Downsizing for seniors

Downsizing, sometimes known as “rightsizing,” is the process many senior citizens go through of shedding belongings and moving to a smaller space. According to research by TD Ameritrade, 42% of Baby Boomers want to move or downsize during retirement.

There are many reasons for downsizing: some people want to move to a warmer climate, others move to be closer to family. The Baby Boomer generation has shown interest in downsizing to smaller city apartments where it’s easy to take advantage of New York City’s restaurants, cultural institutions, and access medical care when needed.

However, the spread of COVID-19 has changed downsizing plans for many seniors, as New York has become the epicenter of the outbreak and therefore caused a recalculation of future downsizing plans. There’s an uptick of interest in real estate on Long Island, where downsizing seniors are close enough to enjoy the amenities of Manhattan from a safe distance.

If you’re considering downsizing in the next few years, this guide will take you through some tips for decluttering, finding the perfect home, and making the entire process of rightsizing as painless as possible. We’ll also cover some specific precautions to take during the COVID-19 crisis to protect the health and safety of everyone involved. Here’s what seniors need to know about downsizing in a pandemic.

Plan ahead

When preparing to move into a smaller space, there are lots of things to consider. How much space do you need? What will you take with you, and what will you pare down? Will you donate, sell, or gift belongings to your family members? Will you sell your existing home?

The AARP recommends that you start shedding belongings “at least one month before you list your current home for sale (less clutter makes it appear larger).” Give yourself plenty of time to go through what you plan to take and what you plan to get rid of: this process can sometimes be emotional and overwhelming. Plan to spend a couple of weeks going through one room at a time.

De-clutter strategically

Once you know your timeline, start to get rid of things strategically. Start with the kitchen, living room, and family room – these spaces tend to have the most items of emotional value and utility.

Separate your items into five categories: things you want to keep, pass along to family, donate, sell, and throw away. If you already know where you’re moving, keep this in mind as you sort through things. For instance, if you’re moving into a two-bedroom apartment, you only need four sets of sheets.

Once you’ve worked through your main rooms, work outwards: the garage, shed, attic, and basement. These rooms are likely to be full of things you won’t take with you. “If you’re moving to an apartment or townhome, you might not have a garage or office space,” writes one expert. “Nearly everything in those spaces will need to be sold, donated, tossed, or relocated to other rooms.”

If you have trouble deciding what to keep, refer to the Marie Kondo method of tidying up or ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this item something I need?
  • Is this item something I really want?
  • Do I have multiples of this item?
  • Is this something I use regularly?
  • Is this something with sentimental value?
  • Does this item have significant financial value?
  • Will this fit into a smaller space?
  • Would a family member want this item?

Consider the dimensions of your new home as you go and make sure to measure furniture to make sure it will fit.

Sell or donate your items

The next step before you move into your new home is to get rid of what you can’t take with you and what your friends and family don’t want or need. There are a few ways to do that:

  1. Estate sale: if you want some help, hire an estate sale company who can manage offloading some of your furniture and other big-ticket items. Estate companies will sell items at a higher price than you might, but they also keep an average of 35% of sales.
  2. Moving sale: if an estate sale isn’t right for you, there are also senior moving companies that specialize in downsizing. These experts can help you make the transition into a smaller home or a senior living community.
  3. Donate: the obvious places to donate are Goodwill and the Salvation Army but consider that some items you have may be better suited for a museum, library, or school. Some gifts can even be added to tax deductions.
  4. Sell online: sites like Ebay, Craigslist, or AptDeco are great places to get rid of things you no longer need – and earn a little extra cash in the process.

As you go through this process, keep your family and friends in mind. There may be some things your immediate community and loved ones will want – and it can be fun to go through your items together and reminisce.

Finding real estate

Experts are predicting that coronavirus will impact home prices in the future. As USA Today reports, “homeowners should prepare for the possibility that we could see a drop in home values until the dust settles and the economy picks back up. Not only would that leave sellers in a bad spot, but it could prove problematic for property owners eager to tap their home equity in the coming months or years.”

It’s too hard to predict what will happen to the housing market following coronavirus, but if previous recessions are anything to indicate, home prices may drop between 3% and 4% and remain depressed throughout next year. If you’re selling a property, now is a good time to beat the drop – but if you’re not selling, wait for prices to lower.

Interested in moving soon? Start your search on OneKey™ MLS. Start your search in Nassau, Suffolk, Queens and Brooklyn using our handy tool which can show you what a property is worth. Browse our resources for buyers and sellers to learn how downsizing can help you save money.  Try our proprietary Mortgage Calculators to calculate how much you can borrow and project your mortgage rates on a new home. It’s a great way to find your new home in the proximity to the lifestyle of New York City.

Make the move (safely)

It’s anticipated by most experts that the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to impact daily life for the next nine months to a year. As a result, it’s possible you won’t have the luxury of waiting until the pandemic is over to downsize. There are ways to move that minimize the risk to your health and hygiene.

First, make sure you find a moving partner that has precautions and procedures in place. Ask questions such as, what steps are your movers taking to help prevent the spread of COVID-19? What does your company do to protect the crew and drivers? How often are you testing your team for high temperatures or other symptoms?

Minimize your exposure by working with a company that offers virtual moving quotes. Using your smartphone or tablet, send through images of the belongings you need to be moved and dimensions of furniture to help the moving partner give you an accurate price. Once you have the move scheduled, clean and disinfect all surfaces following the CDC guidelines. Keep your distance from the moving team and wash your hands often. Once you get to your new home, go through the entire cleaning and disinfectant process one last time before you unpack.