College Kids, downsizing...what to Do??

Updated on November 22, 2013
M.R. asks from Ballwin, MO
29 answers

I am a mom to four girls and all but one is now in college. My oldest are twins and they are Juniors in college, the middle one is a college Freshman and our youngest is still at home and is currently a Junior in high school. My question husband and I are thinking of downsizing and going from the huge house to a spacious, yet more affordable townhouse. Our current home is a four-bedroom with a loft area and we have 3 full baths, a 2 car garage and 2700 sq. feet of living area. We don't think we need all this amount of room and the upkeep of the lawn, gardens, and outdoor space as the kids are leaving the house one-by-one. It is time consuming and also expensive for upkeep of our home if only the two of us will be left in it soon. We are thinking of downsizing to a 3/2 townhouse to give us less maintenance and certainly less cost. We have four girls to get through college so need I say more! I am still a bit hesitant though when it comes to this decision because of the fact that we have four daughters. What if some or all of them try to return home after college? I know two of them will pursue Grad School in their career choices but the other two might not. Also, I need to consider summers and other holiday breaks when they all come home. I don't want for us to be all over each other or feel like we are now packed into a sardine can. However....I have looked at a few townhomes where we live and I love them! They are brand new, wonderfully appointed, nice space, and I love the low-maintenance factor and all the great amenities the communities around us have. I can ditch our HOA, the gym membership, no lawn fees, and the have 2 huge heated pools and 2 hot tubs too! Should I be more concerned about my kids returning home after life at college or our wish to downsize and save money and eliminate the time we spend maintaining our current home? When did any of you moms downsize? How was that transition? Having each of my kids leave has been a process but my husband and I are really young and want to enjoy our almost empty nest as much as we can. That's why we chose to start a family right away and in our early 20's. it has been a true blessing but I think this move would be the hardest one of all. Any opinions or comments on this subject? What things should we think about practically if we transition from a large home to a townhouse when we are parents of four? Did any of your college kids come back home after they graduated? If long?

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answers from Washington DC on


Sorry - 2700 is not "huge". It's a normal size. I have 3k sq ft - 5 beds, 3 full baths, 2 car attached. It's NOT huge by my estimation.

Huge? My girlfriend's over 10K 8 bed, 8.5 bath, 3 car attached garage...that's HUGE...I think my whole house could fit on her first level...THAT'S HUGE in my book.

Would I downsize right now? Nope. I would wait until I've got all my kids through college and on their own.

Hope that helps!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chattanooga on

They are adults... If they don't feel like sharing space when they come to visit, they can get a hotel. Lol.

I say go for it!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

You need to do what is best for you. But think about this. How will you celebrate holidays? You have 4 daughters as they each get married you will add 4 more people to the dinner table they each have 1 child and suddenly you have another 4 spaces needed for dinner. So 4 daughters + 4 husbands + 4 grandchildren is 12 extra people sitting down for Christmas dinner. If you downsize to a two bedroom, look carefully at the floor plan. Is there a dining room? Is there a space, basement family room maybe where you could host family dinners?
You could also have a sleeper sofa in case someone needs to sleep over for a few nights or for other guests.
We had a bad storm blow through last summer and my daughter lost electric for 2 days, so no refrig or stove. I just said, pack up the refrig and some clothes and come on over I have space.
Just a thought.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Chicago on

I would not downsize until they are all out of college unless you are booting them the minute they graduate. We had 3 in college at the same time. With one much younger. The older are all out of college now. Youngest is a senior in high school. The older all needed some time to find jobs. They all came home. And one came home after a divorce. The middle son and his new wife (got married in April of this year) came and asked if they could live with us for a year while they pay off school debt and save for a house. They all paid us rent. Helped with cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, yard work etc.

We will be looking to downsize in a few years but in the mean time when our children are all home with spouses, grandchildren etc the 2800 square foot house we have seems small. It's hard to imagine having them somewhere smaller.

Keep your home a while longer and make them help if/when they are home.

If you are set on downsizing now let the kids be aware of it. Don't blindside them.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Albany on

Not that it's up to them, but what do your kids think?


6 moms found this helpful


answers from Richland on

I have two kids living on their own, two in school. No way I will ever downsize. I want my kids to know they are always welcome to visit. For Thanksgiving I have one daughter in from KC she has a friend spending the night Tuesday as a stop over for her going home...which makes me wonder if we are getting her Saturday as well.

Kids don't have to move back to need a place to stay. I also love taking care of my gardens and yard.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

My mom didn't downsize for a long time, only after I got married she finally moved to a smaller place. I was in and out of my childhood home for years during my twenties: after relationships ended, in between apartments, in between jobs... I really appreciated that she didn't turn me out onto the street the moment I turned 18 or when I went to college.

For us it is a family thing. In my family it isn't unusual for "grown" children to move back into their childhood homes for a while as they go through the growing pains of young adulthood. And no, none of us are moochers - it's just temporary and simply the way our family works.
I certainly want to have the same open door policy for my child when she grows up.

I'd say if it is not too much of a financial burden and if you would be ok with your kids returning I'd say wait.
Good luck.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Personally, I would plan on having the kids move back home after college therefore I would not downsize unless their was a basement that could be finished to include 2 bedrooms, a bathroom and living area for a couch and tv. Therefore once again you will have 4 bedrooms and 3 baths but at least it will be less expensive and you won't have the current maintenance worries to deal with. (FYI... My parents didn't downsize until we were all married. My siblings and I did not move out until we got married besides going away for college.)

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Personally, I would stay put for a few years.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Wichita Falls on

The first time I came home from college, I shocked to find that MY room was now a sewing room. The message was clear, "We love you and you are welcome to visit any time". If you feel hesitant, think on it this way, the money you save can be put aside to help your children set up their own homes if they need the help. Children need to leave the nest, they need to try and fail and try again. Move and be happy, you'll still have room for them to visit.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My one and only child with no regrets, daughter 18, left for college this year.

We ended up buying a condo for her that is in a very upscale, great, safe neighborhood in West Plano which is about 15 minutes from her classes and about 20 minutes from our house. She loves it, has adjusted well and we lunch about once a week plus she can come home do to laundry and grocery shop from my fridge, pantry and freezer, HA HA

That brings us to now.. what to do. We have 4000+SF and daughter has used the entire upstairs since we built this house around 2000. Upstairs has 3 bedrooms, game room, library, 2 baths. When daughter moved, she took a lot of furniture that was designated for her so now I have 1 guest room that is furnished upstairs and 2 large empty bedrooms. Hubby offices our of the game room upstairs. I office from the MIL suite downstairs.

We can easily live comfortably downstairs which is huge but then we have an entire upstairs that houses a couple of empty rooms right now and all of the things we have saved and stored.

I know your feeling, we have toyed with downsizing but we love our home. We have 3 dogs and a large yard with wildlife behind us. We have PRIVACY which I adore and do not want to give up.

For now, we have decided to stay put. We know daughter is looking at grad school as well. We have saved and planned since before she was born in order to get her out of college debt free and as of now she is set. Also, There is no way we could get another 3.5% mortgage and this mortgage is almost paid in full. We have no mortgage on the condo. I prefer not to have that debt again so we can retire earlier. We are almost there... just not quite ready to bite that bullet plus we are workaholics and I don't think we'll ever stop working. Our daughter has contemplated taking over our company so we do plan to keep it healthy and sound until she makes decisions after grad school She shadows me now so it wouldn't be a surprise.

It just makes more sense for us to stay put right now because we love our home, we love our large lot and we love our privacy. She also talks about bringing her family here for the holidays in years to come. I don't see her coming back to live with us since she has her own place now but if she ever needed to, I am glad I have to space available and we have enough space that everyone has his/her own space around here which is nice... no overcrowding.

You just have to make priorities and see what best fits for your family. We have gone back and forth many times just like it sounds like you are doing.

Best wishes.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Almost everyone I know has college kids coming back. Sometimes for a few months, sometimes a few years.
We plan to downsize to a smaller, more urban place when our HS freshman goes off to college.
The older two are in college (freshman and junior) but come home (and work) during their breaks.
If you downsize, make sure it's a three bedroom, you'll probably need it!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Me personally? I woudln't downsize. They very well may come home for summers or to get on their feet after college. Doesn't mean they need the luxury of an average size home, but it would be nicer than squishing in where there really isn't room. Our house is 3k square feet and it's just right for the 5 of us now, I imagine when they are teens I'll want more space, but we'll see.

My parents kids are 32, 30, 29, 26, and 25. The 26 year old still lives at home. He moved back in a few days after the 25 year old moved out a couple of years ago. The 32 year old lived there on and off until a few years ago. The 29 year old was there on and off until about 5 years ago as well. I moved out at 20 and never went back. So everyone is different.

You do what's right for you...but I'd want space for grandkids (hopefully far in the future for me) and for my family to have space when they came back...but that's me.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I will be in your shoes very shortly. I have boys, so I do think it's a bit different. Boys need to get out on their own so that they have to learn to take care of themselves. Having a woman in the home with them just prevents them from being really responsible. I think that young men need to learn domestic survival skills away from mom in order to be good husbands. Will my boys be coming home to live with me? No.

They will, however, come and spend some time in our home during vacations. Does that mean they'll have a lot of room to spread out? No. I've already downsized by half after my first one went to college. In the next few years, I'll downsize some more. I don't need as big a house as I have had. It's just more to clean and stuff to take care of.

Plus, if kids always have in the back of their heads that they can come home and not work hard to find their own way after college, then they will miss out on important opportunities. There's nothing wrong with kids having to do without some in order to get them to really strive.

Although you have girls, I really think you should be thinking along similar lines. Really now - how would you feel if all 4 girls ended up making your home a sorority house. They'd end up possibly buying phones with all the newest bells and whistles, clothes, purses, shoes etc that they don't need, spending too much on a car (all those cars all over your driveway or lawn) and not learning how to live on a REAL budget. They'd be expecting you to keep them on your family cell phone plan, pay their car insurance or keep them on your policy, cook for them, buy groceries, etc. When kids come home, no matter how long they've been gone, they just expect for you to take care of them. It's important to help them understand that they need to take care of themselves. They can come home to visit, but then they need to go and be the young adult you have groomed them to be.

Downsize, mom. You can still enjoy them when they visit, but make sure it's a visit.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Is the cost of that place less than your mortgage? We have about the same size house, one out of college, at home, one in college. Son's gf stays in the extra bedroom sometimes. It's nice to have a separate living room space for them. But the question also crosses our mind.

But marriage and grand babies makes us hesitate.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

Typically I'm very in the camp of supporting your kids, let them move home etc. I did it at times and as someone else said, am in no way a moocher. It helped me save for graduate school so I didn't graduate with tons of debt etc. Now I repay my parents in ways bc I am financially very sound. So no way to I say boot the kids out bc otherwise they'll never learn... It can jsut cost them a lot in interest and other expenses so it takes them even longer to be comfortable financially. But in your case, what are the odds all four will return at the same time?... I will say I also don't think 2700 sq ft is huge at all! Especially not for a family of 6. We are 4 in 2600 sq feet and I don't even say we have a big house. My friend has 4k sq feet and I consider that really big but not huge. So givne your family's size, it wouldn't be crazy to stay a few more years. I remember my parents would have moved at some point to a smaller home but the ones my mom liked were brand new so as expensive as our bigger house with more land. I would have understood though. So long as there was a place for me at home still, it would have been fine. But I was one of 2 kids... So I would either wait till your twins graduate and have jobs so you know their plan. It's only a couple of years. But if you really don't want to wait, go for it. 3 bedrooms is only one less than now. If it's really saving you a lot, then you can help them more financially so that's a reasonable trade off. It is nice to have room for everyone at the holidays as they have kids and all but big picture that's a small # of days out of the year. Really do the math and see how compelling it is. Townhouses of course have HOA fees and often assessments. So make sure it's that much cheaper. As your kids are older, can you do the lawn work as your exercise..? My parents did that. And I"m all over the place as this question really does have pros and cons but remember that if you are actually that young, you have lots of years to live in a townhouse. My parents weren't young and it still seems like an eternity since I moved out once and for all.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I recommend that you make this decision based upon your financial future, retirement planning and life style interests.

Just because 'a lot' of graduates return home after college, doesn't mean you have to maintain a proper bedroom for them to occupy for long periods of time.

I have one daughter past college and her bedroom is the guest room now. And she is a guest when she's here, and the dresser and closets are full of her things that have not left with her.

Personally, I know what you are talking about when you see the simpler life style of less lawn/garden to maintain. Eliminating those types of labor intensive chores, frees you up to enjoy the 2 huge heated pools, hot tubs, and gym.

I would consider how your family likes to spend their holiday's? Do you anticipate everyone coming home for Christmas? Or does your family travel and rent elsewhere?

If you make the move, then plan your space well, so that you invest in good quality sleeper sofas, or install a Murphy bed to accommodate everyone being home at once.

Also, with a community as you describe, your adult kids will enjoy the many benefits of the pools, gym as well and it get them out of the house when everyone is at home.


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boise on

I have 2 that have moved out, one that stays with her older siblings during the week (for school), but comes home on the weekends and one that goes between my house and grandmas (will always live with one of us), and four kids at home and on a 4 bedroom house.

If the other kids are still coming home, and keeping your current house isn't breaking the bank, I'd wait. Even when I need the space, I didn't move the other kids out of the rooms, because they would and did come back home for periods of time.

If you're really, really considering this. Talk to the older ones, see what they say. They may love the ideal, just be prepared for them to not love it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

I know many people, who once their kids are in college or out of the house and have a big home...they rent rooms in their home. Or they rent their home. Or, to their kids who come back.
Then they get income from it.
Don't know your home's layout.
But that is what many people do in my region.

You have 4 kids. With a wide age spread. Your youngest still being in high school.
You either keep a home that can accommodate everyone, but not knowing if they will need to come back home.
Or, you downsize.
And if you downsize and your kids come back home, well they will all be in one room. And NOT have, their own separate rooms. And that just is.

Is your home paid off?

When I was still in high school. My siblings were in college.
My parents, downsized at that point.
They got another home, with just enough rooms for them and me.
And one guest room.
And well, the older siblings, got irked. Because they did not have their OWN separate room.
Well too bad my parents said. They were out of the house and in college and/or had jobs.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Do what's right for you! Downsizing can save a lot of money and give you "fresh" space. Most townhouses have either a loft or a lower level that can be outfitted as a den or office. Put in a really good sleeper sofa or a daybed that doubles as a couch in an office, and make it a trundle so that 2 girls can sleep there during breaks. Same with a 2nd bedroom - friends of mine used a trundle so that a twin bed was available for a single visitor, but it quickly converted to a king when a 2nd twin was raised into place.

When they come on break or when relatives come for holidays, they don't have all the stuff that "live-in" kids have, and most of the time together is in the public rooms of the house. Kids that have been away at school don't mind doubling up during visits home.

Knowing they'll be living in cramped quarters helps motivate the college graduates to find a job, an apartment, and roommates. With what you save on the mortgage and other expenses, you could give each graduating child a security deposit and first/last month's rent!

When our son graduated, he had a job lined up. He wanted to stay here for a while to save up money, and he did - but he paid rent, which was a good start in letting him realize that his salary wasn't all for fun! He took about 6 months to find an apartment with a friend, and he happily moved out. He really wasn't around all that much when he lived with us - up early, worked late, went out for dinner with friends, went running, hit the gym, and all that. He really just needed a bed and a washing machine, plus access to the refrigerator for breakfast. If you have 2 going to grad school, you'll have 1 more to deal with in a few years, and the youngest won't be out of college for 5.5 years. That's a long time to hold on to a house that's too big and too expensive to heat and maintain.

Resist the urge to store all kinds of kitchen gadgets and towels and so on - it's expensive to move and to store, and the kids won't necessarily use them. It's much cheaper to have a bunch of garage sales, donate them to agencies helping people who transition to new apartments (formerly homeless families, battered women starting over, new immigrants), or sell the better stuff on eBay or Craig's List.

There are a lot of people going into the business of advising those who are downsizing - they help sort, prioritize, and advise. It's usually worth the fees to save on moving costs and storage costs, and you get back a lot of that if you sell things wisely.

Spend the next year working with a downsizing expert while your daughter finishes high school. That will give her the stability of staying where she is through the end of her school days.

You might consider moving to a townhouse that's not far from where you are now, so the returning kids (2 younger ones) can connect with their friends when they are home on college breaks. But don't move to a place you don't love. If the kids are within easy driving distance of friends, it doesn't matter if you're actually in the same town or not. But remember that many high school kids lose touch with each other, and become better friends with their college friends. So they don't always have a social group to connect with after a few years away.

Remember that townhouses look great in brochures and when you tour the pristine models. Make sure you are okay living in closer quarters with neighbors. You and your husband might take a brief vacation in one (time share or other set-up) to see how you relate to the smaller space. I'm sure there isn't a ton of money left over with 3 kids in college but it might be a decent investment of your time. You don't want to regret your decision.

Overall, remember that your kids will not think twice about leaving you and moving away for a good opportunity. And that's as it should be! I don't think you need to feel too much of an obligation to stay in a big empty house just in case they don't get jobs! I understand your feelings - I had them myself. We are lucky our son came back to this same area for work - he now lives about 40 minutes away and we're grateful for that.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I think a 3/2 townhome would give you plenty of room if your girls needed a safe place to land while they launch into the world. I'd just throw a Full/Full bunk bed in 1 of the bedrooms so they don't get TOO COMFY living at home.

My parents have 5 kids, and we range in age from 35 to 25. Right now they still have the 2 youngest living at home, much to their dismay.

Our plan is to upgrade to a bigger home in a few years; live there until all of our kids are through college and established in their careers; then sell it and move to a downtown Chicago condo.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

You have done your job with the kids. Now it's time for you and your hubby to have/do what YOU want. If you want to downsize to a townhouse, by all means do so. You will figure it out if/when any of the kids come home. But the kids also need to understand that your home does not come with a revolving door. Either you're in or you're out but you don't come and go as you please.

I say consider what you and hubby want first and foremost. You have put the kids first for many years; now it's YOUR turn.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Do what is best for you. There are other options for your kids, and there are no guarantees that they will come home, anyway. They can get a place with roommates, which will be pretty cheap, and a lot more fun than living with mom and dad, imo.

Go ahead and downsize. The max you really need is three bedrooms, maybe for guests and a craft room.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Such an interesting question- and my husband and I have been talking about this as well, though we're about 10 years off from this decision. My parents have been in their house for almost 40 years, they just got so attached and always wanted to make sure there was room for us 4 kids to return. But now they are in their 70s and we have all been on our own for years. They can't maintain the house and it is WAY too much for them. So we are all in the position of gently encouraging them to downsize, but we know it will eventually be more of a push to make them do so for safety reasons (stairs, etc.). So looking back, I wish they had downsized years ago, because now the burden is on us. I realize this is not your situation, just giving some perspective.

So hubby and I were saying that we don't want to be in that position. We would like to downsize after our daughter is either in college or just out, so that we are young enough to move ourselves and mostly so that we have time to enjoy our new place. That's what you sound like. You are young enough to have a fresh start in a place that requires less maintenance and money, and have years ahead to enjoy it. You could definitely wait a few years, but you may not be able to find the same townhome you love now.

If you really love the new townhomes, I would go for it. There will always be room for the kids- just more cramped than you are used to. But everyone will be fine, at least you are together!

If you feel like there will be other great places to live, then wait a few years. I would hate for you to look back with regret when you have done such a great job of planning and thinking of everyone's needs.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I have a friend that purposefully moved to a small townhome with her husband just so her kids would not move back. As a matter of fact, they actually left the area. It's amazing how resourceful kids are when they have to be. Maybe some of them can get an apartment together...

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answers from Tulsa on

Do what's best for you now, don't make a decision based on something that may or may not happen in the future. I'm closer to your daughter's ages, and I moved back home for about 6 months to work before getting married. The house my husband and I bought belonged to a friend of mine's parents, they were downsizing since their youngest was a senior in HS, oldest had finished college, and middle was a college sophomore. The house they moved to didn't have a bedroom for each child, but since it was just holidays they didn't mind sharing a room, or sleeping on a sleeper sofa. Your kids will adapt to whatever you decide to do, just focus on what's best for YOU now!



answers from Sacramento on

we are kids....almost ALWAYS come back home, one way or another. short or long stay. its awesome knowing we kids always have a place to call home.

Here is funny idea....if you downsize to a smaller home, with little maintenance ( a home with an HOA ), consider purchasing a travel trailer. Its a private little place that is a mini home on wheels. When you need power, plug into your house. Its always there and when in need, ur kids have a place AWAY from their parents. Some travel trailers can sleep 6 comfortably.

In your new house you downside, have a separate living/dining room for large family get togethers and two bathrooms for guest. Make the home do-able for the youngest at home. Then once the youngest is off to college, u have an extra spare room for guest who don't stay frequently.

Just a i would do that if i had a few kids. It gives them their own space.



answers from Oklahoma City on

I think it's time to have a family meeting.

There are many families going through this same situation. If I had a large home like yours but had HOA fees and other stuff like you listed I'd not want to keep it either.

Tell the girls you are going to have a family meeting when they come home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, which ever one allows more time together.

Start the meeting off with some positive stuff about it all. Make sure you let them know that it's not the cost of college or anything for them. Let them know it's all about you and dad.

Take them on a tour of the townhouse you like. Make them part of it.

My cousin's daughter married a couple of years ago. She has a child now and a gorgeous home.

Mom and dad lived out in the country in an estate, a HUGE estate. They are older than me but healthier so it wasn't a necessary decision to sell out and move once their daughter was married.

They made sure to include her in a lot of the steps so she'd get the chance to say goodbye to her childhood, she lived in this house since her birth. She'd hardly spent the night anywhere else until she married. So it was her home, her own house wasn't her home as much. That takes time.

So I just recommend making the kids part of the process, listen to them. Let them have time to adjust to losing their home and not having it to come home to in the future for holidays and special occasions. That they'll have to pay for a hotel instead of getting to use their old room and having their kids play in their old rooms and with their old toys.

It may be hard for them to let go. Given enough time they'll grow used to the idea. I'd have moving day when they can be there too. They can help pack stuff up, as they do they'll get to have the opportunity to travel down memory lane.


answers from Houston on

Only Marie C. and I say it similarly. Go ahead and downsize. If they want to come back, I think a parent's door should always be open to that. If it's too tight, then they can decided to leave.

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