House Hunting in Philadelphia: How These Suburban Empty Nesters Downsized in Style

Bill and Jennifer Ware found their perfect lower-maintenance house in a Newtown Square custom model home.

custom model home

Bill and Jennifer Ware found their perfect lower-maintenance house in a custom model home. Photograph by Matt Zugale.

Who: Bill Ware, 60, primary-care physician; Jennifer Ware, 57, social worker.
Their target: A smaller, lower-maintenance house now that the kids have established themselves.
Their budget: $600,000 to $1.5 million.

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The Contenders

custom model home

A customized “Rosemont” model carriage house in Toll Brothers’ Liseter development in Newtown Square for $745,995.

custom model home

A “Hudson” model carriage house in Guidi Homes’ Haverford Reserve development in Haverford for $910,000.

custom model home

An expanded Pennsylvania farmhouse-style home built in 2012 in Bentley Homes’ Worthing development, across St. Davids Road from their old community for $1,175,000.

The Process

The Wares spent 20 happy years raising their three children in a new-construction center-hall colonial in Newtown Square’s Harrison Estate section. “When our youngest child went to college five and a half years ago, we started thinking about moving to a smaller home,” Jennifer says. But they didn’t pull the trigger until he was a year and a half out of college.

“We were always looking, looking, looking, but it was difficult to leave our house,” Jennifer says. Once the “chronic open-house-goers” met agent Maria Doyle of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach Realtors, though, they finally got moving. They explained that they had put down deposits on three different houses but hadn’t closed a sale. Doyle offered to bring around buyers who were looking for a house like theirs to get them off the dime. They agreed, and ultimately one family liked what they saw and bought it. The clock started ticking.

Bill preferred new construction: “We made friends in our old neighborhood because all the houses were being built at the same time,” he says. Jennifer still wanted four bedrooms so they could put up their children when they visited, and Bill insisted on a first-floor master bedroom. They both wanted a smaller yard with fewer maintenance headaches, but they still wanted the privacy they enjoyed in Harrison Estate, where their house sat next to a large conservation area.

The winner is … A carriage house in Newtown Square’s Liseter development. “They have a clubhouse and a pool and all sorts of things that are taken care of by the community,” says Jennifer. “In the St. Davids section, they take care of the lawn care and snow removal.” After customizing the house, they spent $1,036,000 in all.

Pro Tips If You’re a Down-sizer

1. Find an agent with the heart of a therapist.
Make sure you have someone willing to deal with the angst of the move. “Downsizing is usually an emotional decision,” says Maria Doyle. “Sometimes one half of the couple is on board while the other half needs some convincing.”
2. Consult your GPS.
Check to see how convenient your home will be to the places you’ll need to go regularly, like drug and grocery stores, health clubs, restaurants and doctors. You may want to consider a home close to public transportation so you can still go places if you stop driving.
3. How much do you like old people?
Consider whether you want to live in a community just for seniors or one where the generations mix. The Wares chose Liseter in part because it wasn’t a strictly 55-plus community.

Published as “Bill and Jennifer” in “Tales of the Hunt” in the March 2019 issue of Philadelphia magazine.