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Rightsizing your home for retirement

5 minute read

middle-aged Caucasian couple standing in front of their large suburban home smiling at the camera

The concept of “downsizing” often comes up when planning for retirement. Usually, it means selling a larger family home and moving to something smaller, ideally to minimize financial and maintenance burdens as you age.  

But downsizing isn’t the right plan for everyone; consider “rightsizing” instead.  

What is "rightsizing"?

Rightsizing considers more than just the size and cost of your home. It takes into account your desires, independence, finances, health, safety and more. While downsizing is about thinking small, rightsizing allows you to think big. Long-term, what do you want from your retirement, and how does your home factor into that? You’ve worked hard, and deserve a retired life that meets all your needs.  

What does rightsizing mean for you? 

Should you downsize or rightsize your home in retirement? Follow these steps to help decide if rightsizing your home is the best option for you. 

1. Define your lifestyle preferences 

How do you envision spending your time in retirement? Determine your ideal retirement lifestyle, and evaluate if your current home can serve those goals. If not, what are the main things you’ll be looking for in a new location? 

Get started: Think about your vision for retirement, and how you want it to look. Now, ask yourself: 

  • Do you like to garden and spend leisure time around a backyard pool, or would you prefer a maintenance-free outdoor space?  
  • Do you want to travel with fewer home security concerns? Do you have an adequate surveillance system in place? 
  • Would you trade extra bedrooms for more entertainment space, or do you want rooms for the grandkids to stay over? 

2. Consider changing health needs 

The purpose of rightsizing is to create a home life that matches your needs. As people age, those needs often have to incorporate health concerns.  

If you’re concerned about ongoing mobility, you might consider accessibility renovations, like adding ramps or chair lifts. Moving to a bungalow or apartment could offer enhanced accessibility without the hassle of renovations. A smaller home might be easier to clean and maintain, lessening physical strain. 

Mental health should be an equally important consideration. Some seniors find solace in familiar surroundings and may not be emotionally ready to leave them; others find that lonely and prefer the camaraderie of a mature condo community or senior living home.  

Get started: Speak to your doctor about any future health concerns you may have and how they might impact your living situation. Ask yourself: 

  • Will your home need accessibility upgrades in the near future? Is it easier to upgrade your current home, or move into a new one? 
  • If you decide to move, could you get used to a new community or neighbourhood? How close will your family and friends be if you move? 
  • Will you be able to live independently, or will you need daily support? 

3. Location, location, location 

Your ability to access things like healthcare, transportation and support services will be more and more important as you age. It can be difficult or even dangerous to be too remote. You may also want to be closer to community and family support systems. Your needs and priorities will determine if rightsizing means changing locations.  

Get started: We all benefit from being closer to support services and social opportunities.  Ask yourself: 

  • What proximity are you to friends and family? Will they be close enough if you have to rely on them in an emergency?  
  • Do you have children or grandchildren you’d prefer to be closer to? Or do you want to live in a bucket-list location in retirement and travel to family? 
  • Will you have nearby access to healthcare, transportation, and support services as you age? 

4. Do the math 

Selling a larger home can free up equity, though that shouldn’t be your main source of retirement income. Smaller homes might have lower taxes and utility costs, but you may end up paying more in condo fees or rent. Older homes might require expensive renovations but also qualify for government rebates.  

If you prefer to keep your home, renting out additional rooms could offer some extra lifestyle income—but might also be more work than you’re interested in. Compare that to your downsizing and rightsizing options, and your current retirement savings plan, and see what makes the most sense. 

Get started:  Look at your current expenses, and factor in any additional expenses that could come from aging in place. Ask yourself:  

  • What costs or savings come with rightsizing?  
  • How much equity will selling your home free up? 
  • Are there additional costs, like landscaping or home cleaning, that you’ll need to factor in?  

DID YOU KNOW? In Vancouver, seniors have more than 400,000 empty bedrooms, promoting the advent of home-sharing platforms that match students with seniors to address housing needs. 

5. Get advice 

Rightsizing is a life stage that deserves careful consideration. Engage in conversations with family about what’s important to you, and what support they can provide to help you achieve your ideal retirement lifestyle.  

There are also provincial resources available about funding for home adaptations, renovations and community-based supports. The BC Government offers many resources and supports for seniors to reach out for whenever they need it. 

Get started:  Consult professionals for advice on finances, real estate and healthcare.  Ask yourself: 

  • Where can I find a financial advisor to talk to about my situation? 
  • Who can I talk to about my options for aging in place? 
  • What options do I have for supportive housing or assisted living in my community? 

Do your finances fit your rightsized life? 

Rightsizing for retirement can help secure your physical and financial well-being. Whether you decide to remain, rent, renovate or relocate, our advisors can help you match the plan to your optimal retirement lifestyle.