Welcome to this month’s installment of Dear Urbaneer, where my real estate mettle is tested by my clients’ tough questions. This time around I’m helping a Baby Boomer client who is preparing, like so many homeowners of the same generation, to downsize her home.
I’m anticipating downsizing my home after decades of living with ample space around me. Now that in the process of making the 'big move' down the property ladder, I’m a little nervous! I suspect that moving to a smaller space isn’t just about having less house...How do I know what to expect and how can I be sure that I am happy and satisfied with my new home? How will I know if I'm making the right move, so to speak?
Smaller Space, Big Hopes
Dear Smaller Space,
No question, downsizing is a major change, physically, mentally and possibly financially. It can help to assuage some of your concerns if you consider the “why” behind your move, as well as noting what your goals are in downsizing your home. As our homes are undoubtedly more than bricks and mortar, downsizing your living space presents certain challenges- but at the same time it also presents certain opportunities that can help you make the most of your next position on the property ladder. It’s all about being aware of the multiple changes and strategizing around them effectively.
You may have spent a great deal of your adult life strategizing your climb up the property ladder, so it can be a difficult transition when it comes time to change direction. There can be any number of reasons to move down the property ladder and downsize; perhaps your home has risen in value and you are seeking to take equity out while property values are high; perhaps your family situation has changed and you no longer require the space; perhaps you find the costs and the effort of home maintenance a challenge, so you seek a simpler life. No matter what the reason, downsizing is a change and change is more easily managed when you develop a clear strategy.
Here's my guide to help you assess your own circumstance, and how to go about it:
So Why Are You Moving?
To start, consider your motivation for downsizing. Are you swamped with space? Are you looking to live smaller because of financial, lifestyle or health reasons? Are you seeking low-maintenance or maintenance-free home ownership? Are you downsizing your home as part of your investment strategy in order to extract your equity?
Understanding the “why” behind your plans to move is important, because it will dictate to a certain degree your approach to downsizing. It will also help you narrow down where you’d like to live next (and in what housing type) as well as identify any challenges or barriers that you may encounter as you move through the process.
Does downsizing make sense for you? Here's an informative article “Is It Wise To Downsize” to offer more food for thought.
Challenges To Downsizing
One thing to remember is that going smaller doesn’t automatically equal cheaper. While moving to a smaller space will likely reduce some of your operating costs (utilities + taxes) and your overall maintenance and repair costs, depending on where you are moving, you may incur additional costs, like incurring condominium common fees. If your reasoning for downsizing is purely financial, you may even consider renting a smaller space as an option. Either way, make sure that you do all the math before you proceed. This is especially the case when moving from a house to a condominium. First, condo prices have been skyrocketing this past year (about 15%) while the freehold housing market flatlined through the last half of 2017, closing the gap between these two housing types. Also, a condominium will have common fees that - in some instances - can be quite high should the building have a concierge, a swimming pool, or a host of amenities which you may, or may not, use. At the same time, the common fee will include expenses associated with landscaping, and snow removal, as well as building insurance which you may already incur owning a house.
There are those who associate a larger space with status. Are you ok mentally and emotionally to forfeit your current space in this regard? I’ve talked about how your housing choices address your emotional needs in “Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs And Toronto Real Estate For Sellers” and “Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs And Toronto Real Estate For Buyers”.
If you’ve lived in your home for a long time, there may certainly be some emotional attachment as well. Don’t underestimate the emotional pull of that intangible sense of “Home”. That’s not to say that this on its own should deter you from moving, but it is something to consider and anticipate to make your downsize successful.
Downsizing means paring down your belongings. How do you feel about that? Are you ok to part with some (or a lot, depending on your situation) of your stuff?
Contemplating challenges before they occur can help ease a transition. For more tips on how, read “The Challenge Of Moving To A Smaller Home”
Benefits Of Downsizing
Although there are certainly challenges, there are a number of substantial benefits to downsizing.
Probably the biggest benefit is that you get to simplify your life. The less space that you have means less cleaning, repairs and general maintenance. Paring down on belongings, while hard to do, also will help you be more organized and can create an appealing environment to begin your new life in.
There are also financial benefits. Depending on your circumstance, you may have a nice tidy sum from your sale to invest or spend however you wish. If you are moving to a less expensive home, you will likely improve your cash flow, which can help you achieve other financial goals more quickly.
In many cases, downsizing your home can equate to increased freedom. Perhaps you’ll have the chance to travel easily because of your new low maintenance lifestyle. Maybe you’ll have the chance to live in urban centre and benefit from a pedestrian lifestyle. Maybe you’ll be able to retreat to the country to connect more closely with nature. Whatever your dreams are, downsizing your home can be an important part of realizing those dreams.
There are other benefits too. Click here to read “12 Reasons Why You’ll Be Happier in a Smaller Home”.
Your Downsizing Strategy
Love where you live, but want a smaller home?
Decide what size of home is “enough” for you before you begin your house hunt. Human nature says that we use a great deal of our homes for storage, but how much space do you really need physically? And how much space would you be comfortable with mentally? Don’t forget about things like privacy and personal space, which will be impacted in a smaller home. Focus on space that you know that you’ll use to perform your daily tasks, but balance it out with an extra space and your desire to live smaller.
That said, you may be surprised how little a space you need. Here's a sobering account on how much stuff we tend to live with in 21 Surprising Statistics That Reveal How Much Stuff We Actually Own.
Are you planning to stay in the same location so that you can continue to use the same amenities that you are used to?
If you're keen on staying in a specific location, I recommend you identify which particular streets, housing types (like a bungalow), or preferred condominiums you favour, and give yourself ample time for a suitable property matching your desires to come available. For all buyers of Toronto real estate, the more specific you are in your next move criteria, the longer it can take to secure a palce. By being prepared, including having sufficient cash on hand to place a deposit on a property (if you're buying), or your financial affairs documented concisely (if you're making a rental application), the more likely you can act on the perfect place without delay. In today's real estate market, the pace of a property coming to market and selling can be less than 24 hours, which is stressful in its own right. Being prepared invites the necessary action that may be required to make your next move.
Strategies To Get Rid Of “Stuff”
Realizing that a major task of downsizing is purging your belongings, it is best to have a planned process for this. As soon as you decide that downsizing is in the future, begin to pare down. You may already be in the process of this if you are preparing your current home for sale as part of staging. Not only does having less stuff make moving easier, it will assist with the whole transition. Here's my post on How To Prepare Your Home For Sale which offers some additional tips, including the information we'll need from you as your Realtor.
If you are reluctant to get rid of stuff, take a pragmatic approach. Don’t attach your identity to your belongings. Start by working backwards. If everything you owned was gone, what would you replace? That’s how you determine what your essentials are.
Start with rooms that are less used (like the attic, garage or basement) and with seasonal items. When trying to decide to keep an item (sentimental things excluded) ask yourself how long it has been since you’ve used it. If it’s been a year or more, it is safe to let it go. As another removal tip, avoid duplicating items.
Think about your new home and how your current belongings will function in the space. For furniture specifically, how does the size work? Do your pieces mesh with your new décor?
Be ruthless, but also be patient. Decluttering is a process, which underscores the need to start early and revisit the task often.
When you’ve identified what you are going to get rid of, have three pathways for the belongings: trash, donate or sell. You might even generate a decent amount of cash to get new “stuff” that is better suited to your new lifestyle.
These downsizing posts are full of helpful hints: “How To Downsize Your Home Without Losing Your Mind”, “How To Downsize Your Stuff For A Move”.
Overwhelmed? We're fans of firms that will help you transition. Here's How Organizational Services Like Clutterfly Inc. Save Time.
For Those Moving to a Condominium
If you are moving from a detached home into a condominiums there are some specific things to consider when you are looking for a home.
Place value on storage space. If you are accustomed to having loads of space to store things, that is going to be one of the first things to go when you downsize to a condo. Make sure that your new home has enough space for you, either in the unit, with a storage locker, or both.
What sort of amenities do you desire? Make sure that your building is not only well-located to area amenities that you want, but make sure that your on-site amenities will provide you with the lifestyle that you seek when you are downsizing.
Before putting in an offer, make sure that you are aware of the condominium’s rules, regulations and bylaws. You don’t want to be restricted by rules after you move in that you didn’t know about ahead of time.
There are other criteria to consider, like your neighbours, fees, the condominium’s financials and tips to purchase with resale value in mind, which I expand on in "Five Points To Ponder Before Buying A Condominum".
Here is a good read with more condo-specific tips: “Downsizing to a Condo”.
Are you considering downsizing? Here's four of our past Home Of The Month features that share the tales of securing the right turn-key home, based on our Buyer's particular circumstances.
In this November 2017 - Home Of The Month - Scarborough post, we share the journey of a couple who decided to co-purchase with their adult children in a multi-generational home.
In this May 2017 - Home of the Month - Ramsden Park Near Yorkville, we explore how our Buyer - who sold her midtown family house once her childrem moved out - to secure a contemporary rowhouse steps to Yorkville to fulfill her desire for a more engaged centrally located city life.
And in this May 2016 - Home of the Month - Little Italy blog, I tell the tale of our Zoomers' search for a turn-key townhouse for use as their Toronto pied-a-terre - that included an income supplement - and how having a tenant provides some exceptional advantages.
Plus, our December 2017 - Home Of The Month - Bloor Sherbourne post is about a client who, after living in a substantial multi-unit Victorian on the central west side for nearly three decades, decided to downsize into a city vista two-bed/two-bath condo in the centre of the city to be closer to his friends and support network.
(On a amusing note, check out this great movie about "going small" - quite literally - with Matt Damon and Kristin Wiig called Downsizing!)
Are you considering downsizing, but not sure where to start? We can help you prepare your current home for sale, find a lovely smaller home that suits you, while providing you with tips and support on how to transition most easily. We’re here to help!
Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage - (416) 322-8000
- we're here to earn your trust, then your business -
*Like what you've read? Did you know we were recently listed as one of The Top 25 Toronto Real Estate Agents To Follow On Twitter! and The Top 50 Blogs On Toronto? Consider signing up in the box below to receive our FREE monthly e-newsletter on housing, culture and design including our love for unique urban homes and other Toronto real estate!
*Love Canadian Housing? Check out Steve's Student Mentorship site called Houseporn.ca which focuses on architecture, landscape, design, product and real estate in Canada!