Five Effective Strategies For An Effective Downsize

We know that having “the talk” with our aging loved ones can be downright difficult and can be incredibly stressful for everyone involved. It usually comes up fast, out of necessity, without having the time to plan sufficiently. It can be extremely emotional and exhausting. But downsizing doesn’t have to be a bad word, and when approached the right way early on, it can be an exciting and liberating transition. 

Jessica Dunn has been a REALTOR® for over a decade and has compiled five effective strategies that her clients have used in the past that they found successful. Downsizing looks different for everyone. The main goal is to craft your living situation, so it’s easier, safer, more comfortable, and is true to your personality. When you come from a genuine place of love, compassion, and support, you will find that working with your loved ones will bring you closer and provide you peace of mind.

PLAN. PLAN. PLAN. Creating a clear map of how you want to live your golden years is critical well before you are in “crisis mode.” The last thing you want to be overwhelmed with when you’ve been hit with a major health, mobility, or financial crisis is to figure out where you will live and who will take care of you. This decision takes a lot of time, consulting, and mental preparation, and tackling your wants and needs early on in the game will leave you with peace of mind and confidence when the time comes. This way, you get to call the shots, focus on your quality of life, and have the time to do the things you love.

Connect with Experts. Sometimes you can’t see the big picture until you know all the details. That’s why meeting with an estate or financial planner is a critical step to a successful transition. They can help design a plan that suits your future goals, like traveling. Research expenses of what it would cost to retrofit your existing home, so it’s safer, purchase a smaller condo, rent an apartment, or find a spot in a senior home, whichever route you are leaning towards.

Consider Breaking Up Your Transition Into A Two-Step Process. Those who downsize from their larger family home while still incredibly independent, healthy, and active tend to do better emotionally and financially. They can take their time with the move, can do any repairs or upgrades to ensure a better sale price while the home is still in great condition, and may even have the opportunity to move in gradually. If you leave your transition to the last minute, big decisions often need to be made quickly, you end up having less autonomy, and it often costs more in the long run. Making a move early also frees up equity in your existing home if you are moving into something smaller and of less value so you can do more things that you can enjoy.

Focus on The Benefits. Downsizing is often associated with fear, stress, and loss of independence. But rather than approaching the transition as a negative thing, those with successful downsizing often look at it with a brighter perspective. Again, if you focus on the goal of making life easier so they have the best quality of life possible, the move may be viewed as a liberating experience. Freeing up time to travel, participate in hobbies, spending time with grandkids can make it an exciting new time.

Family Involvement & Communication: Those with excellent downsizing experiences had a family to lean on and discuss their plans often and early on. If you have an aging parent that you are concerned about and want to begin the discussion, here are some key tips:

  • The whole family needs to be on the same page and come from a place of love, respect, compassion, and patience
  • Acknowledge your loved one's feelings
  • Talk about their health, what they see for their future, and how you can help make their lives simpler.
  • Talk about what tasks they are finding more challenging to do
  • Make it easy for them to open up without judgment or fear of losing their independence

Some icebreakers you can try:

“I’ve always loved this house, and I know you do too… is there anything I can help with to keep it in good shape?”

“You’re spending a lot of money to keep up your house, and you have a lot of equity. Have you considered selling and using the funds to move somewhere more comfortable?

“Are there any changes we can make to the house to let you stay longer?”

“Have you thought about ever moving closer to us?”

If you are feeling major push-back on the idea of exploring a transition, there are still things you can do to help and plan for the day when it’s necessary:

Find out what the root cause as to why they are resisting the move. Do they find the process overwhelming and intimidating? Think they don’t have the financial means? Fear the massive change and loss of independence? Help them work through these issues slowly and with understanding.

See how you can help make their lives easier in their existing home, like hiring lawncare/snow removal, setting up automatic bill payments, helping make meals, assisting with getting their affairs in order, helping sort and purging material items, or retrofitting their home so the laundry is on the main floor.

This is always a sensitive subject to bring up with loved ones or even confront for yourselves. Understanding and patience go a long way, and communication is key.

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