More Than Just a House

After 40 years in their home, my parents join the growing ranks of downsizers.

November 1, 2011

The seminal event of my fourth-grade life was a real estate sale. My parents sold our 3-bedroom, 1-bath split-level and bought a 4-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath colonial. That sale rocked my world.

We moved at the end of November, as I recall. Even though the move was only across town, I was changing schools, which meant leaving behind my new best friend and a teacher I truly loved. I remember looking out the window of our new house at our dirt-filled yard and thinking that our old yard had been bigger and our old neighborhood better in every way.

Before too long, I gained a fresh perspective. I realized that the move was hard for everyone, not just me; that fact somehow drew us closer as a family. My new teacher was cool. By spring, we had grass. There was a girl my age living down the street, and we became best friends. Having my own room was awesome. The house became home and stayed that way long after I’d moved away—even after my husband and I had purchased our own house.

It’s November again, 40 years later, and the house is up for sale. I’ve written often about the emotions empty nesters feel when they downsize. But I wasn’t prepared for the emotions I’d feel when my own parents finally made the decision. Once again, the move is hard on everyone from my parents to the grandkids, who have known the home as our family gathering place during holidays and summer vacations.

Like many seniors today, my parents don’t have any family living near them. I’m the closest, a seven-hour drive away, and I’m helping as much as I can. So when we looked for a listing agent, we sought out someone with the Seniors Real Estate Specialist designation. It’s a specialty that’s bound to grow in the coming years. According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging, by 2030, people 65 and older will represent 19 percent of the population, compared with 12.4 percent in the year 2000. I can’t overestimate how much the listing agent has helped my parents overcome hurdles—from clearing clutter to feeling more comfortable with the process. My mom tells me weekly how grateful she is.

This year, we expect to spend one last Thanksgiving at my parents’ house. We’ll take the customary front-porch photo. And if the stars align and my parents find someone who loves the house as much as they have, they’ll be living near me next November, and we’ll spend Thanksgiving at my house, reminiscing about Thanksgivings past. It won’t be the same, but it will be just as good in its own way.

Stacey Moncrieff

Stacey is director of content strategy for the National Association of REALTORS® and editor-in-chief of REALTOR® Magazine. In addition, she oversees the quarterly REALTOR® Association Executive magazine and manages a variety of e-communications for REALTORS® and REALTOR® association executives. She has been with the NAR for more 30 years, starting as an associate editor with Real Estate Today magazine, where she covered sales and finance topics.