There are a great many reasons why a person or family might decide to downsize. Perhaps the kids have left the roost, the parents have decided to retire, or a family member cannot live alone any longer.
When a family home that someone has been lived in for a large part of their lives has, for whatever reason, become a little too big for the people living in it, downsizing is often the logical next step, but that doesn’t mean that deciding to downsize isn’t also an emotionally loaded decision. It makes sense that moving from this space can be especially hard for older people, who may have associated it with the concept of home for decades of their lives.
Hard as it may be to downsize, though, this decision holds numerous benefits, not least of which having a positive financial impact on the people that are downsizing. Downsizing also means less upkeep and maintenance – something that can vastly impact the lives of the elderly, who may not be able to keep up with all of it, anyway.
What is downsizing?
When we talk about “downsizing”, we are referring to moving from one home to another – usually to a property that is quite a bit smaller and easier to manage. If a person is having difficulty keeping up with mortgage payments or maintenance, they may feel the need to move into a property that is more suited to their current lifestyle.
When is it the right time to downsize?
People may decide to downsize for a variety of reasons.
- The property they have is no longer affordable: It is usually advised that the mortgage amount on a property should not exceed 30% of the homeowner’s income. Once this happens, a home is considered unaffordable. When people retire, for example, their average monthly income can drop. This can necessitate a decision to move to a smaller, more affordable property. The same can happen if a person loses their job or takes a pay cut.
- Homeowners decide to cut costs in order to save money: Even if a home is affordable according to the 30% rule mentioned above, some homeowners might decide to downscale in order to save money for other things, like travel or retirement. Downscaling five or 10 years before retiring can leave homeowners with quite a bit of cash to use in retirement, as well as allowing them to already downscale on furniture and the like before making the move to a retirement estate or village later on.
- Home maintenance can’t be carried out as it used to be: Older people or people who have little time for home maintenance may start neglecting the upkeep of their property. Once this happens, it might be a good time to consider downsizing, as a lack of maintenance can lead to costly repairs and renovations a few years down the line. Opting to downscale a property before this happens is a wise decision that can save homeowners a lot of money later on, as well as making it easier to manage general maintenance on a home.
- Some of the home’s features have become obsolete: When people have children, they often look for specific features in a property. Once the kids have left to make their own lives, trimming and manicuring the large backyard lawn can become a real hassle, though. Other homeowners may find that the home starts feeling far too big at some stage – if the doors of the extra bedrooms and bathrooms are rarely ever open, what is the point of keeping a home that is not being fully utilised?
- It no longer makes sense to live in a suburb with young families: While the decision to move to a specific suburb, kitted out for and filled with young families was justified two decades ago, people may want to move to areas where they’re among their peers later in life.
- Remote work means people can live where they want: Where our office is located used to be one of the big reasons why people would move to specific parts of the country. However, the advent of remote work means that many people might decide to downsize their property, move somewhere else, and save on their monthly property expenses by getting out of the city.
The benefits of downsizing
Deciding to downsize is usually intricately tied to wanting to reap the financial benefits that getting rid of a bigger property holds. The home is often the biggest financial asset people have, and in this regard, taking advantage of the equity associated with a specific property can be a very sound financial decision, allowing homeowners to find another property without having to sacrifice too much of the profit they made on their first property.
Aside from the financial benefits, downsizing is also beneficial in other ways.
- It means less maintenance: As mentioned earlier in this article, bigger properties inevitably require more maintenance and upkeep. Not staying on top of all the maintenance a property requires can lead to a drop in its value, and may even lead to additional expenses once the home is ultimately put on the market.
- It can boost retirement savings: Downsizing before retirement can help retirees to have more cash in hand when they do eventually stop working.
- It reduces a home mortgage: It goes without saying that the mortgage on smaller homes is usually less.
- It reduces home insurance payments: The insurance on smaller properties is usually less than on bigger ones.
- It lets homeowners move closer to friends, family and/or amenities: Wanting to move closer to loved ones or important amenities like doctors and hospitals is often a big reason for people deciding to downscale.
The drawbacks of downsizing
While there are plenty of good reasons to move to a smaller property, it should be stated that this decision may be a very emotional one, and can come with some drawbacks.
For example, moving may require that one also downscale their possessions. This can be especially hard for older people, who may feel like they are letting go of memories and things that they may have had for most of their lives.
Moving to a different city or suburb may also mean having to say goodbye to friends and family members that have been a part of a person’s life for very long. Of course, this can be difficult to go through.
Insofar as it concerns the practicalities of moving somewhere new, it is possible that a person may not like the new city or suburb they move to. Depending on the area they choose to move to, downsizing to a smaller property also doesn’t always mean paying a smaller mortgage – something that can be disappointing and discouraging to the person who is downsizing.
De-clutter before you downsize
De-cluttering the home is always advisable before moving – whether the move is to downsize, or for any other reason. Your real estate agent will probably recommend that you de-clutter as a part of staging the home when it is put on the market. Staging the home lets prospective buyers imagine themselves in the space, but requires that homeowners sort out any clutter and also put away sentimental items and political or religious regalia.
Aside from home staging, de-cluttering the space will also make it much easier to move all your belongings to the new property, as well as ensuring that there is enough space for everything in the new home.
Where to move?
Depending on why they are downscaling, there are a few options homeowners may want to consider.
- Retirement communities
- Moving in with family
- Moving into a smaller apartment
- Renting a smaller property instead of buying
- Moving to a townhouse or villa
- Moving from the city to the countryside
Each situation is different, and a homeowner’s personal circumstances will dictate which option is best for them.
Downsizing is no small decision! Moving to a smaller property can be an especially emotional decision for homeowners who have lived in the same home for many years, but is often the logical next step in a homeowner’s journey, even more so if they are struggling to keep up with mortgage payments or maintenance.
People decide to downscale for a variety of reasons, and there are many benefits that this decision can have for homeowners. Aside from the financial gains that moving to a smaller home has, homeowners may also pay less on their home insurance, or live closer to loved ones or important amenities. However, this will also require that they get rid of belongings and furniture that have been part and parcel for just about their entire existence. This de-cluttering will make the move a lot easier when the time comes to do so, though, as well as helping to stage the property when it is put on the market.
If you are thinking of downsizing your home, let an experienced and trustworthy real estate agent recommended by Perfect Agent be your guide and assistant. While downsizing isn’t always easy, the right agent can certainly help to make it worth your while.