February 3, 2018
Is it time to downsize? Here is a checklist to help you decide if now is the right time.
I’ll start by saying that I dislike the word “downsize.” It makes me think of a corporate employee becoming obsolete. But in the real estate world, downsizing takes on a completely different meaning. Sometimes it boils down to saving versus spending, choosing a new path, or simply making a change.
Here are 10 clues that it might be time to start thinking about simplifying your life and about moving to a smaller home. How many apply to your life?
1) You find that you're living in only 3 rooms in your house - the kitchen, family room and bedroom. How many times do you walk past your living room and say “Oh, that’s so pretty. Too bad we don’t use it more.” Or look at your dining room and think about the 4 times a year you actually sit at the table with guests. What’s the point of having rooms you don’t need?
2) The kids are gone and they’re starting their own adult lives. The kids might still come home, but as their own lives get established and their families grow, so will their need for privacy. Yet, they may want their bedroom to remain the same for when they visit. There is no law that says you have to maintain a shrine to your kids and keep an otherwise good room as-is for their return. I think you might be surprised at how flexible adult children can be. And it’s not a bad thing to treat them more like a guest once they move out. It helps them feel grown-up and helps you move on with your life.
3) You’ve had a bone break, surgery, or an injury, and you realize you need a first-floor bedroom. I am of the belief that every home should have a first-floor bedroom or at least a room with a full bath that can become a temporary bedroom if you need it. With aging parents and the possibility of your own joint issues, this is a must. It might be time to buy a ranch or a house with a first-floor bedroom for an aging parent or even for yourself if you’re thinking ahead. If you think you’re too active to need this, think again. It’s usually the more active middle-agers that need exactly this.
4) Your local real estate market is strong. Maybe now is the time to cash-out and put some money in the bank for your retirement. If it’s a bad market and you don’t need to sell yet, then don’t, and wait for a stronger market. But if it is strong, take advantage of it because you have no way of knowing what will happen in the near future. It’s always better to sell because you want to and not because you have to.
5) You expect major repairs or upgrades in the near future. Everything, including every utility and appliance in your home has an expected life span. This is generally 10-15 years. If you think that major upgrades will be needed soon and you either can’t afford them or simply choose not to undertake their replacement, it may be time to sell. Legally you must disclose what isn't working, but you do not need to disclose that you think an appliance is at the end of its expected life span. A buyer’s inspector will almost certainly advise the buyer of the above, but this is something that should be considered on a case-by-case scenario. If you're not sure where you stand, I'm happy to answer specific questions about this subject. Contact me if you have an issue you're concerned about.
6) You feel overwhelmed by “stuff.” I always tell my clients to take a look at one room at a time, then one cabinet or dresser at a time. I think you would be shocked by what you don’t need and don’t use. I like the top-down approach. There are many needy people and organizations out there, and who doesn't need another tax deduction? I was recently helping my mother decide about what to keep in her [huge walk-in] closet, and she had clothes dating back more than 20-years because she thought there was a possibility she might someday wear them again. Her local Goodwill was very happy with the donations.
7) You’re ready for a change. You might have dreamed of living in other areas of the country or even the world, but your ties and responsibilities to your current hometown might have made that previously impossible. Now might be the perfect time to start over in a new town or in a new state and see what that new life has to offer you.
8) You want to try a new style home. Are you tired of that 4-bedroom center hall colonial that you’ve lived in for the last 20 years? Maybe now is the time to live in a completely different style of home or even a condo. Have you dreamed of a contemporary “adult” home with tons of windows and light? Why not consider something different. If not now, when?
9) You want to travel more and need a turnkey house that someone else can watch over and maintain. This is when a condo becomes more and more desirable. Leave the exterior maintenance up to others and travel till your heart is content. Another option is to hire a professional property manager to help you both when you’re home and when you travel.
10) You have aging parents: If you're in the "sandwich generation," your responsibilities go well beyond caring for yourself and your own home. It might be a good time to simplify your life if you may need to help out an aging parent. This might include financial help by getting equity out of your home, or simply providing yourself with the ability to drop everything at a moment’s notice and go to them. If you have an organized life and an organized home, it will be far easier to be able to do this.
Downsizing might have been a dirty word many years ago, but my bet is that when you do it, your friends and colleagues will be envious that you were smart enough to think ahead and take the first step to simplify your life