The empty-nest drill used to go something like this: As your kids move up the rungs of the educational system, you and your partner wonder whether to move to a condo in Boca, a bungalow in the Carolinas, or another relaxed-living locale. (Let’s overlook the fact that most of us can’t afford to retire.)
But times are changing. More and more 50-plus Americans are going the urban route. Stats from the National Association of Realtors® indicate that the percentage of 50-something home buyers purchasing property in cities is edging upward. And another study found that boomers are seeing a massive uptick in renting versus owning—which makes sense if they're moving to a big city.
About those renters of over age 50: I’m one of them! When we were in our 30s, my husband and I fled the city and bought a house in the suburbs. The main reason was that our two sons had hit school age in an overcrowded public school system, and were quickly outgrowing the small bedroom they shared. So we headed to a tree-shaded town in a well-regarded school district, where our kids could enjoy separate bedrooms and a yard where they could get their ya-yas out (Stones fans, am I using that correctly?).
And so it went—and went well—until the kids grew up and skedaddled, leaving me and my husband alone in a lovely house with shriveled social connections (the days of blabbing with neighbors about that overly tough AP History teacher were over) and feeling way isolated. We both worked in the city, and without the school system anchoring us, why were we commuting, we wondered? And why were we paying that hefty school tax bill now that our kids had flown the coop?
So we decided to sell our family home (sorry, boys!) and move. For us, it was a great decision. Here’s why:
1. Boosting our bank account
At least for the moment, my husband and I are happy not to have money tied up in real estate. As you may know, the current tax laws don’t incentivize having a mortgage the way they used to. We don’t feel the imperative to own a home in order to get that deduction come April 15, so why not feel a little unencumbered and mobile for a while?
2. Getting off the train schedule grid
Now that we are not running home after work to make dinner and supervise algebra homework (as if I could be of any use on that), my husband and I can reclaim our evenings, which feels a lot more fun in the city. We can take a walk by the river, try a new rooftop bar, or stop by a gallery opening without doing commuter math, which goes something like, “If the train is at 10:30 p.m., that means I need to leave here by 10. … Then, let’s see, I should get to the station at home at 11:30, drive for 15 minutes, and be in bed by midnight.” For a couple trying to reinvent our life after two decades of kid focus, freedom from the commuting schedule is a very good thing.
3. Jettisoning all that home maintenance
Praise the Lord, I no longer need a contact list full of electricians, roofers, masons, tree-stump grinders, landscapers, the highway department (responsible for pickup of garbage over a certain size), pest-control specialists (wasp nests, gah!), HVAC folk, etc. All of the homeownership stuff, so long! And the winter drama of nor’easters, tree limbs flying down, power going out, and frantic efforts to find somewhere—anywhere—to do a load of laundry are over.
4. Enforced downsizing
City life is apartment life, and it’s forcing me to go minimalist. There’s no basement, attic, or other place to hide the accumulated stuff of life, so I need to get rid of it. Or at least I’m trying to. I have a storage unit holding the contents of my former attic, having been unable to Marie Kondo my way to lean-and-mean status pre-move. But our lack of storage is making us think twice about accumulating any more crap.
5. Urban adventuring
In the city, quirk and culture abound. While I miss the sound of the wind whispering through the pine trees and the squirrels and birds darting around my yard, the city has a seductive pulse of discovery. There’s an aura of possibility that makes life feel more exciting, even if I just sit on my butt at home. Knowing that a midnight cheese-tasting event or a mermaid parade are just a quick subway ride away brightens my day in a big way. Yes, I’ve forsaken space, fresh air, peace and quiet. But I feel as if I’m sharing an amazing and varied human experience with fellow urban explorers.