There are plenty of reasons to downsize to a smaller home. Perhaps the kids are grown, and you’ve suddenly found yourself an empty-nester. Or maybe you’re sick of maintaining a yard and paying expensive utility bills.
Whatever the reason for downsizing, we know that moving to a less spacious home comes with a myriad of benefits. Your time, money and energy much of which was once directed at a large home can now be spent on other more important things, such as your family, work and hobbies. In addition, downsizing may help you meet your financial goals. Whether it’s retiring early or saving for the future, moving to a more affordable home will only expedite the process.
Here are things to consider when downsizing to a smaller home.
When downsizing, it’s important think about what amenities (if any) are important to you. For instance, if you’re moving from a house to an apartment, will you miss a private outdoor space? What about a pool or other recreational activities? Downsizing shouldn’t mean compromising your quality of life. So be sure that your new home whether it’s a new apartment or a new neighborhood has the amenities you want. In addition, having less space inside your home may make you want to get outside more. Make sure there’s plenty to do near your new home. Having recreational amenities, such as a club house or tennis courts, will give you a sense of community as well.
Close Proximity To Neighbors
Speaking of the need for community, how close do you want to be to new neighbors? In many areas, downsizing to a smaller home may mean opting for an apartment or condo. These buildings tend to have people living in close proximity to one another. For instance, an apartment building may have anywhere from two to 100 or more apartments under one roof. Before committing to a smaller home, be sure to ask yourself whether you’re willing to live close to others. If the answer is no, then you’ll need to opt for a single-family home over an apartment or condo.
Home Office Needs
Not everyone needs a home office, but if you plan to work, you’ll likely need some sort of desk set-up in the new home. Configuring a home office in a small home can be tricky. So, if you need a private room for an office, make sure the new home has enough space to meet your work needs. If not, you should consider either: looking at other homes or renting a shared co working space.
The Number Of People In Your Household
How many people are living with you? The answer to this will determine how small you can really go. After all, squeezing a family of four into a one-bedroom home won’t be easy. If you plan to downsize with your partner and kids, make sure you’ve worked out the bedroom situation. For instance, will the kids share bedrooms and bathrooms? Is there a play space for young children? If you’re moving by yourself, then there will be less considerations to make regarding space.
Your Need For Personal Space
How much personal space do you need? Are you comfortable living in a remote location or do you prefer to be near other people? While one person may need a private bedroom, bathroom and TV area, another may not need any personal space at all. In addition, while some people may be fine living in an apartment building with other people, others may prefer to live in a rural environment far away from others. Make sure to determine your personal space needs before downsizing. Those moving with other people, such as a partner or kids, may need more personal space than someone moving by themselves.
How many guests do you expect to have? When downsizing to a smaller home, it’s important to think about the number of guests you expect to have and how often you expect to host them. Is it possible for guests to find a hotel room or nearby rental home? Do you want guests to come stay with you? If you’re moving to a resort town or vacation area, be aware that you may end up having more guests than you think. If you do need a guest room, be sure to factor this into your downsizing decision.
Your Storage Needs
When downsizing to a smaller home, it’s important to think about your storage needs. Will you need a self-storage unit? Do you plan to donate, sell or toss your belongings? Does the new home come with a garage, attic or other space for storage? Will it cost money to store your things? Asking all of these questions should help you determine your individual storage needs.
Your Financial Goals
Does downsizing help you meet your financial goals? For many homeowners, saving money is one of the most important incentives for downsizing to a smaller home. Retirees looking to make their dollars go further, families saving money for college funds and individuals looking for ways to save for retirement will all benefit from downsizing to a less expensive home. After all, paying for a large home can wreak havoc on a bank account. From expensive utility bills and maintenance costs to high monthly mortgage payments and insurance costs, taking care of more space often costs more money.
The Size Of Your Furniture
How large is your furniture? Will it fit in the new, smaller home? Be sure to consider whether or not you will need to buy all new furnishings to accommodate the size of your new home. Many small apartments and tiny houses require smaller furniture. For instance, there may not be a designated dining room in the new home.
Instead, you may just have a small breakfast area. If this is the case, then you will likely need to replace your old furniture with smaller pieces that fit the space.
Your Future Plans
Finally, consider your future. Do you plan to retire and grow old in this smaller home? If so, make sure it’s set up to accommodate the needs of someone who is older. For instance, a two or three-story home with steep stairs is not ideal for an older person with mobility issues. Opting for an apartment building with an elevator or a one-story home is a smarter investment. If you don’t plan on downsizing for very long, then features, such as stairs, aren’t as important.
Pros: You Can Make Money Selling Your Stuff
During the course of a month, the Munsons underwent a massive purge. Munson’s wife set up an auction page online and sold both their TVs, as well as all the paintings and wall decor that filled their entire home. To get rid of stuff quicker, they offered many items in bulk. For instance, they sold two large bags of men’s clothes and a pair of shoes for $150. They raked in a grand total of $19,000 from sales. Whatever went unsold, they donated to the Salvation Army and got a tax write-off.
Con: Purging Can Be Exhausting
While you can make money from selling unwanted items during your move, the process of getting rid of your stuff can also be time-consuming and exhausting. When I downsized from a 500-square-foot apartment to a 300-square-foot one, I spent two weeks frantically getting rid of stuff I didn’t need or couldn’t fit into my new place. Taking inventory of my stuff and deliberating over whether I should keep or donate was a major brain drain.
Pro: Live in a More Desirable Neighborhood
As smaller homes usually cost less, moving into a smaller place could provide homeowners with an opportunity to live in a neighborhood or area that might otherwise not be affordable if they stayed in a larger home.
Pro: Fewer Costs and Less Upkeep
If you’re selling a larger home and buying a smaller one that costs less, you could pocket the profits. Plus, you can expect to spend less on utilities. The Munsons used to spend an average of $850 a month for utilities, and now only spend about $350 a month. Plus, they have water well, which cuts down on the water bill. They also dropped their cable and Netflix subscriptions and got rid of their TVs.
Con: The Costs of Moving
Then there are the actual costs of moving. While you could offset the costs by selling unwanted belongings and saving in housing, you’ll need to factor in hiring movers, and spending time purging and packing. If you’re selling your home and buying a smaller one, there’s the process of putting your home on the market, real estate commission and other fees.
Con: Less Space
While this is an obvious downside, you’ll have less space to work with. You need to be extra careful with what you decide to purchase. Living in small quarters means constantly making a series of trade-offs. While I’ve managed to barely fit a small drum set and an electric keyboard, I’ve had to say no to purchasing a guitar and had to get rid of piles of clothes. And depending on your needs and how much you’ll be downsizing, this could be logistically challenging or impactful in ways that extend beyond simply where to put all your stuff, points out Lerner. For instance, you might have less privacy. “There is a little less of it, especially when the kids have their friends over to spend the night. We can hear a lot more around the house when we’re sleeping than before since we’re not separated with hallways.
Re-Evaluate What’s Important to You
Downsizing to a smaller house can also provide an opportunity for one to better assess and hone in on what is important to them. Whether that means determining which features in the house itself are must-haves in expense of others. Or it could also mean divesting themselves, in a Marie Kondo-like purge, of a lot of their accumulated possessions which may be weighing them down in ways that may not register until after the fact.
Case in point: While Munson really misses having a specific place to store just-in-case tools and other items he only needs once or twice a year, he’s sure that if he and his family had moved into another large home, they would’ve filled it right back up with stuff. “But since we moved into a smaller space, it has forced us to think through what we really need.” “Now when we consider getting something, we need to get rid of something else to have room.”
Know Your Why
As it goes with most major decisions, get to the bottom of why you want to downsize in the first place. Do you want to pay less in housing, or live in a better neighborhood? Or maybe you just want less upkeep, or to live a minimalist lifestyle. For the Munsons, they’ve found that spending less time on cleaning and the upkeep of their home has fostered more quality time and brought them closer as a family. We spend more time together as a family, and find that we go outside a whole lot more. I only get one chance at raising my kids and so I am going to err on the side of relationship and spend more time with them than less.
Do a Test Run
If you’re not sure how you’ll do in a smaller space, finding an Airbnb rental that’s similarly sized to the houses you’re looking at. Then book a stay for about a week to get a better sense of what it actually feels like to live in that kind of space. While it might sound good in theory, it might not be practical, says Lerner. If that’s the case, you’ll need to revise your search and try to find a house that’s slightly larger.
If you’re mulling over the possibility of downsizing to a smaller home, you’ll want to look at both the advantages as well as the downsides. In turn, it’ll help you gauge whether this major move is the right one for you and your family.
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