Downsizing to an apartment - retirement living

We are still very undecided about where to downsize to (empty nest) and what kind of home to move to next. Our latest idea is to sell the house (house prices are up right now) and rent an apartment (rents are low right now and we could actually afford to live closer to our daughter in Boston in an apartment than in a home).

If we do this we lose having equity in a house, but we also lose all the home costs - property taxes, maintenance, lawn care, repairs, any big expense when something breaks, etc. We can also become a little nomadic - don’t have to stay in the same place from year to year. Our commitment to any location decreases as it would be easier to move apartments than a house.

Has anybody done this (I have some friends who have rented for a year to try out a location, but still plan to ultimately buy)? Anything I am missing when looking at this option?

Unlike when we bought our current house (32 years ago), at 60 years old we won’t be staying in our location for that many years.

I cannot help other than to say that it is a great time to sell a house.

I am for renting if you don’t know where you want to live. In addition, it frees up a lot of cash from the sale of your house to do what you want. Houses are usually passed onto your heirs and they are the beneficiaries.

I’d love a sweet condo, but still feel the need for 3 bedrooms, so the girls feel they have a space. Not that they need it, if we’re all in the same area.

But rents for where I’d want to live (pretty area, interesting, near water,) are 2-3x what staying in the house costs.

I toy with the idea of having an Airbnb or bnb room to consistently go to. I’m obsessed with coastal Maine. It would cost a lot less to book multiple weekends or weeks than to buy or commit to rent.

@kiddie I sold my house and downsized a few years back and am also in the Boston area. Eventually I got rid of most of my possessions.

Suburban rentals seem to be problematic. Might be better if you have money. I rented in Cambridge for a few years but am now doing seasonal winter rentals on the coast (one bedroom). I do different things in the summer, but have been in the same winter rental- furnished of course- for 4 years. They leave me flowers and give me presents. I take good care of the place. I am by myself so different for a couple. My kids visit and sleep on an inflatable, no problem.

I don’t want to settle in or acquire furniture because when my mother dies, I will move closer to my kids in CA. My mother was on hospice when I started this. Now she is doing well at 94 and so I may adjust my plans!

I know so many people who have sold their house and rented, and often they continue to rent. I think the costs kind of balance out so they are equivalent, unless your rental is extremely high end.

The city apartments are managed better in my opinion, and there is more privacy.

I forget to say that the house is paid off - no mortgage.

Don’t underestimate moving costs and the PIA it is to pack up frequently.

If your plan is to be nomadic, get rid of as much stuff as you can to avoid headaches later.

We did a 9-month apartment rental as a bridge between selling our home in one state and retiring to a condo in another (Florida) that we already owned. My dh needed to work a bit longer, and our home sold quickly.

I think the “stuff” becomes the issue. Storage is possible, but it is expensive. To truly be more nomadic, you’ve got to have little to no stuff. Storage units increase their rentals at regular intervals.

My ds and two friends are putting most of their stuff in storage this weekend and doing an AirBnb for the month of September. They plan to do short term rentals through the end of the year as they will be working remotely at least that long.

Our condo we already owned was a 2 BR and 935 sq ft. We lived there for 2.5 years. We recently upsized to a 3-bedroom condo with 1,600 square feet, and it is the “just right” size for us. It was the issue of having company that made things cozy.

@lookingforward - for us it was having mother-in-law and ds here at the same time, but it’s the same idea of wanting everyone under the same roof.

We had considered selling a few years ago, and renting for a couple years while we determined our next step and explored neighborhoods. Primarily considered urban condos to downsize. Very glad we did not sell at that time, and only rent. Homes literally doubled in the areas we were exploring. Our current home has not increased in value much, but the difference would have been even worse if we were renting for the last 2-3 years. Of course it would have been smarter to purchase back then, but we weren’t ready yet.

Right now I’m also glad we didn’t downsize (yet). I would have a very hard time in an urban condo during Covid. It has been a joy to have a small suburban yard and very small wooded area in the rear. If necessary, I can easily quarantine, or host someone with space they can call their own.

@Hoggirl, I hope I’m not intrusive but was wondering if not having family under the same roof was a problem for you and your husband or mostly you. I’m asking because I don’t think my husband feels the same about pleasing all involved. Lol!

Also I do want to say that my daughter lives with her boyfriend in a very, very nice 2 bedroom apartment in a downtown setting. This is what she’s always wanted but I think is really struggling in this time of COVID. Some of the issues are lack of outdoor space, the lack of safe (for an alone female) places to work out because gyms are closed. And working and living in the same space. I think it’s great to live in a space where you can walk to restaurants and the area is very lively. But lively in a non pandemic way, not right now. She’s not exercising as much and therefore putting on weight.

My kids also pay a lot to live in apartments. My older kid bought a really nice home for less than he paid renting. (Monthly costs)

We downsized and moved 2 years ago and have been renting so far. We thought we might buy a condo this year, but the pandemic has put that on hold since we don’t feel comfortable with virtual tours or in-person tours.

Our house was paid off, so we have all that money. We did move to a more expensive area, so we couldn’t just take our house proceeds and roll it over to a new purchase without adding more money or taking out a mortgage. OTOH, we estimate that our house proceeds will pay for 8-9 years of renting, and we only expect to be here for maybe 15 years.

We live in a more urban area, which we really loved pre-pandemic. Now, we don’t use public transportation, eat out at restaurants, go to museums or theater, etc. Depending on how things go with recovery from the pandemic, maybe we’ll change our mind about being here. Having rented will make potentially moving again easier.

When my cousin and her husband retired, they sold their home and decided never to own property again… They hated all the upkeep and maintenance involved In home ownership. They lived for a few years in apartments in the city and would take long cruises and/or travel in the winters to places with warm climates (they live in the Chicago area). They spent time in faraway places at first—Australia, Virgin Islands, and the South Pacific. Then, a few winters in Florida (Vero Beach). They have grandchildren now and travel less, but still live in rental properties. This year they went to New Zealand after Christmas for three months—came home to the pandemic so they stayed in the Chicago area. They really enjoy their lifestyle and hope to keep it up as long as they can.

I think people sometimes get fooled by the pricing they see online versus what’s really out there, where you’d want to be actually planted. The Boston-Providence-Fall River metro area is considered highly diverse, in all ways- age ranges, education, jobs, religion, family, cultures, etc. But not all communities are really desirable, yet. I couldn’t move just to have a different roof over my head.

I also owned my house outright. At first I had a large storage unit, but it was ridiculous. So I got rid of all my stuff: auctioneer, high end consignment, then donation to local second hand charity. I am truly nomadic and love it for now. Everything was great until COVID. I wish I had an extra bedroom and an extra bathroom so kids could visit!

If we buy it will most likely be 40-60 minutes outside of Boston. Right now I am looking at 55+ townhouses in places like Ashland and Holliston. If we rent I would try and get more like 20-30 minutes outside of Boston in places like Wellesely or Newton. We currently have 3 bed/2 bath on a huge piece of property (and our living spaces are large and our basement partially finished). I am thinking we could go down to 2 bed and 1.5-2 bath. We have been spoiled by not having neighbors close to us for the past 36 years and it will be an adjustment with either an apartment or a townhouse. I don’t anticipate our empty nest filling. My daughter has stayed put in her Boston studio apartment throughout the pandemic, so I don’t think she would ever move back home. We would like to have a place for her to sleepover on holidays though.

@deb922 - not intrusive at all.

It wouldn’t bother me in the least if we didn’t have everyone under the same roof. That’s how it has been the last two years at Thanksgiving when we were in our smaller place. The first year we outsourced ds. This most recent year we outsourced mil - just for the part of the time that her and ds’s visit overlapped. What DID bother me was the fact that we paid to put her up in a very nice one bedroom condo that was less than a quarter of a mile down the road, but she clearly wasn’t happy about not staying with us the entire time she was visiting - even though we gave her that option. Ds arrived before she did, and she claimed she didn’t want to oust him. Ds would have been fine staying down there after spending a couple of nights with us - I would have been, too. Though, I do get weary of having to share all of my holidays with my in-laws (but that is for another thread). So, having everyone together will please my mil.

It has always been the case that when we visited the in-laws or when they visited us, we stayed in each other’s respective homes. Honestly, I would have much preferred having a hotel to retreat to each evening, especially when my father-in-law was still living.

Mainly, we wanted more room for US and a true, dedicated guest bedroom (our old place just had a sleeper sofa in it and had to be used as the guitar practice and exercise room when we didn’t have guests). We looked at some larger 2 BRs as well. But, it’s nice having this third bedroom as an office for dh with the work from home AND as an overflow guest bedroom if and when we ever need it. But, that should be RARE.

TL; DR. It will be nice for us not to have the awkward conversation about who is staying where if and when mil and ds ever come at the same time again. We just have one kid who currently has no S.O., so “all under one roof” for our nuclear family is easy. My dh did not want us to maintain space that we used maybe once or twice a year (formal dining, formal living, space for a grand piano, etc). That’s why we downsized. Even if ds marries and has his own children I’m sure not going to insist or expect that they stay with us. I hope his future wife adores me (and, I generally like my mil - truly), but I am not going to assume that their preference is to stay WITH us when they visit. They will be welcome to, but I’m not going to assume that will be their choice. It’s always been the default mode with dh’s family. This is one blessing of NOT having space - you can’t host everyone at the same time. Which was fine for me, but mil didn’t like it.

I feel the same.

H and I plan to get rid of our house in a few years. We are hoping it works out to own a small townhouse or condo in the city and a property on a lake. The city we plan to go to is the one where D and SIL already live. We have no idea if S will also end up there. I know some folks like having everyone under one roof, but I would honestly stay in a hotel and have some space and privacy. I know my kids would not mind.

H loves having a yard and place to store all his tools and electronics. I think it helps keep him healthy and active with countless projects always in progress. Our house and yard are fairly modest at 3 bedroom, 2 bath, so I don’t see us downsizing anytime soon. It is nice that both of our “kids” have a place to stay when they visit.


We just have an accepted offer to buy our vacation home at coastal Maine. We are elated so so happy to be rid of high costs of upkeep !! Rent, don’t buy!!

One thing we have thought about is the lack of ability to buy back in if you decide to sell and prices keep rising.
A relative moved from the DC area years ago, and when she wanted to come back, she simply couldn’t afford to pay the difference in housing prices.
We have had the opposite issue though- we paid a lot for our house, right before the housing bust in 2006, and our house is still worth less than we paid for it. (You could be smart taking advantage of high prices).