News

19 May2017

Urban life, mid-life: Increasingly, empty nesters are moving from the suburbs to the city

When their kids go off to college, some parents take the opportunity to renovate their houses. They might paint the living room or even take on a more challenging project like remodeling a kitchen. Tim and Megan McCreary were more drastic. They bought a new house. And it wasn’t simply a matter of downsizing from the 2,825-square-foot home they owned in western Henrico County. They bought a 106-year-old, 3,830-square-foot house in Richmond’s Museum District and undertook an ambitious plan to return it to its turn-of-the-century glory.

It was a coming home of sorts for the McCrearys, who rented an apartment on Monument Avenue after graduating from college 35 years ago and fondly recalled the pleasures and conveniences of city living.

“We’re close to work with the new house, and we can walk to restaurants and shops in the neighborhood,” Tim said. “Also, I like to mountain bike and hike, and the James River Park System is nearby.  In the suburbs, we were always driving somewhere.”

Thad and Eleanor Lewis followed a similar track two years ago, when they sold their home in Chesterfield County’s Salisbury subdivision and bought a house that overlooks Meadow Park in the Fan District. Like the McCrearys, the Lewises had lived in the city as a young couple, and they decided to return to urban living after their kids went to college.

“As soon as they were graduating from high school, we said, ‘Don’t be surprised if we move back into the city,’” Thad said. “We’ve always like the city, with its restaurants and museums,” he added. “It’s nice to walk in the evening. And there’s nothing like the Fan in the snow.” The McCrearys and Lewises’ return to city living isn’t unusual.

“It’s a real, live trend,” said Chris Small, a real estate broker with Small & Associates Real Estate. “Seventy-five percent of our business is helping people move from the suburbs to the city.” There’s a common thread that binds many of the back-to-the-city homebuyers, too.

“The people I see doing this are from their early 50s to late 60s, and they’re generally all college educated or beyond,” Small said.  “They’re doing it because they see the benefits of a higher quality of life.  They tend to focus their searches in the Fan, the Museum District and Church Hill, which are all walkable, with restaurants and parks nearby. It’s a lot more engaging.”

Small sold the Lewises and McCrearys their homes in the city, and he also helped both couples sell their houses in the suburbs. “We work both sides – we help them sell their house in the suburbs and find a house in the city,” Small said. The trend back to city living isn’t likely to end soon.

“You’ve got older people coming back to the city, and younger people are more likely to stay in the city,” Small said. “More and more people in both sets are choosing an urban lifestyle because it offers so much for them.”

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