Downsize or cash-in on the spare bedrooms? It’s a question empty nesters may be mulling over. Empty nest syndrome is well documented, and there’s no doubt that when your kids have grown up and moved out of home, parents can be left facing a range of emotions.

Some empty nesters cope by renting out their newly-spare bedrooms on Senior Flatmates or Airbnb. In fact, a quick look around the internet shows this is becoming a striking trend overseas, and I suspect we could see the same pattern developing here in Australia.

Taking in a flatmate can give you social as well as financial benefits, as can hosting paying guests with Airbnb - and this might be a good short term transitional option while you adjust to your new stage of life and weigh up your options.

Data from Inside Airbnb shows nearly 33,000 homes are listed on Airbnb for Sydney alone* – almost 40% of these listings are for single rooms. It’s a reasonable bet some are being offered by empty nesters renting out the spare bedrooms to pocket a bit of extra cash.

We could all do with more of the folding stuff. But as Inside Airbnb notes, offering your home for short term rentals has its downsides. It’s disruptive for neighbours, it calls for a solid investment in public liability insurance – and it can make your home subject to capital gains tax.

Embrace the opportunities

There is no doubt that as we age we can face tremendous life changes. Our kids growing up and becoming independent adults is one such change. But it’s a time of life that can also be tremendously liberating if we embrace the opportunities.

You see, the literature on coping with empty nest syndrome often suggests that parents use their new-found spare time by rekindling old hobbies or taking up new interests. But hanging onto the family home can be an impediment to exploring new horizons.  

I wonder, for instance, how many 50-somethings are still spending weekends cleaning a backyard pool that no one swims in anymore? Or toiling away mowing a massive lawn that hasn’t hosted a game of backyard cricket since India won the World Cup (which, for the record, was back in 2011).

Research repeatedly shows that the burden of home maintenance is one of the key reasons Australians choose to downsize. And it’s not just about the physical effort involved.

Holding onto the family home can cost you

Large family homes call for an investment of our time to keep the place in good shape – and as they age, these properties often demand ever-more time, and money, in ongoing maintenance. The burden of this upkeep typically falls onto mum and dad.

Yes, downsizing can come with costs. Stamp duty on a new place is an obvious example. But what isn’t always factored into the financial side of downsizing is the cost savings that can be pocketed through less maintenance, or the savings of being close to public transport and only having to rely on one car – or none at all!  

It’s all money that can be spent on you and your lifestyle. And it can make downsizing a far more appealing way for empty nesters to navigate this new stage of life than opening their home to complete strangers they’ve met on Senior Flatmates or Airbnb!  

Greg Oddy is Director of Sales and Marketing for and