Signs it May be Time to Downsize

Amber Randhawa Homeowner and Homebuyer Tips

Photo Credit: Ian MacDonald @ianmacdonaldstudios

Anytime someone is in the market to buy a home, they are likely looking for something specific that will meet the needs of their family in its current station of life. Growing families with young children are often looking for more space or a larger yard. They may be changing locations to be closer to work or better schools. These families are likely in a good position to begin building equity and see a larger home as both advantageous to their family life and a good long term investment. But what happens when these needs change? If children are growing up and leaving the nest, all of that extra space can be more of a burden than an advantage.

It is not always easy to know when it is the right time to downsize, and for many of us, even if purchasing a smaller home is the sensible decision, it can be difficult to pack up and leave a well-loved home that has been the backdrop for so many of life’s precious memories. Sometimes the signs are unmistakable though, that the home you have raised your family in no longer fits your current lifestyle and needs. Rather than look at this as a sad closing to a chapter, try to look at this as a great opportunity to downsize your home and find new opportunities that fit your life now and continuing into the future.

If you are starting to wonder if now is the time to consider downsizing, consider the following signs to help make sure it’s right for you.

You Have No Major Ties to Your Location

Photo Credit: Olena Sergienko @olenka_sergienko

Is your home located close to your children’s schools? Or did you seek to avoid a long commute by purchasing your family home close to your work location or that of your spouse? Did you purposefully choose a location nearby to your own aging parents so that you could be conveniently close to assist with daily tasks and doctors appointments? Those are great reasons to choose a location, but life changes may mean that the you are no longer tied to that area. If your kids have graduated from the local schools, your parents have passed away, or if you have either retired or transitioned to working remotely, you may find yourself with much more flexibility in terms of location.

Having this flexibility can open doors that you never thought were possible in the past. Have you always wanted to live in the city, but weren’t pleased with the public schools in that area? Or have you always wanted to own a larger property in a rural area, away from the hustle and bustle? That may have been too far from your job to have been feasible in the past, but if you are not driving into the city every day anymore, it is now a possibility. You may even be considering purchasing an RV and maintaining only a very small “home base” while you travel and explore. Once you are no longer tied to a specific location, your options for housing are much wider and varied.

You Have Unused Rooms

The trend throughout the last several decades is to build homes bigger and better than ever before, with more bedrooms than would have been typical in generations past. While our parents and grandparents likely shared rooms with a sibling throughout their childhoods, we now want a separate room for each kid, with another designated for guests and perhaps even an in-law suite for an aging parent. Once those rooms are no longer needed for these purposes, you may find that you have far more guest rooms than you have guests. Likewise, if you were a frequent host to gatherings when your children were littler and/or you had more family and friends living close by, you may find that over time your formal dining room and sitting rooms are not being used in the same way they once were.

The same is true of the large yard you may have been looking for when you purchased your home. If you no longer need room for a children’s playset, trampoline or space to practice football, that expansive backyard may be more of a sore point than an advantage as you find it difficult to stay on top of yard upkeep. Even if you hire a service for landscaping, it might be frustrating to pay for the management of a part of your property that you rarely use or take advantage of. Downsizing in space could be the answer to this frustration.

One of the most challenging things about downsizing is the decluttering process that must take place first. If you find yourself with unused rooms and you are considering selling your home for something smaller, go ahead and get started on the decluttering process early. Deciding what you do and don’t need to take with you on your next move early can help you better decide what size home and what rooms you actually need when you downsize.

Your Lifestyle has Changed

Photo Credit: Dillon Kydd @kyddvisuals

If you have been in your home for a couple of decades, it is likely that your hobbies and interests have changed somewhat over the years. The reason young families flock to the suburbs if often to have everything they needs close by, so that afternoons filled with piano and swim practice, orthodontist appointments and teacher conferences are easier to navigate. When retirement hits and your children have moved out, you may recognize that you’re ready for a change of pace.

Think about the things that give you the most joy as you consider what you want your new lifestyle to look like. If your priorities are to stay active and well connected to a social group, an in town condo or 55+ community with smaller houses may make more sense than a large home in the suburbs. Living in the city could mean closer proximity to parks and gyms and other ways to stay active. Alternatively, if your retired lifestyle will involve fishing, horseback riding and hiking, moving farther away from a large city may work out better for you.

Maintaining Your Home has Become Difficult

Photo Credit: Matthew @sir_jarvis

Maintaining a large home with a sizable yard can be a hefty undertaking, even for someone young and active. It seems there is always yard work to be done, small leaks to repair and gutters to clean. Just when you are past the constant grass mowing of summer, the autumn leaves begin to fall and you are faced with a never ending cycle of raking, blowing or bagging. Ideally, once these chores become too much of a hassle, you will be able to find a service to take care of things for you. But even that may seem like more trouble than it is worth if you are no longer using your large backyard or significant parts of your home.

Luckily there are many options around Atlanta for low maintenance or even maintenance free living. You may be far from the age and condition where you will need the level of assistance found in assisted living facilities, but an active adult community made up of condos, apartments, townhouses, or smaller homes with limited yard space may be exactly what you need to sail into retirement worry-free.

Health Concerns

We would like to think that we will be in great health forever, but the time comes in everyone’s life when they need to consider how they will handle the onset of age and potential disease. A two story home with a basement may have been ideal when you were raising kids and needed a quiet workspace for your job or hobbies, but two flights of stairs may be difficult to navigate as you get older. Similarly, many of us will have impaired driving ability as we age, so living in a location that is not pedestrian friendly could impede our social lives if we are no longer driving.

These are the reasons why many people who downsize are specifically looking for a ranch floorplan. The stepless ranch has become the housing layout of choice in many active adult communities. Removing stairs from the equation is simply the safest choice for many retirees and older home buyers.

It’s Time to Decrease Expenses

Downsizing to a smaller home can save you money in many ways. For starters, if your mortgage is paid off, you will likely make significantly more from the sale of your current home than you will need to spend on your smaller, downsized home. Even if you do not have a paid off mortgage, the difference may mean that you are able to go into your next home with a much smaller payment than you are used to.

Depending on where you move, you may also be able to reduce the amount you spend on property taxes, which are tied to the value of your home. While it is true that if you move into a county with a higher tax rate and more expensive homes, you may not see a decrease in your taxes, for most people who downsize the change will be significant. Smaller homes are normally much more economical when it comes to utilities like power, natural gas, and water. Insuring a home that is smaller with less of a yard could also be cheaper, as could moving to a location closer to first responders such as fire stations and hospitals.