It may have been just last year that your youngest moved out of the home. Maybe they are off to college, or maybe they are renting an apartment. Either way if you are reading this page, you are considering downsizing and what that means to your life, your family, and your home.
In the most general terms, it usually involves selling your existing home, and purchasing a smaller home or condo or townhouse. But the results are similar: less space and less cost.
Choosing to live in less space is an idea that many people have thought of; just look at the tiny house movement. Maybe that small isn't for you, but choosing a smaller single family home, condo, or townhome might be. With less maintenance and cleaning, the extra time can go toward things you want to do.
What happens if an adult child moves back home? Can you accommodate that in a smaller home? Should you make sure you have enough space in case that happens?
What if elderly parents need full-time care? Can you bring them in your home?
What if a spouse has limited mobility?
What will I miss with a smaller home?
There are many things to consider when downsizing your home. There a number of benefits as well as downfalls with downsizing. I have gathered a list of some of the most popular items to consider when downsizing.
Smaller house usually means smaller expenses. If you have a mortgage, a smaller house will almost always cost less, and have a smaller mortgage payment. Besides the mortgage itself, taxes are usually lower as well. These monthly expenses really add up quickly. Consider if you have a mortgage on a house of $400,000 and are downsizing to condo with a mortgage of $275,000. The monthly payment (at 4.25% for 30 years) is $1967 versus $1352, a $600 difference per month. Tax savings would be $5400 versus $3800, or a $133 difference per month. You'll have to add in the association dues for the condo or townhouse of about $300. That's a total savings of $430 per month.
Utilities should also end up being less expensive since it'll take less to heat and cool a smaller house. Heating and cooling is really defined by the amount of space to be conditioned. Along with heating and cooling, water and electricity should also be less.
With smaller a smaller house there is usually less maintenance involved. Less number of bathrooms to clean. Less overall space to clean. Fewer appliances to maintain.
With downsizing, there are drawbacks as well. The main drawback is that space will be limited. This is especially true of storage space. Over many years, most people accumulate a lot of stuff and need a place to keep everything. This also includes garage space. Smaller houses (and condos and townhouses) usually can't accomodate a 3-car garage. So no room for the boat, or the snowmobiles or trailers and the like.
The smaller house may also change your lifestyle. If you like to host larger parties, make sure your smaller house can accommodate that. Keep in mind spaces for adult children if they are prone to visiting.
If your current house is paid off, then unless you want to try a simultaneous closing on both houses, you may need to get a mortgage for a short while. Else you may need to take out a small mortgage until you can sell your current house to pay off the new house.
When considering downsizing, there are several options of homes that you could look at. There are regular single family houses, along with condominiums, and townhouses. Each have their own benefits and drawbacks. If you are looking to travel more, and have less responsibilities at home, consider a townhouse or condo more than a single family home. The reason for this is it is much easier to pack up and go on a trip because the building itself is tied into other units.
With a condo, the heating and cooling and water are usually managed by the association. This allows you to have less worries about taking a longer trip as those systems are watched by others in the building. Also a condo usually has a limited number of doors so security may be better.
A townhouse will usually have more space than a condo, and may have extra garage space for storing items as well. A townhouse also usually has its own yard and maybe a patio that the condo won't have. But you are still limited in that you most likely can't put in plants or have a garden.
If you are looking at buying a single family home, you may want to consider future proofing your living by buying a rambler style houes, a one-story. As they get older, lot of people have concerns about navigating stairs. Having everything on one level makes a lot of sense. But many single-story homes won't have laundry facilities on the main level, unless it's newer.
Another consideration is what type of housing market we're in, and what type of house you have to sell. In a sellers market, it should be easier to sell your home, but on the buy side, you may be in competition with multiple offers on most houses. In this case, consider purchasing a home before selling your existing home. But keep in mind if you have a mid-bracket or upper-bracket home, even in a seller's market, these types of homes may take longer to sell than an entry-level home.
Putting It All Together
Now that you are all moved into your new downsized home, it's time to utilize the space you have.
A smaller home doesn't mean that we have to feel cramped and crowded. The gorgeous table that seated up to 12 is probably not the best option for the cozier kitchen you now own. Maybe a less plush couch and love seat are needed in the living room? The key is to make the most use out of the space available. We generally have lots of extra pieces in our homes. What do you really love? What no longer works in the space available?
Once your have the furniture you will be using, stage your home. Have you vacationed in a home away from home? Often these cozy stays are well stocked with the essentials and a few decorations, yet they feel like home. Color, textures, and textiles help make smaller spaces feel welcoming. Window treatments that allow the light to come in and smart storage solutions can make your new home feel open and welcoming. Many stagers that I work with will help people stage their homes to live in, rather than to sell. Hiring a stager to help you in this regard doesn't cost an arm and a leg either.
The trick is to keep from accumulating "things". It's easy to do as time goes on, but well, well worth it to have a "one in, one out" policy. When you purchase something you love, agree to donate or sell something you have at home of equal size. This keeps our wants vs needs in check. If you really love that chair, are you willing to part with the one at home now? If yes, happy shopping to you!
Often the items in storage fall under holiday categories. The best time to take a box and go through holiday decorations is during the summer. During this time, we are not as emotionally attached to any of it since it's hard to be in the mood in sweltering weather and all is green and lush around us. If you have 3 boxes of decorations, make a goal to reduce it to two. Or one if you are really motivated!
The goal, whether reducing furniture, clothing or decorations is to keep what we really love and release the rest to find it's new home- or place in the dumpster.
It's time to enjoy the lack of stress that living simpler brings. Plus extra cash month to month and less upkeep and maintenance? With all this extra free time why don't you take a drink out to the back porch and do a little relaxing?