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IS IT TIME TO DOWNSIZE YOUR HOME?

Consumer advertising has conditioned us to think that bigger is better – supersize your meal, buy larger televisions, larger cars, and, yes, larger homes.  A larger home does seem to make sense in some situations.  For instance, if you are starting a family, or your family is growing, or you need to provide space for aging parents, a larger home could be a great solution.

However, there is a concept that is gaining quite a bit of interest these days – downsizing.  It is particularly popular with Baby Boomers who are retired or soon-to-be-retired.  Of course, there are other reasons for downsizing – divorce, a change in employment/income, death of a spouse, empty nesters, moving closer to children and grandchildren, etc.

If you are one of those people who has questioned whether downsizing is for you, let me offer a few thoughts that may guide your decision-making.

THE ADVANTAGES 

  • You will probably spend less on a mortgage payment and property taxes.  Or selling your larger home may provide the funds to pay cash for a smaller home.  That will increase your cash flow. 

  • You will spend less on utilities/energy. (That makes you an environmentalist, doesn’t it?)

  • You will have more time to pursue other interests or to travel because it will take less time to clean and maintain a smaller home.

  • Less space means you are probably not as likely to spend money on more consumer goods.

  • Less stress in your life.  Increased cash flow + more time + less responsibility = less stress.

  • Ridding yourself of some clutter can lead to a feeling of “freeing” yourself or lifting a burden.  Your children/grandchildren may want some of those “things” and you can enjoy the new life your children give to those items in their homes.

THE DISADVANTAGES

  • You may not have enough space to host large holiday dinners or to house several out-of-town guests.

  • You may feel that you don’t have enough space to “get away” or to have your own quiet time.

  • You may feel less important, or that you have lost some status that you attached to living in a larger home.

  • You may have difficulty in ridding yourself of some “things”.

  • You need to be cautious that, in the process of selling a larger home and purchasing a smaller home, you do not make a costly mistake in terms of capital gains taxes or that you buy into a pricey HOA that negates your savings.  (Make sure you talk with a financial advisor.)

 

NEXT STEPS TO TAKE

Answer these questions FIRST: 

How much space do I really need in order to be comfortable? 

What type of home do I want – patio, condo, townhome, detached home? 

Where do I want to live – another city, the same city, close to relatives, close to medical care, in an urban area where I can walk to shops and restaurants and other points of interest? 

What are my goals and interests and what type of housing will accommodate those?  How much money do I need to maintain a comfortable standard of living and will downsizing help me accomplish that? 

Will I need to spend money to replace things I get rid of – i.e., getting smaller furniture to replace larger pieces, or a different style to match the new home?

Once you have answered these questions, the next step is to inventory all your possessions.  Decide what to do with each item according to this list:  Keep it, give it away to children/relatives, sell it, donate it to charity, store it, toss it, and undecided.  Then start acting on the list.  Contact your relatives/children about picking up those items.  Contact vendors who would want to purchase items.  Contact charities about coming to get the things you are donating.  Move storage items to a storage unit.  Throw all trash items away.  Make decisions on the “undecided” items and act accordingly.

Talk with a financial adviser about your plan.

Next, talk with a real estate broker about your plan to sell your larger home.  Find out what price you can expect, how long it will take to sell it, and when to put it on the market.  Then put your home on the market.

Choose where you want to move and find out how much you can expect to pay for the type of space you have identified.  If you are staying in the same area, ask the real estate broker who is marketing your home to help you find a new place.  Start looking for a new home.

 Arrange for a mover.  Shop for new items you may need for your new home.  Move.  Enjoy your new freedom!