Above: Kim Isaacs enjoys the freedom of townhome living at Avalon. Photo by Kate Awtrey

We hear it all the time: less is more. The phrase rings especially true for older adults who are facing empty nests and are ready to enjoy the second half of their lives. Intown and north metro Atlanta offer many comfortable options for them.

“Baby boomers have spent much of their lives working and building their wealth for retirement,” said Dawn Anderson, Realtor, Dorsey Alston Realtors. “As retirement becomes more of a reality, they begin to plan their transition to downsize. Ease of life, proximity and affordability are certainly the downsizing common goals of most boomers.”

The trend of 55+ active adult communities continues to grow, Anderson said. “Baby boomers are well qualified buyers and know exactly what they are looking for.”

Avalon in Alpharetta
Photo by Kate Awtrey

Kim Isaacs, aged 58, said that her townhome in Avalon in Alpharetta gives her and her husband everything they want. “We had lived in our previous home in Johns Creek for 19 years. When our last child left for college, we decided that we wanted a change and really didn’t need a large house for just the two of us,” she said.

Isaacs sees the Alpharetta location as a big plus. “We love being able to walk to dinner, shopping and attending the many events Avalon sponsors throughout the year,” she said. “We can also walk to downtown Alpharetta and we’re a heartbeat away from the Verizon Amphitheatre.”

As the aging community continues to grow, the downsizing trend does as well, according to Aven Barbosa, Realtor®, Seniors Real Estate Specialist® with Ansley Atlanta Real Estate. “What we’re seeing today is only the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “The U.S. Census Bureau estimates more than 20 percent of Georgia’s population will be 60 and older by the year 2030, an increase of nearly 34 percent from 2012.”

The Charles
Courtesy of The Charles

She said that with more than 10,000 people turning 65 per day, more and more of them are ready to transition to smaller home. “We’re seeing a big spike in the new development of active adult communities throughout Georgia,” Barbosa said.

Lindsey Burroughs, Harry Norman REALTORS® Sandy Springs Office, explained that active adults, on average, move three times after age 50. The first move is the ‘initial downsize’, the second is the ‘half-back’, and the third is to ‘age in place’.

“The catalyst for the first move is typically an empty nest or early retirement,” Burroughs said. “These 50+ homeowners are excited to downsize, but still want enough space to entertain and room for traveling guests. Most will gravitate towards an inside-the-perimeter or metropolitan location.”

The Charles

The ‘half-back’ move tends to take seniors closer to family, where they can be near enough to visit but still have their own living space. For the ‘age in place’ move, the goal is a home designed to minimize the obstacles of aging with easy access to healthcare, grocery stores and restaurants.

“Transitional housing allows you to transfer homes within the community during different stages of life,” Burroughs said. “For instance, Celebration Villages at Forsyth has independent living, concierge living, assisted living and memory care all on site.”

The Overture at Lindbergh
Courtesy of The Overture at Lindbergh

There are as many senior housing choices as there are needs and preferences. Intown luxury condos at The Charles in Buckhead Village, 1010 Midtown and Emerson Buckhead offer stunning views of the city and an upscale urban lifestyle.

Overture Lindbergh has maintenance-free rentals for the 55+ active adult life. Lenbrook Atlanta, on Peachtree Road, is a nonprofit senior community that provides a full range of on-site health services. And Peachtree Hills Place in Buckhead, boasts 85 luxury condos and eight freestanding homes.

Brandt Ross, 80, lives in the Renaissance Senior Residence in what he calls the “Buckhaven” area, where Buckhead meets Brookhaven on Peachtree Street. He and his wife share a 3-bedroom apartment, giving them enough space for his man cave and her studio.

The Renaissance
Courtesy of The Renaissance

“I saw what has happening among our family, friends and acquaintances, and realized that the worst legacy that I could leave to my wife and children is a house filled with stuff,” Ross said. “I knew that we were just an incident, illness or accident away from facing a difficult transition of selling a house and disposing of a lot of things.”

The Rosses developed a plan to downsize and sell their house while they were still in good health, and made the decision to do it when they wanted to, not when they had to. Their plan included a move to the Renaissance. “We love living here because we can do whatever we want to…and still know that if something does happen, we’re in the right place,” Ross said.

Angie Ponsell, Real Estate Consultant, I Sell Sandy Springs, sees many older adults who move from 2-story homes to ranches. “The square footage isn’t as important as the layout, and they tend to prefer one level ranches,” she said. “Also, they want it already updated, with nothing that needs to be repaired or renovated.”

Renaissance cafe

She said that most seniors look for a home that they don’t have to worry about—a lock and leave—where if something happens, like a tree falls on their home, there are other people around to help. “But not all of them are interested in living among other retirees exclusively,” Ponsell said. “Many like to mix it up and live around families and younger people as well.”

Cluster communities that include single-level homes, or homes with a master suite on the main level, fit the bill well, Ponsell said. “There’s a need for more homes like that, especially with smaller square footage.”

Susan & Michael Jackson are retirees in the process of downsizing and selling their 5,000-square-foot home in Sandy Springs. They’re looking forward to a simpler, more flexible lifestyle.

“The more stuff you have, the more you have to take care of,” Susan said. According to her, the purging process is like going down memory lane. It’s difficult to stay unemotional, but it’s very energizing, too.

“It’s incredibly cathartic and especially satisfying when you’re completed,” Susan said. “It’s also much easier to do the earlier in life you tackle it.”

Courtyards of Vinings home
Courtesy of Harry Norman Realtors

Intown and north metro Atlanta offer many perks for older adults, including walkability, quality restaurants and nearby entertainment venues. Retirement communities also offer maintenance-free homes and active social lives.

“When many Atlanta residents consider downsizing, they first consider Vinings,” said Martha Chanaberry, Harry Norman REALTORS. “It’s very close to Buckhead and downtown Atlanta, and Vinings Village, with its attractive shops, restaurants and a library, is within walking distance of many properties.”

Vinings also offers a considerable property tax advantage. It’s unincorporated, so there’s no city tax. Once residents reach age 62, they pay no school tax, either, which means a considerable savings, approximately 75 percent of their tax bill.

Courtyards of Vinings

“The Courtyards of Vinings is a popular choice,” Chanaberry said. “It’s known for its active lifestyle, with a pool and tennis. There’s a very social neighborhood networking group that plans pool parties, Mahjong, progressive dinners, wine tastings and more. Also, it’s an easy walk to Vinings Jubilee area.”

By trading in their large single-family homes in the suburbs for intown or north metro Atlanta condos, townhomes or apartments, active older adults enjoy a simpler lifestyle. There’s less square footage to clean and heat, less housework and yardwork, and less travel time to reach restaurants and entertainment. There’s more walkability, more time and more freedom.

Kathy Dean headshot

Kathy Dean

Kathy Dean is a freelance writer and editor based in metro Atlanta.