can help.
Stick to the essentials: When moving into a smaller place, less is more. Leaving a family home can be an emotional experience and one that may bring out your inner pack rat. Create a few memory boxes for friends, family or your children and ﬁll them with favorite keepsakes and then discard or donate items that don’t make the cut.
Whether you move across the street or across town, your transition to retirement is a chance to rediscover yourself. Once you’ve unpacked your new place, make room for some fun!