By Christine Tumpson
Nobody said it would be easy. No one ever told anyone that life was going to be one smooth sail with sand dollars waiting to be collected upon the sand. The story we are told, somewhere maybe in childhood, makes it seem like it will be “The Family Stone” for all of us, where everyone comes back to one huge house where they all grew up, and where the parents live, with all of the children’s things still in their original rooms for the use of the next generation. But even that story had a tragedy that made it all seem slightly stuck in the past. That maybe it was better for everyone to move on, to take the next step, to end one chapter, and to start a new one.
A trend that is taking root here in the City of Pittsburgh is evident every time you cross a bridge: downsizing. Apartments, condominiums, and townhouses are everywhere, as well as new green construction along the rivers, renovations of old office buildings Downtown, and especially, the influx of out-of-towners who see the opportunities here and point them out to those of us living here who are beginning to understand why it’s happening, and why it’s happening here.
Downsizing is a national trend. People just don’t want to accumulate things anymore. We want experiences. We don’t want to be sitting in the den watching television all of the time. Some of the time, we want to be outside. We love to make our own food, but we also love exploring the exploding restaurant scene.
The trend seems to be that the younger generations are living in smaller spaces in the city, moving to larger ones in other areas if they have children in schools, and relocating back to the city once their children have flown the nest. Rather than suffering through the dreaded empty-nest syndrome, modern couples are heading back into the action themselves.
An exemplary couple is Dan and Steve. Longtime residents of a city mansion, they made a simple and quick escape once Steve had made up his mind that he needed to change his life. “When your husband says he needs a change, you go,” his partner laughs. Sitting at dinner with them, it was easy to notice their happiness as they finished one another’s sentences. “We loved our house, but we really had to draw it to a close. It was hard at first getting rid of things, but we made deliberate decisions and that helped. Plus, it’s nice to have everything right where I can find it now.”
Now is their new townhouse in a riverfront community, with new neighbors, new remodeling projects, and lots of time to spend outdoors. Steve effuses, “I ride my bike every morning along the trail, we walk it with the dogs at sunset with our glasses of wine, and we have made new friends. Our kids thought we would be sad, but we are having a great time!” As for their children’s thoughts? “We get together on family vacations more.”
The City of Pittsburgh is taking note of every single one of Pittsburgh’s recent accolades, encouraging people to relocate from other parts of the country, usually in search of smaller homes. According to Forbes.com, “Pittsburgh is one of the 10 best cities to retire early, due to its reasonable cost of living and high quality of life score.” Match this with other rankings, such as The New York Times declaring Pittsburgh among the top-five cities where less than $1,000 a month can buy a home and National Geographic Traveller ranking the city’s culinary scene as a reason to visit in 2017. The expenditures of monies on experiences seems tantamount to large mortgages.
Realtor Maryann Bacharach of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services explains, “This is all true. Helen Hanna Casey tells us, ‘It’s not really downsizing, it’s right-sizing.’ I’ve been selling for 30 years, and this is the first time that a number of young people and middle-aged people are taking it down in scale. I show them a large home with a beautiful yard, and they say, ‘It’s too big. We don’t want that.’ Never before did people say that.”
And it all seemed to hit within the past two years. “It’s the younger generation who is driving the trend,” says Bacharach. “The trend is to move on, to not stay in the house. I do have some go against this, with even larger homes being built in newer construction. But the big new trend I’m seeing is that people don’t want the responsibility of too much house. They don’t want the constant repairs. Buyers want everything to be finished when they walk in the door, from the floors to the furniture. Staging is a big deal now, too. People are wooed by the entire experience of the home now, from the size, the location, and even décor.”
We only get so many decades in life, so rather than letting the toys in the attic become the ghosts of the past, put the Beanie Babies™ up for auction, and right size!
For more information, contact Maryann Bacharach of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services at 412.874.8465. maryannbacharach.howardhanna.com.
By Matthew Hacke | Photographs from Christopher Litherland
These spectacular residences help minimize the space you take up while maximizing your experience in the city.
Walnut on Highland
121 S. Highland Ave., East End — Starting at $1,100 per month
For more information, contact Walnut Capital at 412.441.0300. walnutonhighland.com.
Winesap Drive, Lawrenceville — Starting at $2,275 per month
For more information, contact Walnut Capital at 412.683.3809. walnutcapital.com/properties/lawrenceville-place.