Different paths to downsizing… finding what is next for you


Are you approaching retirement or already there and wondering if it’s the right time for you to downsize? I have worked with dozens of people in that position and while the path is a little different for everyone, it should always start with discernment. My Baby Boomer’s Life Planning Guide is a great place to start. It includes sections on: getting to know yourself, things to consider before you downsize, and making plans.

When I started working with Baby Boomers 15-20 years ago many were selling their parent’ homes, either as estates or helping them move into senior complexes. I can’t tell you how many people told me they planned to downsize BEFORE they need to, because it just gets harder the longer you wait… and they didn’t want to make their children deal with their ‘stuff’, as they had been doing with their parents.

This lesson seems to be well learned, because now I more often work with sellers with a plan… excited to be moving on to their next phase in life.


The first step is gathering information to help you in your decision-making. Meeting with a Realtor, your financial advisor and a lender are important first steps to help you understand what is possible.

Regardless of where you are, your financial situation and understanding the housing market are critical in making plans to make a move. With national housing inventory at its lowest level since 1999, it impacts both buying and selling.


  • Strong competition means making an offer to buy contingent upon the sale of your current home is difficult if not impossible
  • If you have a lot of equity in your current home (or have already paid off your mortgage) some buyers choose to take out an equity line of credit to buy their next home first, then pay it off when they sell their current home
  • Some people decide to use some of their investments to buy their next home, so they can make a favorable cash offer
  • Some people decide to sell first, then save their proceeds and rent until they find a home to purchase with the cash from their sale
  • Some people choose to buy into a senior coop, a common form of senior housing ownership where you don’t own real estate but rather own a share in a corporation that owns real estate… Minnesota is the home of the first senior cooperative in the country at 7500 York in Edina
  • Some people decide not to purchase another home at all, but rent instead… sometimes in a month-to-month age-restricted complex
  • Some people decide not to sell their current home, but keep it as a long-term investment rental to help pay for their senior coop or rental apartment
  • Some people buy their new home, then sell their current home to one of their children


  • Strong competition can work in your favor when you are selling, enabling you to sell quickly and for a premium price
  • It isn’t uncommon to close on your sale, then close on your purchase the same day so you don’t even need to draw on your equity line of credit or investments to pay for your purchase… you only need them to prove you could still close if your sale doesn’t go through as planned
  • Some people own multiple properties and decide to simplify by selling one or more of their properties


Once you have a sense of what you can do financially, the next step is getting a sense of where you will go if you sell… will you be able to buy something you would be happy with or does it appear that renting or simply staying where you are would be your best option moving forward.

If you are looking at renting, check out rental options… both age restricted complexes and not. Visit them in person so you get a feel for the culture… can you find some options that feel like a good fit?

If you are looking at purchasing, have your Realtor set up a search for you of what is available in your price range and preferred size and location.

  • First step here is doing drive-bys of those properties that have online potential… you can tell a lot just by driving the neighborhoods
  • Identify locations that you would consider and keep them in a continuous search… properties come on the market and sell so quickly that it is good to get a pulse on the market
  • Schedule a ‘scouting tour’ to identify complexes in your desired locations to see if they live up to your expectations… would you be happy living there?

I have many clients who have discovered their next home on one of these ‘scouting tours’…

it was just the impetus they needed to make the decision to sell and move forward!

Sharlene Hensrud, RE/MAX Results – shensrud@homesmsp.com

Written By

I love what I do! Highly insightful, analytical and creative, there is nothing I love more than helping you find the right solution for your real estate transition. My mission is to serve my clients with honesty and integrity, exceeding their expectations in service and support… and to help others by donating a portion of every transaction to Habitat for Humanity.

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