It seems like only yesterday you were having your first child and setting up a home for a growing family. Fast forward to today, when your youngest calls to say she's found the perfect apartment and that the chair from the family room would really fit into her new living room. Your downsizing journey has officially begun.
It's safe to say homeowners typically don't daydream about buying a smaller home. But minimal maintenance is definitely an upside to not living large. After all, the time and money you used to spend on cleaning and upkeep can now go toward fun things. That's why some people see downsizing as a step forward, not backward. If you’re thinking less space is the place, you're not alone.
HOW YOU KNOW IT'S TIME TO DOWNSIZE
Choosing less space often has to do with a desire to live simpler, whether you're retiring or just want an eco-friendly, low-maintenance lifestyle. When children grow up and move out of the family home, for example, Mom and Dad are left with an empty nest that's too big for them. Or if adult children have moved out of the area, parents may want to live closer to them and the grandchildren.
Many adults 55 and older are leaving the suburbs behind and moving into condos or lofts in downtown areas. Not only are these homes easier to maintain, but they are also in walkable neighborhoods with easy access to amenities such as culture, restaurants and nightlife.
Sometimes the choice to downsize isn't actually a choice. Some life events, such as a divorce or unemployment, are unexpected and force you to find a smaller home for financial reasons.
WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE DOWNSIZING? THE QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
How will other life events affect my living in a smaller home?
Consider possible scenarios you may not expect, such as adult children moving back home.
After all, one grown adult who's often off at college may not be too cramped, but what about a son or daughter (or even another relative) who may need to move in for other reasons? Would you enjoy sharing one bedroom and bath with them?
As you look for a new home, make sure it fulfills your physical and emotional needs as well as your financial ones. Just because you can find a bargain doesn't mean the home is worth it. After all, if you're going to make the effort to move, you should do it right.
THE COST TO YOU
It seems simple enough: you’re going to spend less than you would for a larger house, so the only financial consideration is, do you like to have more money?
How much will it cost to replace the furniture? “When moving to a smaller home, even furniture needs to be downsized,” says Ferraro. “Large pieces overwhelm small spaces.”
So if you have furniture that’s too large for some of your rooms -- that king-sized bed may not fit comfortably in a bedroom made for a prince -- you may feel obliged to get rid of the bed and buy something else.
How much will it cost to get rid of the stuff I don't need or won't fit?
If you don’t have a thorough plan for selling or giving away your things and you do it in a rush (giving valuables away to places and people you don’t truly care about), you may start to feel right away that you’re losing money.
Consider things like family heirlooms. Fewer rooms means less storage space. Karen Scott had to answer the question all downsizing homeowners need to ask: "What were we going to do with all of our antiques and treasures that we could not take? I had to make some very tough decisions, and there were some casualties. You hold onto antiques because of family connections, but really, they are burdens, and you are only a steward.”
THE HOUSE FOR YOU
In this particular stage, you're moving because your current home no longer fits you, your lifestyle or your income. You're looking for something more suitable or more economical, and your search should reflect that fact.
When it comes to low maintenance and convenience, an "attached" home -- such as a townhouse, condo, loft or co-op, in which you share walls and/or common areas with your neighbors -- is a popular choice. You won't have to worry about fixing the roof or mowing the lawn. But keep in mind that these homes are managed by homeowners' associations (HOAs), which collect monthly fees for maintenance services and impose rules for the community, so research the HOA before buying in a particular building.
THE NEIGHBORHOODS AND AREAS FOR YOU
If you'd like to stay in the city you're in, look for neighborhoods or communities with detached homes, townhouses or condos. You'll typically find a higher concentration of them closer to the center of town or downtown. This is especially helpful if you work downtown and want to keep your commuting costs low.
Oftentimes these neighborhoods are also pedestrian-friendly, meaning everything you need can be found within walking distance. Also consider buying in up-and-coming neighborhoods: you might find an affordable home that could potentially increase in value once the area is fully developed.