In a world where the preconceived idea that “bigger is better,” exceptions are not hard to find. When it comes to spiders, snakes, and supersized fast-food meals, bigger is certainly NOT necessarily better. For many homeowners and for a variety of reasons, downsizing to a smaller home makes a lot of sense, too. While most homeowners frequently underestimate or don’t understand the many advantages of downsizing to a smaller home, many soon-to-be retirees and “empty nesters” are finding their large home is just too much for them to handle. Since the children are gone, downsizing can be a viable way to save money and to have a more manageable lifestyle and home.
But homeowners don’t have to be ready to retire to downsize. Downsizing one’s lifestyle as a whole, even when they have a family or if they’re a young couple, can be a great way to save money, cut expenses, and live simpler. Some homebuyers are opting for higher quality rather than more size. And since the markets started to struggle, more and more people are turning to smaller homes as a way to save money and be more financially efficient.
There are lots of good reasons to downsize. In fact, there are as many good reasons for downsizing as there are people doing it. These are some of the reasons the Sales Executives at the Trembley Group Real Estate most frequently hear from their clients:
- Retiring soon: The house that served so well for so many years is just too big now. It takes too much money and energy to maintain. Moving into a smaller home or a condo can be a way to cut down on the space and make living a bit more comfortable.
- “Empty Nester”: The day has finally come. The children have all moved out and they’re living independently on their own. The home-seekers are suffering from something called “empty nest” syndrome. It’s normal. They don’t need a home as large as the one that they were living in, and the time is right for something a little more manageable.
- Change in income or a tight financial situation: Some people feel like they’re paying too much. They’ve lost a bit of income. When feeling the squeeze of a declining economy, a great way to cut costs is to downgrade to a smaller home. This shouldn’t be a shameful decision – a lot of people decide to downsize and most of the time it’s the responsible thing to do. Plus, you may like your new lifestyle.
- Want to live a simpler lifestyle: There have been many homeowners who simplified their life dramatically – not because they had to, but because they wanted to. They didn’t just move into a smaller place but also cut down on their spending, their consumption, and their belongings. One client told his Trembley Group Real Estate Sales Executive that he had move three times in the past eight years, each time buying a house that fit his thirty-year collection of furniture rather than buying a home that fit his lifestyle.
- Travel a lot: If a homeowner has a job that requires traveling regularly or for long periods at a time, having a smaller home is probably a good way to save money. The same is true for retirees who spend a lot of time traveling for pleasure like visiting children and grandchildren.
- Avoiding a tedious commute: Many home purchasers move to a smaller property to avoid wasting too much time commuting and paying far too much for gas. Moving to a smaller property, closer to a place of employment could save significant time and money.
The Benefits of Downsizing
There are a lot of benefits for downsizing to a more affordable home. The obvious advantages have to do with money and how much of it will save. If a homeowner moves to a smaller home, they’ll save money in a variety of ways:
- A smaller mortgage: Downsizing usually translates into a smaller mortgage loan. This can result from a larger down payment or a smaller mortgage on a smaller home. Some homeowners even opt for a product called a HECM mortgage which results in no mortgage payment on that dream house. Once a mortgage is paid off, the homeowner has more freedom to spend money on a boat or motorhome or that European vacation of whatever they see fit.
- Lower taxes: With a smaller property in South Carolina, a state with historically some of the lowest property taxes in the country, a homeowner is likely to save significantly on property taxes. Many Trembley Group Real Estate clients are amazed at the savings especially when they’re moving from the northeast.
- Cheaper utilities: Heating and cooling a smaller home doesn’t cost as much. And homeowners also save since there’s less space to light and use.
- Less maintenance: Vacuum less, mow less, paint less, and not shovel snow at all! The biggest maintenance problem is knowing what to do with all the freed-up extra time.
It is only natural that most people struggle a bit with nostalgia when it’s come time to downsize. Jeremy Jenks, Vice President of Sales at The Trembley Group Real Estate says, “Change is hard for everyone, but the older we get, the more accustomed we are to our surroundings and our ‘stuff. ” Jeremy offers a few tips to make the process as easy and as stress-free as possible.
1. Start early. Allow plenty of time for this process. It will most likely take longer than expected. Don’t try to sort through an entire house in one day or one weekend. Take it one room at a time, and take breaks throughout.
2. Start small. Even though there are already a couple of items on the Salvation Army list from the kitchen or garage, Jeremy suggests avoiding those room in the beginning. There are years of things to sort through. Jeremy suggests starting in an area with little emotional attachment like a laundry room or linen closet. Be realistic. If moving into a two-bedroom house, four sets of sheets should be plenty. The rest can go.
“Garages, attics, and basements are notorious for being the hardest rooms to tackle,” says Jenks. “These rooms tend to accumulate all the old hobbies, boxes of “priceless” toys, old holiday decorations, and tons of clutter. They also tend to be uncomfortable – too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.”
3. Eliminate rooms you won’t have in your new home. If moving to a condominium or townhome, it’s unlikely there will be room for office space. Nearly everything in those spaces will need to be sold, donated, tossed, or relocated to other rooms. These areas might also be good items for consignment or Craigslist sales; nice office furniture and outdoor tools are more valuable than old sofas or mattresses. Jeremy suggests working backward. “A common suggestion is to pick out the stuff you don’t want and pack the rest. I suggest the opposite. Pack the keepers. What’s left can be shared or donated.”
4. Get rid of duplicates. This is especially true in the kitchen. There are probably three spatulas, a couple of oversized stock pots, four different sized cookie sheets, a blender, a food processor, a coffee grinder, and a nut chopper. “Now’s a good time to reduce the clutter,” says Jenks. “If you’re feeling wary of handing off that second roasting pan because you use it every Christmas (but at no other time during the year), consider giving it to a child or grandchild who will loan it to you next Christmas.”
5. Only make Yes or No piles – no Maybes. When going through years of accumulation, some things will likely carry a lot of emotional attachment. “Don’t make a third pile of things to keep if there’s enough space. Don’t fall for it,” Jeremy says. “You’ll end up with a ‘Maybe Pile’ that’s bigger than the other two piles combined. You haven’t really made any progress in sorting, you’ve just moved things across the room. If you use something regularly, keep it. If you haven’t used for a year or more, it’s time to let it go.”
6. Consider legacy gifts early. “That antique desk your son always admired, or maybe the porcelain doll collection your daughter adores? Maybe now’s the time to give those gifts,” Jeremy says. “This has two benefits: you’ll get the items out of your way, and you’ll be able to enjoy giving those items to your loved ones and seeing their gratitude now.”
7. Give yourself time to reminisce. “While cleaning and sorting, there will be some days when you’ll want to stop emptying the kids’ bedrooms and just look through the Boy Scout patches, kindergarten drawings, Little League trophies, and once-prized, tattered stuffed animals,” says Jeremy. “You’re sorting through most of a lifetime of memories. Cry if you need to. Move on to another room and come back. This is why you started early – just don’t let it prevent you from eventually getting the job done. Remember that the memories you cherish are memories of your family, not memories of the stuff around you.”
For most people, downsizing to a smaller and more affordable home is a good financial decision that saves money and time in the long run. But any move is stressful and adding downsizing to the mix can add more stress to an already emotionally charged situation. Sometimes getting a little objective advice is a good idea. The Trembley Group Real Estate Sales Executives have helped thousands find their dream home and to sell their existing home. Contact us at The Trembley Group Real Estate, 843.945.1880, to discuss all the doors that downsizing might open. With all the time and money saved, that vacation to the Bahamas or Europe or that summer with the grandchildren looks more and more like a real possibility.
Need help? Call The Trembley Group at 843.945.1880 ext. 1 and we’ll help you look for the perfect listing or buyers agent!
At The Trembley Group, we pride ourselves on being the experts at more than just selling real estate. We are local residents, some of us have been here for a lifetime. The rest of us will be here until the end of time. We love living, working, and playing in the diverse backyard of Coastal Carolina, and look forward to helping you live and love your dreams soon too. Please reach out to us by phone or email for personalized service and one-on-one advice.