Where to Downsize

Where to Downsize

There are probably as many places to downsize as there are reasons. Many seniors downsize as their homes become too much to manage. Many boomers are downsizing when their children leave home, adopting a more flexible lifestyle with 2 or 3 smaller residences, or move to a smaller residence and begin power-saving for retirement.

With the economic shifts we are experiencing, people of all ages are downsizing to simplify their lives and cut costs. Whatever your reason, here are some ideas on where and how to do it:

Stay where you are!

Aging in Place. Many times staying in a familiar setting is what suites us best. If age or mobility is the challenge, you can make your home more user-friendly by installing a ramp, a stair got goes up stairs, or even a residential elevator.

If too much yardwork is the issue, hiring a gardening service usually costs less per month than the dues at a condo complex would. Unfortunately, the costs of utilities, property taxes, insurance and maintenance stay the same.

Another way to downsize by staying home is to use less of your house. It may be possible to add an accessory apartment in your home, which can provide income to defray costs, and have another trusted person in your home if you like to travel. Some homes lend themselves to this better than others, so consult an architect or contractor and your local building department.

Many cities are now permitting detached cottages (ADUs) in back yards for this purpose. Some downsizers actually move to the cottage and have other family move into the main house.

Move Close By

If you want to downsize but you still want to be in familiar surroundings, moving to a smaller home nearby makes sense. Most neighborhoods have a nearby area where condos, townhomes, cottages, or smaller homes are available. There here may be suitable smaller home for you within a few blocks of your present home.


Urban living is a good choice for a downsize move. Many urban areas seem to be designed for simpler living, with amenities close by that make life more efficient. Shopping can be a quick stroll away, as are restaurants, libraries, and other services, and work is easily accessible too, by a variety of transportation options. Locating in close-in areas of Seattle, Bellevue and Tacoma also offers easy access to world-class entertainment, sporting events, opera, symphony, and other cultural events. Many people who have downsized to in-city areas have found that 2 cars are not necessary any more, and some find they can get along fine without any, which can offset the increased cost of real estate there.


Suburban areas offer opportunities to downsize to ramblers, townhomes, condos and small lot homes at reasonable prices. Zoning in high-density suburban areas generally allows for somewhat larger lot sizes, so there is a sense of more elbow-room, more trees and open space, while living in a smaller space. Suburban areas built in the 1950’s to 1970’s offer the chance to combine relatively close-in locations with one-level living in quality ramblers of 1200-2000 sf. A little farther out, in areas maybe 20 or 30 minutes from downtown are newer 2 story homes of 2000 to 2500 sf with modern luxury finishes of granite and hardwoods on compact lots that require less maintenance.

Some suburban areas also offer planned developments, including some excellent 55+ developments focused on retired or semi-retired adults with active lifestyles, and golf course communities for a wide spectrum of price ranges. A popular type of home in these areas is the rambler condo, a 1300 to 2000+ sf detached home with attached garage and small private yard, in a gated community with amenities, often at a quite reasonable price compared to Seattle.

Many close-in suburban cities are also creating new urban core areas that offer essential amenities in a central location with walkable, higher density neighborhoods, and excellent bus and rail transportation to downtown Seattle and other job centers. Well_priced compared to similar areas in Seattle and Bellevue, these will be emerging as affordable alternatives for quality downsized living.


Get out of Town! Many locals are finding a higher quality of live in nearby small towns. These include areas of the State that were once considered secondary cities and towns that are re-defining themselves as attractive urban areas with a very high quality of life. I am speaking of the cities of Tacoma, Everett, Olympia and Bellingham on the West side of the Cascades, and Spokane, Tri-Cities, Wenatchee, Yakima and Walla Walla in Eastern Washington. Also not to be missed are the Island paradises of Whidbey Island with the towns of Langley, Coupeville, and Oak Harbor; Annacortes on Fildago Island; and revitalizing Bremerton, pictureque Port Townsend, Squim and Port Angeles on the Olympic Penisula.

College Towns

College towns are becoming very popular with boomers across the country. Many boomers are “boomeranging” back to where they went to college, and are finding towns rich in culture on a managable, affordable scale and a slower pace of life. Some universities are even building housing on or near their campuses for returning alumni.

Resort areas

Vacation homes have been a very popular item in this decade, and many downsizers are spending more time at their vacation homes, or moving there full time. And, its not just retired folks doing this. Some of these areas that are within a few hour’s drive of Seattle are seeing more and more full time residents who telecommute, doing most of their work by internet, and going to the office once or twice a week. Some of them offer a great quality of life for a reasonable price, too, with boating or golf right outside your door.

Multiple Residences

Years ago, when we bought our 3400 sf dream home, I remember bragging about it to a relative who is a developer in Athens, Greece. He thought for a few seconds, then replied “Yes, we have that much room too, but it is divided among our apartment in Athens, the beach apartment near Athens for weekends, and our island home for vacations!” There I realized that many Europeans have been downsized all their life! Instead of “trading up” to a bigger home as they become more prosperous, their dream home is a diverse lifestyle that includes homes in different places they want to live their lives in.

Many Americans are taking this approach too, and selling their large homes and moving to a smaller home or condo nearby as a “home base”, and also purchasing smaller homes near children or grandchildren, or in other areas that interest them, like warm climates or in major cities with cultural attractions they like.

Leave the Country

Many Americans are discovering the lifestyle in Mexico, or Central American counties of Panama, Costa Rica and Honduras. They find that costs of living like housing, food, and medical care are much more affordable there. Also, they are discovering communities of other American ex-pats there too. A favorite website to learn more about this is InternationalLiving.com. It features “postcards” from others describing their experiences moving to places around the world.

Small Towns

A favorite downsize solution for many is to move from urban areas to a nearby small town. The advantages are lower home prices, a slower pace of...

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