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Rick Brewer

The real estate market being what it is, this might not be the most opportune moment for seniors to consider selling their homes and downsizing into something more suitably snug.

But Lucille Mihalic made it work for her. Four years after the unexpected death of her husband, Mihalic decided it was time to move to a condominium from the home she had spent more than 40 years. The home is a bit cozier and Mihalic, 71, has no more yard work and ridded herself of piles of accumulated junk.

She made the move in July.

"I put it on the market about a year ago then took it off during the holidays to do some restoration and put it back on the market again," she said. "I'm still adjusting."

There's a moment when just about every senior, or married pair of seniors, may come to the conclusion it's time to move from a bigger abode into a smaller one. That may be from a two-story house into a one-story if negotiating stairs becomes problematic. That may mean moving from a house to a condo, if home repairs and gardening become too time consuming. And it may be the decision to go from an independent lifestyle to an assisted-living facility if basic needs can no longer be met without help.

In any case, it's a big decision, one that usually requires family input and the advice of professionals.

"It can be such a trauma for older people because it's another of those decisions that force you to face your mortality," said Jean McGurk, a Stockton-based real estate agent who has earned a Senior Real Estate Specialist certification.

McGurk said there are several factors to consider, especially in this soft market with hundreds of foreclosures out there. Will you get a decent enough price for your house to afford something new? Will it stay on the market too long and keep you from moving into the place you'd hoped?

"You just have to take your time," Mihalic said. "I figured nothing was ever going to happen."

Other factors also should be addressed. Seniors may need to think about transportation issues, especially if they are no longer licensed to drive. They may need to include doctors in their decisions, if health problems necessitate a move. They should know their financial picture.

"People usually begin to think about downsizing right after retirement, even if it's years before they do anything about it," McGurk said. "There seems to be a pre-anticipation phase when seniors get their houses in order."

The one caution Mihalic gives seniors is to let the mind clear, especially if they find themselves without their spouse unexpectedly.

"Newly widowed shouldn't make a quick decision, especially if there's a lot of memories in the home," she said. "You need to figure out what your needs are, where you want to live, and just wait. You'll probably find what's right for you the way things are going."

Contact reporter Rick Brewer at (209) 546-8294 or