The temptation is to hold on to things and surroundings that remind us of people we cherish, warm memories, routines we adopted years ago that are hard to change. Familiarity is comforting to many if not most of us.
When it comes to downsizing, the emotions are magnified and even the thought of change, much less the dismantling of a house of love, filled with history can be entirely overwhelming. But for most of us, aging will eventually mean downsizing in some fashion. We no longer need as much space, we may not have the ability to maintain or enjoy the property, loved ones may now live in other parts of town or even abroad. The question of moving arises. There is no right time, but in our experience and in speaking to many people who have chosen to downsize, the common view, with hindsight is “the sooner the better.”
Many of today’s Baby Boomers are living with more money and freedom than those who retired in past decades. They are active, engaged and culturally savvy. With many years of good health and vibrant living ahead, the argument can be made, why stay in a larger home or a suburban neighbourhood, when you can choose to live in a smaller home, that still offers ample space, but comes with a long list of bonus points? As driving or night driving may become issues, downtown or midtown living offers better access to faster transit options. Do you need to ensure you stay active? Move to a neighbourhood with great shopping all within a reasonable walking distance. Would you like to live near other like-minded, culturally engaged people of your age?
We interviewed Susan and Sheldon Taerk, a couple who transitioned to a downtown condo from a suburban home, and here is what they had to say about the experience:
What prompted your move at this time?
What prompted your move at this time?We lived in our home for 44 years. With homeownership, there are always surprises. Every so often there would be a maintenance issue that became more effort than my wife or I cared for at 79 and 74 years old, respectively. We moved 18 months ago and wanted to be closer to downtown.
We had no mortgage on the home and felt it would be a wonderful time to consider selling. We had mentioned it to a neighbour, who in turn, unbeknownst to us mentioned it to an agent. One day, the agent showed up unexpected at our door, stating he had a buyer for our home, if we would consider selling?
Tell us how it went? What was the best thing you did to make your move go smoothly?
The actual move was easy because we hired a specialist in downsizing, Elaine Frost to do it all. Her crew packed us, sorted through the basement and junk we had piled up over the decades, cleaned up the house, moved everything, unpacked and set up the new place! My wife literally sat and watched it all happen. Elaine auctioned off all the remaining furniture we didn’t take and in the end, the cost of moving was very little.
What did your family and friends say before you made the move and have any opinions shifted since?
We were among the last of our friends to move and the oldest in the neighbourhood. Nobody could believe we were still there, way up in the suburbs.
We stayed so long because our children lived nearby and our grandchildren attended schools in the area. They used our house all the time. But eventually, they relocated to different places in the U.S. It was then a better time for us to make a move.
Now we are only five minutes from all the friends who had moved downtown 10-15 years earlier.
Many of our clients who downsize say they wish they had done it sooner. Can you comment on this?
It never came up/crossed minds to do it earlier, due to family obligations and both the state of the real estate and investment markets, too. We are lucky to have no physical issues that may have forced a move sooner, but emotionally I think it would be easier to do it sooner – such as 65 – than we did at close to 80!
Why did you choose this area to move to?
We had lived in this area growing up, it’s attractive and the subway and Loblaws are literally across the street. It makes getting groceries and getting around town so easy. I never took the subway before but take it all the time, now. I took the train to the Royal Alex just the other day.
How do you like your new life?
We walk around downtown so much and have really come to know the city in a way we never did before.
We both love our new lives. Originally, my wife had been dead set against selling and moving. All our memories were created in our home. She has gone 360 on this one. We spend about four months away in the winter. This year when we returned, she said she didn’t care if we went back to Florida because she loves our new home so much. We have a large three bedroom and three bathroom condo with multiple balconies looking over the ravine.
If we want to go away, we can in a very carefree way. We just lock the door and go!
What spots do you frequent regularly?
We visit the restaurants and cafes that Josie and Ken Stern recommend to us, all the time, Concession Road, Prop, Pain Perdu and others in the area. We also go to the theatre, the ACC and all over downtown Toronto.
What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking of downsizing as you just did?
Do it at 65 rather than 80!