hThoe me Empty nesters
of the future
By Anita Thompson
MANY PARENTS look forward to the day when
that youngest child is out of the house. It’s the beginning of a new chapter requiring some big decisions. One
of those decisions is whether to downsize into a smaller
space, or perhaps adapt the family home to be more
compatible with lifestyle changes.
Dan Fritschen, a Costco member and real estate
consultant in Sunnyvale, California, has thought a
lot about this issue. Author of Remodel or Move
(ABCD Publishing, 2005; www.remodelormove.com),
he suggests asking yourself the following questions.
Are the kids really gone?
Many parents are familiar with the “boomerang
child” phenomenon. Kids move out for a while and
then, suddenly, they’re back! “Some young adults go
through one or more false starts before they really find
their wings,” says Fritschen. “You may want to postpone converting your child’s bedroom to a home
office or moving 1,000 miles across country until
you’re sure he or she isn’t coming back.”
Do you like your neighbourhood?
You may have chosen your current home because
of its school district. Now that schools are no longer
a factor, a downtown condo, country cabin or seaside
cottage may sound more appealing than the suburbs.
On the other hand, if you really love your neighbourhood, you have a strong reason to stay put.
Remodelling is a way to keep what you already love
and make it even better.
Will you have space for house guests or
With the kids gone, you should have more time to
reconnect with old friends. If you’re downsizing, be sure
to factor in space for house guests in your new home.
And don’t forget the grandchildren. If you decide
to remodel, consider finally finishing the basement
and transforming it into a guest suite for old college
pals or visiting kids and their future broods.
Will your floor plan be easy to
navigate as you age?
“Chances are, slowing down is the last thing on
your mind,” says Fritschen. “And rightly so. Most
empty nesters have plenty of vital years still ahead of
them. But, the day may come when climbing stairs
isn’t as easy as it is now. Whichever choice you make,
consider a home with a spacious, single-level floor
plan. If one of you becomes incapacitated, you’ll be
glad you were practical in this regard.”
■ Use outdoor space.
When you outfit it with
comfortable furniture and
personal touches, a deck
or patio can become
another living room.
Have you considered the real cost of
Both choices—remodelling or moving—can be
expensive. For novices seduced by the glamour of
gleaming new refrigerators and whirlpool tubs, a
remodelling project can quickly become a money pit.
On the other hand, moving is far from free: It can cost
up to 15 per cent of your home’s value, Fritschen
notes, for expenses such as getting your home ready
for sale, real estate commissions, closing costs, hiring
a mover and the cost of decorating your new home.
■ Use colour wisely. Keep
your ceilings and walls
painted a neutral colour,
and be careful of too many
accent walls: They can
clutter up small spaces.
■ Use your corners. They
are often wasted space.
Use built-in corner shelving or curio cabinets for
The key is to do your homework up front so that
you can make an educated decision. C
The Costco Connection
Costco’s Member Services can help with selling
and buying real estate (see story on page 67) and
a mortgage. Visit www.costco.ca and click on
■ Think vertical. Building
up (versus out) adds more
square footage. Take your
bookcases all the way to
the ceiling, for example.
■ Embrace the armoire.
This versatile piece can
store a home theatre, sound
system, clothes or dishes.
“ Services.” Members will also find products for
remodelling at Costco and on www.costco.ca.