Once the kids have left home, a whole new world opens up for empty nesters. For some, that means moving from the house where they raised their kids and seizing the opportunity to relocate, downsize, or even build a new dream home from scratch.
The opportunities are endless. Michele Hammond, a Chase Home Lending Advisor, asks her empty nester clients to look at what is most important to them when planning a move. Do they want to be closer to family? Live in a home with lower maintenance? Live in a state with lower income tax? It may sound obvious, but making a list of priorities together as a couple can go a long way in narrowing down the many options empty nesters have and deciding what type of loan makes sense for their next move. Once the big questions like these are answered, the hunt for a dream home can begin.
Jeanie and Antonio Furlan decided to make a big change after retirement. They moved from Massachusetts to Brooklyn, NY, to be closer to their daughter and her husband. While some people’s idea of a “dream home” is a cottage by the sea or a sprawling country estate, Jeanie and Antonio’s is a cozy apartment in Prospect Heights, just three blocks away from their daughter and son-in-law.
Moving from the ‘burbs to the city meant some sacrifices—most notably moving into an apartment just a quarter of the size of their former house, but the payoff has been worth it. Besides being close to family again, the couple say they enjoy living in a vibrant neighborhood that comes with all that New York City has to offer. While they miss the pastoral New England setting of their former home, Jeanie and Antonio love the mixture of culture and commerce in their new neighborhood—and the fact that they can walk to parks, museums, and libraries.
Living in a smaller space definitely requires an adjustment, but Jeanie and Antonio have taken the opportunity to adapt to a new lifestyle. “You have to think like you’re in a boat,” Jeanie says. “What do you want close to you, and what do you need right away, and what can you store?” They decided to leave all their furniture behind in Massachusetts and start from scratch in Brooklyn, which gave them the opportunity to buy pieces that fit their new space.
Although they describe the interior as “cozy,” Jeanie and Antonio’s new home came with an unexpected perk—a sunny roof terrace with a view of the New York City skyline. “The special thing about this place is the roof deck,” says Antonio. “It’s a wonderful place to read, and we can see the neighbors and have a bit of social interaction.” Jeanie, who was a music teacher before she retired, takes advantage of the times when Antonio is on the roof deck to play her piano in the quiet apartment.
As Jeanie and Antonio expected, preparing to downsize after living 20+ years in the same home required some planning (and decluttering). Experts advise to start this process as early as possible—right after the kids move out. This way empty nesters are in a position to move quickly once the right dream home comes along. Empty nesters should also keep in mind that certain lenders can offer flexible options for retirees with more freedom and less stress. Chase has programs that allow retirees to close on a new home the same day they sell their current one, or even before. Providing proof that they are under contract to sell can, in some cases, be enough to qualify to purchase a new one in the meantime.
Downsizing makes practical and financial sense for most empty nesters, but it doesn’t have to feel like a compromise. Suzanne and Craig Stavert had lived in their Orange County, CA, home for almost 27 years when they decided to make the move to a smaller home in Pasadena to be closer to family. They ended up closing on a 1937 Spanish Colonial fixer-upper that was nearly half the size of their former home. The location was perfect, but they knew it needed a total renovation. They were up for the challenge of turning it into their dream home.
After a liberating process of getting rid of everything they didn’t need anymore, Suzanne and Craig embarked on a down-to-the-studs renovation. The project included a 230-square-foot addition upstairs to make room for a master bathroom and closet, as well as installing new electrical wiring and earthquake-compliant walls throughout the house.
All the hard work paid off, Suzanne says. “I think our backyard and home feel like a boutique hotel. We have a lovely outdoor space with luxurious outdoor furniture and persimmon-colored umbrellas. We enjoy it every day that we are home.” And while moving away from Orange County meant leaving some friends behind, they’re still close enough to visit and now have enough room to host guests whenever they want.
Finding the right type of loan is key when deciding whether to downsize, take on a renovation, or even upgrade to a larger home in retirement. Chase has online resources to help empty nesters in any of these situations, and can connect you with a Home Lending Advisor who can personally advise on which products are right for your needs and goals.
Now that they’re settled in their new homes, both couples have adapted to their new lives. For Jeanie and Antonio, describing their new home is simple. As Antonio puts it: “It’s just home for us.” As for Suzanne and Craig, leaving the house where they raised their kids was bittersweet, but Suzanne says renovating their new home “was one of the greatest achievements and best adventures of our married life.”