Downsizing your home in retirement offers many upsides, including freeing up money and time previously devoted to maintaining a house big enough to raise a family.
But those benefits lay on the other side of actually reducing the mountains of stuff you’ve accumulated over the decades. The very thought of culling those stacks of books and piles of clothes and boxes of gadgets can be enough to keep you in that McMansion a few more years.
Enter the free enterprise system. Demographically-savvy entrepreneurs have launched several companies to help baby boomers and their aging parents downsize their homes and lives.
The Wall Street Journal recently spotlighted this expanding industry. “Demographics are the key driver of growth,” Mary Kay Buysse, executive director of the Senior Move Managers association told the WSJ. And while adult children want to help mom and dad downsize and relocate, they are often too busy juggling their own lives. “A third-party professional is often the best option to do this kind of work,” said Buysee.
Let’s Move, a company operating in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., helps people downsize and relocate to private residences, retirement communities and assisted living facilities. Kimberly McMahon, who co-founded the business in 2006, told the WSJ that her business reduces, packs up and moves households.
They also help ensure their clients are comfortable in their new homes by doing things like connecting electronics, hanging pictures and making beds. “There is more business than we can handle,” said McMahon. So far, Let’s Move has served over 5,500 clients and has grown an average of 50% a year for the past decade.
It’s easy to see why business is booming. Downsizing is a difficult process that takes time, planning and patience. Just imagine packing a 2,500-square-foot house for an 800-square-foot condo. This is not a simple endeavor, to say the least.
Some people find that, by hiring help, they can avoid stress on the family. Deciding what will and what won’t make the move to a new home can be an emotional process for all involved. After all, many of our belongings have sentimental value that can be hard to let go of. And if the adult children don’t want family heirlooms or other hand-me-downs, that can create friction.
Services that are available from companies in the industry are often comprehensive. They typically first decide what can be donated, sold, or thrown away, then pack and move what’s left, and finally hold an estate sale before preparing the house for sale.
But none of this is cheap. The cost can range from $40 to $125 an hour, depending on where you live. Let’s Move typically charges $65 to $75 an hour for its services, with the total costs for downsizing a household coming in between $5,000 to $10,000.
Still, for some people, these services are worth every dollar. Rita Coulter, 87, of Altadena, Calif., told the WSJ that she hired a company to help her move from her 2,000-square-foot condo to a 1,275-square-foot home in a retirement community. Coulter said that the professionals worked with her to decide what would work at her new home, down to details like the number of pots and pans she should take. They helped her donate what she wouldn’t be taking with her.
On moving day, Coulter went out for a few hours while the professionals unpacked everything in her new home. When she returned, her paintings were hung and crystal was displayed as it had been in her prior condo, she told the WSJ. “When I walked in, they had the lights on softly and they had music playing,” Ms. Coulter said, remarking that it was a lovely touch.
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