Space Needs for Empty-Nesters

by Rana WaxmanAugust 21, 2017

My next-door neighbors were empty-nesters for about fifteen minutes. That’s what my friend said it felt like because her college kids came home for their summer break every season. “I hope you don’t hear us fighting!” she stressed. Although I didn’t, I really felt for her. They had just sold their home in Boston and moved to a 3-bedroom apartment in Philly. Ah, finally an empty nest but then what? The answer isn’t as simple as it used to be when your kids left the nest. Today’s trends see two vastly different situations, each of which creates their own set of space needs.


Where are the Empty-Nesters?

True empty-nesters are, in fact, becoming fewer and farther between. A recent study indicates that multi-generational living is the new empty-nester. It used to be that kids went to college, and just came back for holidays. But not anymore. College kids may leave, but elderly parents are moving in and grown children are returning with your grandkids. Per the Pew Research Center, 60.6 million Americans – that’s nearly one in five – live in multi-generational households. Multi-generational living, as the name suggests, can be a domestic setting that includes at least two generations of adults or has a skipped generation (grandchildren) in the mix.

Multi-Generational Living

So how does real estate adapt to the needs of a multi-generational household? Some towns, such as Davis, California offer mixed-use developments. In other areas, builders work in conjunction with codes and municipalities’ rules and regulations. These often-set boundaries on what a builder can legally add onto homes (i.e. second kitchens and entryways).


There are, then, those who just adapt, not by moving into a new property, but by remodeling and renovating where need be (i.e. the kitchen or living room). My mother-in-law swears by an L shaped sofa as it’s a two-for-one kind of special, extra room to sit, and cleaner lines to open-up space. She also favors space savers such as a coffee table that has hidden stools.

Flying the Coop: Space Needs for Empty-Nesters

Of course, some folks say farewell to their flock, and move on. So, what exactly are the space needs for empty-nesters? Do you sell the minute your last child gets his or her diploma? Do you stay put and convert kids’ rooms into computer and yoga rooms? Some people will opt for function and staying with their roots while others might be ready for a next step.

Choices, Choices

One of the things to consider is obvious, but may not be easy to do. Your past housing requirements may have been circumvented by the need to be close to a ‘good school’ in the suburbs, or a house that had a huge basement. So now that these are not an issue, what do you want your space to do for you? Are you interested in downsizing but want guestrooms for good measures? Whether you are dreaming of living by a quiet lake or moving into ‘the city’, there are any number of approaches.

Supersize or Down Size

I recently read an article in the New York Times that spoke about one couple’s desire to super size and have the opposite of what they had. Interesting. What would that be for you? A condo with amenities or the perfect view of a city skyline? Sherrie Boyer, a realtor for Coldwell here in Center City, Philadelphia had the opposite view. She says: “It worked wonderfully for us when the last child of 3 was off to college, to downsize from a 4-bedroom house to a 2-bedroom plus den in the city…” Her secret is eliminating objects that are no longer used and needed. Emptying closets, rather than filling them to store things like rock band posters, princess sheets, textbooks and torn t-shirts. With new space needs, Sherrie reports her kids were quite happy not to return to their ‘childhood’ bedrooms.

Stay Calm and Live On

Whether you are expanding your home to include extra loved ones or wondering what to make of the empty nest, it can be a time to take stock. “I think the key is thinking about what you do–then relating those activities to spaces that can do double-duty. Flexibility is important, it keeps us young!” says Sherrie. Space needs are ultimately quite personal. Whatever you decide to do, enjoy your new nest, stay calm and live on.

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About The Author
Rana Waxman
Rana Waxman parlays years of work experience in several fields into web content creation aligned with client needs. Rana's versatile voice is supported by a zest for research, a passion for photography, and desire to provide clients with a purposeful presence online. In her non-writing hours, Rana is a happy yogini, constant walker, avid reader, and sometimes swimmer.