For many retirees downsizing the big family house after the family has moved out is a typical decision. Moving out of the "family house" can be caused by any combination of factors. The big yard becomes a time consuming hassle to maintain and/or an expensive chore to delegate to the pros.
If the home is large say 2000 plus squares and/or has 4-5 bedrooms, this may be unused space when it's just one or two adults in the home.
Many people are tempted by the "condo" option. For some this is ideal in that you are only responsible for the space between the walls inside your unit. Condos may offer common area amenities like walking trails, swimming pools, exercise equipment, etc. These luxuries can come at a price usually in the form of high HOA dues.
A great alternative to the condo is a town house or row house. These can be reasonably spacious, usually have a common wall between neighbors and a smallish garage. They feel like a house in nearly every way. Often these types of properties have a small back yard that is easy to maintain and the front yards are routinely kept up by an HOA. If the common areas lack a lot of luxury items, the HOA dues tend to be fairly inexpensive. Unlike a condo in which the homeowner does not maintain the exterior structure directly, the townhouse is maintained by the homeowner. The owner owns the dirt underneath the unit and structure including the windows and roof. It is truly a bit of a hybrid when you think about it.
I believe these types of homes are ideal for retirees looking for ease of maintenance, a 'house like' feel and reasonable amount of living space. Town homes are typically priced well below the market for a similar square footage traditional detached house. Modern designs made in the 21st century often have double wall or heavily insulated walls between the units to avoid that 'apartment' feeling where you here your neighbors chatting at the dinner table.
I am the classic example; my wife and I live in a five bedroom 2500 SF house and we are essentially empty 'nesters'. I do have a son about to graduate from college so he may be back in the house for awhile, but his career path will no doubt lead him away somewhere soon.
I can sell this big house for a high price right now and move to a smaller less expensive townhouse pocketing a bunch of cash and saving money every month on the mortgage. A townhouse could be in my future, what about you?