Lisa Dowd is ready to downsize. The 59-year-old nurse practitioner and her husband, Pat, recently sold their home in Cary. The 2,500-square-foot townhome was in a great location, and they had friends nearby. But their home was just too big and required too much upkeep.
Later this year, they will move into a new 1,545-square-foot house in Del Webb’s Carolina Arbors, an active adult community in Durham. In the meantime, they are staying in an apartment.
The priority for the Dowds when downsizing was to find a one-level home within commuting distance to their jobs at Duke. The couple, especially marathon runner Pat Dowd, liked the neighborhood’s pools and gym. Low mortgage interest rates encouraged them to make their decision now, six years ahead of when Lisa expects to start her retirement.
To peers preparing to downsize, Lisa Dowd’s advice is simple: Make sure the new place is close to what your like, whether that is restaurants and shopping or music and theater.
“The other thing is to join organizations or groups to meet people. That’s what we did,” she said.
Decide what you want
If moving to a smaller home is on your mind, take some advice from Fonville Morisey Realty senior real estate specialist Tracy Santrock. She advises clients to see what a smaller home actually looks like to make sure it’s what they really want. Her clients commonly downsize to homes that are 1,500- to 1,800-square feet.
“They’re looking at the cost associated with keeping a 2,500-square-foot house – gas, electric, water, homeowner’s fees – trying to cut those expenses. And they’re looking to meet new people,” said Santrock, who works in Cary.
Santrock said homes in active adult communities such as Del Webb feature elevated dishwashers and pull-out shelves so residents need to do less bending. They also have garage extensions for storage and walk-in storage areas with easy access.
Account for health needs
Another senior-focused real estate broker is Sybil Carpenter Hobbs, who works at Keller Williams Realty in Cary. Many newly constructed homes are targeting seniors by placing a master bedroom and bathroom on the main floor, she said. A lot of homes are being built with doors wide enough for a wheelchair or a walker.
Bob Wallace, an 80-year-old retired Methodist minister, has been happy with his retirement community, Croasdaile Village in Durham. He and his wife, Chris, moved into the independent living section there in 2007. They have an apartment with nearly 1,100 square feet. Croasdaile offers more advanced levels of care, including assisted living and skilled nursing care.
“We had some health problems that sort of showed us that living out in the country where we were alone was not necessarily a good thing to do for the long-range future,” Wallace said.
It’s a problem if people wait for a health issue to move because they might need time to get into the community they want, Wallace added. He and Chris waited six years to get into Croasdaile. They like its affiliation with the United Methodist Church, and they knew people there before they moved in.
Taking the first steps
The idea of downsizing can be overwhelming when you think about leaving your old house and purging your possessions.
“One of the surprises is that once you downsize, there’s a real sense of freedom, a load off your shoulders,” Wallace said. “It’s amazing what happens.”
Many of his friends found it helpful to participate in the Stay Put or Move On course at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Duke University. The 12-week class takes participants to visit six to eight continuous care retirement communities in the Raleigh-Durham area. They also have classroom time to learn about different options in communities.