People in their 60s are bucking the downsizing trend in retirement for all sorts of reasons—from finding a home that better suits them to buying one with room for a live-in parent or visiting family members.
“People who choose to upsize in retirement often do so when relocating to a more climate-friendly area,” says Cara Ameer, an agent in Jacksonville, FL. “Many times, they want to find their ‘dream home’ and feel it is time to make that happen. They don’t want to sacrifice on location, finishes, and, most importantly, a view.”
When Ruth Brod retired from her job as a probation officer in 2004, she and her retired husband, Al, decided to sell their 1,600-square-foot New York house and move into a 2,800-square-foot house in Delray Beach, FL.
“The home prices had risen dramatically in the area where I lived, so I was able to afford to buy a nicer home,” Ruth explains. “I could’ve bought something just fine for half the price. But when you’ve worked hard all these years, it’s nice to be comfortable.”
Having ample room to accommodate visiting friends and family was only part of the reason the couple decided to upsize in retirement.
“I really enjoy my home,” Ruth says. “It’s not just a house; I bought a lifestyle.”
Trading Up: Apartment-Style
For some, upsizing in retirement can mean trading up to live the luxe life they’ve envied.
“They want spacious master bedrooms, his and her master bathrooms, an office/library and a chef’s kitchen,” says Manhattan-based broker Susan Landau Abrams. “Several of our clients have dedicated an entire bedroom to create the ultimate luxury in Manhattan: a huge walk-in closet.”
Next Avenue recently wrote about the trend of some empty nesters in their 60s moving from the suburbs into the city. Real estate broker Michael J. Franco of Compass says he’s noticed that as an upsizing trend, too.
“I’ve seen a lot of baby boomers coming back into the city and spending more money on residences than they made selling their houses in the suburbs,” he says.
In certain instances, they leave modest houses in the suburbs to lavish apartments to pursue a more active lifestyle. In others, they move from smaller apartments to bigger ones to accommodate grandchildren or other guests. “They want room for kids and grandkids in hopes of them visiting more,” says Franco.
Upsizing in Retirement: Not the Norm
Still, upsizing isn’t the norm among people relocating in retirement.
An April 2019 survey of adultsage 50 and 60 conducted by Del Webb, a leading builder of active adult communities, found that of those planning to move in the future, 43% prefer their next home be the same size as their current one and 22% want it to be bigger. Nearly a third of the Gen Xers surveyed desiring more space (29%) said they’d design their next home to accommodate their parents.
Chuck & Patty Leer
And sometimes, the upsizing happens by moving from one home in a retirement community to a bigger one there.
That’s what Ken and Sharon Thomas did. They live in Del Webb’s Sun City Peachtree active 55-plus community in Griffin, Ga., and recently moved from a 2,690-square-foot home into one boasting nearly 4,000-square-feet. The couple moved to Sun City Peachtree in 2013 after Ken retired from Lockheed-Martin. They opted to buy the larger home in 2018 to accommodate Sharon’s mom, who’d lost her husband and is not as ambulatory as she once was.
Says Ken Thomas: “A lot of my generation is bringing their parents in, as opposed to putting them in retirement homes or assisted living where the parents would be moved into a foreign environment. We’re very blessed to be in a position to do that.”
Similarly, the Thomas’ neighbors, Patty and Chuck Leer, have decided to spread out a bit. Though their new home is only 300-square-feet larger, it offers more usable space that will afford Chuck the workshop he wants and additional room for Patty’s interests, which include quilting, painting and card-making.
“Our living room is about double the size it was,” says Patty. “We have one dining area instead of two, and our current sunroom will be traded for a much bigger screened porch. So, our reason to upsize was to put the space where we would best use it.”
What to Consider When Upsizing
Buyers should “definitely incorporate it” into their retirement plans, says John Bergquist, senior founding partner at Common Sense Financial in South Jordan, Utah.
“Maybe you choose not to take the extra vacation trip or plan to do more staycations, so you can use the funds to buy that larger home. Maybe you decide to drive more economical cars to have the extra funds. It’s just a matter of deciding what’s most important to you.”
And a piece of cautionary advice from Ameer: a larger home can mean super-sized utility bills.
“A bigger home costs more to maintain no matter where you live,” she says. And if the home has a swimming pool or a dock for a boat, she notes, “that only further adds to maintenance and upkeep.”
Upsizing, if you can afford it, offers plenty of upsides. But before a buyer sets their heart on a sprawling abode, be sure they consider the costs that come with it.