Sandy path with wooden fencing leading to the beach
Agent Insights Property Market Insights

New Journey: Empty-Nest Buyers Following Their Dreams

Buyers are using the downsizing or rightsizing phase of life to fulfill goals and ambitions—our property experts offer market insights and top tips for such movers

The phrase ‘empty nest’ has long had negative connotations as children become young adults and head out into the world, reinforcing the idea that their parents are left behind, mourning their absence from daily life. These notions are increasingly outdated, however, as so-called empty nesters redefine this phase in their lives and seek to fulfil a variety of exciting ambitions. Often this involves buying and selling property, and moving to a new location.

Although all buyers are unique in their desires, most empty nesters are family orientated, says Lori Schacter, real estate professional, Illustrated Properties Real Estate Inc., a Christie’s International Real Estate affiliate. “Often their priority is to enjoy holidays and family time with their visiting children, grandchildren, and friends,” she says. “There’s often a feeling of a new beginning and a sense of freedom to enjoy the fruits of their labors.”

It’s not uncommon for groups of friends to move into the same condominium complex, creating a built-in social sphere—Leslie Hogan

Leslie Hogan, broker and co-owner of Hogan Associates, a Christie’s International Real Estate affiliate, adds, “There’s also a sense of ‘if not now, then when?’ They have worked hard all their lives and now they want to enjoy life.”

Newport Harbor with boats with sails and masts
Known as the sailing capital of the world, Rhode Island, the smallest U.S. state, boasts more than 400 miles (644 km) of coastline. Newport Harbor is pictured above. Credit: Alamy

Hogan challenges the idea that empty nesters are always seeking smaller properties. “Some want smaller homes and condos, and others want large places where kids and grandkids can vacation together,” she explains. Condos do have certain advantages for some buyers, including the convenience to lock up for winter, and the lifestyle can facilitate new friendships. Or you could simply take your friends with you. “It’s not uncommon for groups of friends to move into the same condominium complex, creating a built-in social sphere,” Hogan says.

Schacter’s buyers are also attracted by “lock and leave” homes that are low maintenance, secure, and convenient. “This lifestyle allows the new homeowners more leisure time by delegating to a Homeowner Association (HOA) to take care of the property. Most buyers are looking for time to pursue other interests,” she says.

Desirable Water Views 

Hogan’s market covers Newport, Rhode Island, and the coastal communities around Narragansett Bay known for beautiful beaches, world-class sailing, and culture in the form of festivals, a vibrant art scene, and theater events. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a water view is often top of the wish list for her buyers and many are keen to join a yachting or sailing club.

“Newport is home to several active yacht clubs including the New York Yacht Club of America’s Cup fame. Sailors flock here in the summer to take part in regattas of every shape and size. if you’re not racing, it’s almost as much fun to go out and watch,” she says.

Golf course with palm trees and lakes in Palm Beach, Florida
Located between the Atlantic Ocean and Florida’s Intercoastal Waterway, Palm Beach Par 3 Golf Course was created in 1961. The course was redesigned and renovated in 2009 by World Golf Hall of Fame champion Raymond Floyd. Credit: Alamy

Schacter’s market, Palm Beach, Florida, also specializes in waterfront homes along with a country-club lifestyle which offers golf, tennis, and spa services. “Aside from the terrific weather, there is an abundance of casual and upscale dining, loads of shopping, theater, watersports, and close proximity to the white sands and turquoise water of the Atlantic Ocean,” she says.

How to Choose Your New Community

Some buyers know exactly where they want to be, but if you’re not sure, Hogan suggests thinking about how you want to live and what you want to do in your new community.

“If you like walking everywhere, consider downtown Newport. If you want quiet and space, look for acreage. If beaches are your thing, consider communities like Narragansett or Middletown with their long sandy beaches. Think about who is likely to visit. Do you need a bedroom on the first floor? Space for your dog to run? Picture the life you want to lead and match your house, and community, to your preferences,” she advises.

Schacter recommends drawing on the advice of the experts, especially when moving to a new area. “It’s important to enlist the services of a reputable experienced realtor. A firm understanding of the market is critical to ensure a good balance of financial commitment while minimizing stress,” she notes.

The Point Judith light lighthouse near Narragansett, Rhode Island, U.S.
Narragansett boasts four of Rhode Island’s most popular state beaches. It’s been a summer destination for Rhode Island residents and travelers alike since the late 1800s. The Point Judith lighthouse is pictured above. Credit: Alamy

In terms of the property itself, Schacter warns buyers to make sure they are aware of all the costs associated with a particular home including real estate taxes, monthly HOA fees, club membership if applicable, utility costs, homeowners’ insurance, and furnishings. She also recommends ensuring there are no unknown noise factors.

Hogan adds, “If you’re buying a waterfront property, make sure you understand state regulations around clearing vegetation near the shore, and the laws regulating where the public can walk along the waterline in front of your house.”

Property Market Predictions

In terms of market outlook, the pandemic had a positive effect on the Florida marketplace—the sunshine state was very appealing to buyers able to work from a home office. Looking ahead, Schacter reports that 2022 and 2023 are on track to be two of the strongest years in terms of sales.

“There are more buyers than available inventory,” she explains, which means, “it’s unlikely that existing home prices will drop significantly in the near future in this particular area.” While mortgage rates might affect the wider market, Schacter reports that her homebuyers are not particularly impacted. “Although the market is all about supply and demand, the most important factor is location,” she says.

On the Market

Magnificent Manor House with Water Views, Newport, Rhode Island

Manor House with wonderful views across the water filled with small boats
This Newport property, designed by John Russell Pope for Stuart Duncan, a Midwest banker and chairman of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce company, includes a shared pool, tennis courts, and a dock for residents to enjoy.

A wonderful two-bedroom condo, this home is set in a manor house with views of Newport Harbor and Pell Bridge. Offered for the first time in 40 years, this stately residence has showstopping potential with a private, gated entrance, a grand foyer, high ceilings, three fireplaces, leaded-glass windows, and original hardwood floors. The surrounding 12 acres (4.9 ha) were landscaped by the Olmsted Brothers, sons of famed landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted.

Banner: Path to Crescent Beach, Rhode Island. Credit: Alamy