Empty nest syndrome: Moving after retirement

24 August 2022 by National Bank
Retired couple walking towards a cottage by the waterside.

The kids have flown the coop, retirement is right around the corner and the house is starting to feel too big? You have what’s known as “empty nest syndrome.” Whether you're thinking about moving to a small condo or an intergenerational home with your children and grandchildren, we have tips to help with your decision.

How do I overcome empty nest syndrome?

Many parents are affected by empty nest syndrome. Watching children leave the family nest—often while navigating their own retirement—is always a big emotional step for parents. An empty nest can spark a range of feelings that are all very real: pride at seeing your kids stand on their own two feet, but also sadness to see them go. It’s the beginning of a new chapter and a sign that it is time to reinvent yourself and live retirement to the fullest.

To overcome empty nest syndrome, some may choose to move as a coping mechanism. The life of parents is often conditioned by their career and their children’s need: a sustainable place called home that is close from work, to avoid changing the environment of children. Now that new horizons are possible, moving to a smaller place or to a new area can bring a breath of fresh air.

What should I ask myself before selling my home?

It’s important to take stock of your plans, lifestyle and health before making a decision. A number of factors could influence your choice: 

  • Are you selling your house to make a profit that you will then invest?
  • Do you have children? If so, will they likely return home and need a place to stay in the not-too-distant future?
  • Will selling your house generate supplemental income that will help you reach your retirement goals?
  • If you include condo fees, renovations, property taxes and other expenses, will it cost more for you per month?
  • Can you afford to buy a condo downtown or in Florida?
  • Do you have a second home?

Take the time to ask yourself the right questions and consider the different moving options available to you.

Should I move to a smaller place?

This is a very popular trend. Often people want to sell their house and buy a condo because they want a home that requires less maintenance and that is less expensive. Accustomed to comfort and quality when it comes to real estate, many new retirees will opt for a home that’s smaller, but no less luxurious.

Advantages: Condos usually require less upkeep than houses. Ownership of common areas is shared between the residents of the building and maintenance, often included in condo fees, is facilitated by professionals.

Many condo buildings offer a slew of amenities that make life easier by saving you a trip, like indoor parking, urban rooftop cottages, a pool, a surveillance system and a fitness room. New buildings are usually soundproof and provide enough privacy for all residents.

Considerations: Moving from a big house to a small condo can also be challenging. Having to compromise on the amount of living space—which is much smaller compared to a house—can be difficult for some people.

Should I move to a small town or to the country?

You may also be tempted to leave the city and move to a small town or to the country, whether or not you have a second home.

Advantages: Away from the hustle and bustle, life is often more peaceful, and lots are usually more spacious than in the city. The cost of living also generally isn’t as high.

Considerations: You’ll need to find the time and keep in shape for tasks like shovelling snow and groundskeeping. Otherwise, you’ll have to set aside enough money to delegate these tasks to professionals. Travel also often requires a car, and children may live further away. Family time may be less frequent.

Good to know: This option takes some thought as to your lifestyle. Will you miss the city? If you sell your city home and move to a small town, you may have to plan for additional expenses, like the purchase of a second car for your partner.

Should I move into an intergenerational home?

An intergenerational home is a single-family home that allows parents and children to live together. If you prefer a bit more independence, sharing a duplex or a triplex with your family may be more tempting.

Advantages: The main draw for duplexes and intergenerational homes is being close to one’s children and grandchildren. Retirees can babysit, allowing the parents to save—and the grandparents to spend quality time with the little ones. You can even save money by sharing some meals, transportation or home maintenance. This kind of property often include a backyard. This is not always the case with new condominiums being built.

Considerations: Learn about the legal aspects of owning this type of property. Municipalities don’t all have the same regulations for intergenerational homes. Some cities, for example, have restrictions on the surface area of the second dwelling space. Others may require dwellings to share common spaces or be separated by a common firewall. You’ll need to take the time to look into all this.

In addition, reselling an intergenerational home will generally take longer than reselling a duplex. These two types of homes can be quite expensive, plus they may require more maintenance and renovation.

Good to know: If the parents and the children are all co-owners of the house, then everyone is responsible for paying the mortgage collectively. For that reason, you’ll need to look at a number of scenarios. What happens if one of your children doesn’t pay their share? Will that have an impact on your budget? We strongly recommend speaking with your notary and your financial advisor before buying this kind of home.

Should I move down south?

Certain retired snowbirds do feel the desire to pack up their bags and fly south for good. This may sound exciting, but seaside houses and condos still require a good deal of thought.

Advantages: Many people dream of trading Canadian winters for a warmer climate. The weather can affect your mood. You may even have family in another part of the world that you’ll be joining.

Considerations: Living abroad requires careful research and financial planning, especially if you are considering buying a home. You’ll have to juggle many different immigration and tax laws. You will also need to consider things like how to get health coverage. Speak with a subject matter expert if you go this route.

Good to know: The annual length of your stays abroad is an important factor to consider if you want to maintain non-resident status in the country you move to. Tax laws vary from one country to the next, which is why it’s important to speak with an expert. You can enjoy the sun and still keep your home in Canada. However, if you decide to leave the country and live abroad permanently, you’ll have to consider the tax consequences of leaving.

What does the future hold for me?

Even if you’re currently healthy, no one can predict what the future holds. Whether you decide on a condo or a country cottage, health concerns may one day lead you to question your type of home.

Keep in mind that you and your partner may need to move to a retirement home or a long-term care home. For the latter option, here are some tools to help you estimate the financial impact.

Also, remember that there are home assistance programs for retirees that help ease the cost of these types of homes. Whether you prefer staying at home or moving, other Canadian housing assistance benefits (external link) are available.

Regardless of the type of property you’re picturing—condo, cottage, intergenerational home or pied-à-terre in the sun—the important thing is to meet with the experts to ensure you’re well prepared. Once you have all the information, you can start your retirement on the right foot. You can’t put a price on peace of mind in your new nest.

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