Filling up that ”new” extra living space in your home

By Geoff Kirbyson

Your last child has gone away to school or moved out on their own, leaving you with the biggest question faced by every empty-nester — what the heck are we going to do with all of this extra space?

This stage of life tends to hit in the mid-50s and while some have been looking forward to it for years, others dread it.

Regardless of your outlook, it’s time to make some decisions, according to Catherine Schellenberg, president-elect of WinnipegREALTORS®.

Many people dedicate newly-found space to the hobbies they’re developing, or planning to develop, in their golden years. That can include painting, other kinds of art, yoga, meditation or a library or music room where they can sit back and read a book or listen to music.

Some people turn an empty bedroom into a formal office while others may decide to knock out a wall of that extra bedroom and turn it into a walk-in closet.

One hobby that’s been growing in popularity for a number of years is making your own beer, wine and spirits. You don’t want to be mixing vodka in the bathtub anymore so dedicate a room to it and all of your equipment. If you’re more into the drinking part of liquor rather than the making, perhaps a temperature-controlled wine room would be more up your alley.

And then to burn off all of those empty calories, you could turn your basement rec room into a fitness centre with a treadmill, rower, some free weights and a TRX.

Just don’t let all of that exercise equipment turn into a very expensive clothes line.

In today’s housing market, it’s hard to find a way to downsize into a smaller home and make it worthwhile financially.

“It’s a bit of a myth,” Schellenberg said. “You can get a smaller house but it’s not necessarily a smaller price tag.”

For example, if you’re looking to move out of a two-storey, 2,600-square-foot house and into a bungalow, it’s important to understand you’re only going to get something close to your list price if a move-up family wants to buy it. On the flip side, demand is always high for bungalows.

“If you’re looking for something dressed up with main floor laundry, an en suite bathroom and a big walk-in closet, then you’re going to pay a premium for it, especially in a bungalow, which a lot of Baby Boomers want,” she said.

“That’s why I explain to people — I can sell you a smaller space but if it’s half the square footage, it’s not half the price. It doesn’t work that way.”

There are lots of times when people need less space to function on a day-to-day basis but the extra space will come in handy in the long run during certain times of the year. For example, if grown children come home for Christmas, particularly if they have your grandchildren in tow, you can put them up and be able to host Christmas morning, brunch and dinner.

Another option is taking in an international university student or a high school student from up north as tenants. This sort of arrangement isn’t like renting out space to a run-of-the-mill tenant because you’ll likely have to provide meals and a family-type environment.

“That’s a way to take that living space and get a little bit of extra spending money. It can also give you comfort that somebody else is in the house with you,” she said.