71% of Empty Nesters Will Renovate Their Homes

A new survey reveals that nearly 3 in 4 ’empty nesters’ make home renovations after their kids move away.

According to a study by Esri, the median age of an empty nester — a parent whose children have grown up and moved out of the family home — is just shy of 49 years old. Considering the average life expectancy in the U.S. is approaching 80 years, that leaves a lot of time for parents to enjoy their space without the kids around.

And they are enjoying it. We surveyed over 1,000 parents — some were empty nesters, and some had just had at least one of their kids leave the house — to find out what they’re doing with their homes and newfound extra space after children move out. Unsurprisingly, a lot of them were excited to repurpose all that space to use during their golden years.

Key takeaways:

  • 71% of respondents made some form of renovations after a child left home.
  • The most common spaces they renovated were children’s former bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms, and kitchens.
  • Most parents turned their kids’ former rooms into guest rooms or offices.
  • More than half of empty nesters started renovating within a year after their kids moved away.
  • Nearly half (47%) said the changes they made to their homes are permanent — and nearly half of parents (43%) said they would only allow their kids to move back in under certain conditions, like in an emergency or if they paid rent.

Nearly 3 out of 4 Empty Nesters Renovated Their Homes After Kids Moved Out

A whopping 71% of respondents said they made some form of renovation to their home after a child moved out. The most common rooms they renovated were:

  • Their kids’ former bedrooms and bathrooms: 30%
  • The living room: 29%
  • The kitchen: 26%

Nearly 3 out of 4 Empty Nesters Renovated Their Homes After Kids Moved Out

The sheer number of parents renovating their spaces becomes less surprising once you ask them about the wear and tear they endured with kids and teenagers living at home. When asked about the ways their children wreaked havoc on their homes, more than 90% of parents said there was some lasting damage.

  • 38% of parents said they had chipped paint on the walls.
  • 31% said walls were ruined with holes from thumbtacks or nails.
  • 29% said furniture was damaged or stained.
  • 19% said floors were scuffed.
  • 20% said electronics were broken.
  • 20% said appliances were dented.
  • 17% said windows were broken.

19% said “other,” and listed things like worn and stained carpet, handprints on walls, water damage from clogged toilets and sinks, and burned spots on kitchen counters. One respondent wrote only, “it’s complicated” (and whoever they are, we sincerely hope their house is OK).

commonly reported home damage from children

The room parents said they were most eager to renovate was their child’s former bedroom, and the most common way they planned to renovate it was by turning it into a guest room, followed by using it as an office or an entertainment room. The top changes they planned to make were eliminating clutter, followed by painting, then refreshing the decor to make it more adult.

post renovation uses for a child's former room

The room parents were least eager to renovate was the dining room — only 3% said they planned to make any changes there.

24% of Empty Nesters Start Renovating As Soon As Their Kids Move Out

Most empty nesters said they started renovating shortly after their kids moved out. In fact, more than half (51%) started within a year, and 24% started immediately.

24% of Empty Nesters Start Renovating As Soon As Their Kids Move Out

For those who waited to renovate, the most common reason was so they could save up money. Others said they waited for their kids to graduate from college. Nearly one in five (16%) said they waited to renovate because they missed their kids and didn’t want to change anything in their home.

One common way for empty nesters to save money on their renovations is through DIY. More than half said they did all their renovations themselves rather than hiring a contractor.

most empty nesters diy their home renovations

Additionally, more than half of respondents said the renovations they did after their kids moved away were permanent changes. 52% said the changes were permanent, and only 26% said they were temporary.

These renovations may have something to do with this: Nearly half of empty nesters (43%) said they would only allow a child to move back in if there were strings attached.

43% of empty nesters would let a child move back in only with strings attached

Most Empty Nesters’ Kids Don’t Move Too Far Away

Most empty nesters reported that their kids didn’t move far away when they moved out — but that doesn’t stop them from renovating.

56% of empty nesters said their kids stayed within an hour’s drive after leaving the family home. Another 12% said their kids were less than three hours away.

Most Empty Nesters' Kids Don't Move Too Far Away

And because we’re pretty invested in the self storage industry, we had to ask — and it turns out that almost one in four empty nesters requires a storage unit for their kid(s)’s belongings.

nearly 1 in 4 empty nesters need a storage unit for their kids belongings

Survey Methodology

We surveyed 1,092 American adults who have had at least one grown child move away from home. The survey was conducted on Pollfish.com between April 14, 2022 and May 2, 2022.

Respondents were 45% male and 55% female.

  • 64% were ages 35-44.
  • 74% were ages 45-54.
  • 62% were ages 55 and up.
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