Downsizing Baby Boomers Choose City Life

by Marci Williams,

I’m a real estate sales person in New York City and a lot has changed during my 33-year career, but a recent trend is one of the most exciting I’ve seen in a long time.  More Baby Boomers, people over 60, are leaving the suburbs and moving to the city.

Everyone has different requirements but they all want to enjoy the benefits of city life.  I’m working with Bonnie and Gary now to find them a two-bedroom apartment. I’ve changed their names, but their story is true.

They live in a big house in Brooklyn. Their children are on their own and the house seems empty and too big.  They began going to the theater, concerts and museums far more than they ever did before and like the idea of not having to drive.  So they are ready to change their lifestyle.

It’s taking awhile to find the right space for them because they want  an apartment with a big kitchen and separate dining area  where they can celebrate Jewish holidays with their family.  In addition, they need a building that allows dogs.  Their wish list includes a number of prized features including outdoor space.

I’m trying hard on this one because I know a move to the city means a lot for them.  And there are many like them.  The U.S. Census Bureau predicts New York City will be home to 1.8 million people who are over 60  in 2030.

Jeff and Jen, again not their real names, are recent clients who moved from San Diego and dramatically changed the way they lived. It was a second marriage for both and their grown children weren’t living at home. They visited New York on vacation frequently and when Jeff’s boss asked if he’d consider moving to the city, Jen remembers saying, “Who wouldn’t?”

Two of her children lived in New York and she liked the idea of being closer.

Their 4000-square-foot San Diego home found a buyer in six hours, and then we had to scramble to find them something suitable in New York. It also meant disposing of furniture the buyer of that big house didn’t want and they didn’t want to move.

They started out simply. They sold their cars and rented an SUV.  Drove across country and temporarily rented a small fourth floor walk-up on the Upper West Side. They planned to use it as a jumping-off point to discover the neighborhood and see if it suited them.

Jeff and Jen loved the area and began to hunt for an apartment to buy.  But they confronted the reality of Manhattan real estate prices and experienced sticker shock. It was difficult to find a one-bedroom to buy with the proceeds of their large California home.

I found a very unusual studio apartment that originally had been a one-bedroom. They liked it and discovered that even within this small space there was room for a convertible sofa for guests.

This was pretty typical of what I’ve seen people do.  Many adjust and find creative solutions to carve out a guest space or an office.

If you’re thinking about downsizing, be aware that it’s an exciting, but extremely emotionally fraught time. And it can be tough to say good buy to your old lifestyle and many of your possessions.

I have a few tips to make things easier if you want to sell your longtime home.

1.  Put together a team to help that includes an attorney, an accountant and a real estate broker. You may want to include your children.

2. While your home may be lovely, ask your broker to evaluate it and advise you whether you need to renovate or repair portions of the house before it is shown.

3.  Your broker may suggest “staging” or refurnishing some areas to make the house more appealing. Don’t resist this; it works.

4. This is a great to time to  begin to discard what you don’t need and no longer want.

5. You may also want to hire a service or someone who specializes in helping you prioritize what to keep, what to give away and what to discard. They often also help with packing and moving.

Marci is a real estate sales person with Douglas Elliman in New York City.


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One thought on “Downsizing Baby Boomers Choose City Life”

  1. While Ms. Williams would like to sell apartment in high-priced Manhattan and Brooklyn, this otherwise informative post should also note that the metro area has many urban bedroom communities (e.g. Fort Lee NJ) that offer downsizing boomers more for the money (e.g. 24-hour door staff, low cost off-street parking, swimming pools.) For city living without the NY hassle, look at
    (It’s also one way to change lifestyle while still remaining close to their suburban kids and friends.)

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