Is your home still meeting your needs? For most people as they start their adult lives and possibly their families, they start upsizing to larger homes with bonus rooms and big backyards. What happens when the kids move out or your lifestyle changes? The word “downsize” may bring to mind recently retired folks who’ve decided to sell their big family home and opt for a sparkly new condo somewhere sunny, and with a pool a few steps away. While that is definitely one of the ways to do it, there are many more reasons to downsize. You don’t even have to be retired!
1. More Cashflow
The housing market in the Greater Seattle Area has been booming for years, and downsizing is definitely one way to create more cashflow. You could free up more cash with a lower or even no mortgage. With a smaller home you’ll also have lower utility bills and homeowner’s insurance; you may even save more with no more HOA dues or yard maintenance costs. It’s also a viable way to consolidate a lot of debt—and lower financial anxiety. For example, sell your home and with the profits, pay off your home equity loan, college loan, and credit card, then pay off most or all of your mortgage. If you’ve been in your home for at least 10 years and it’s value has gone up significantly, you can use that equity to your advantage.
A smaller home is much easier to maintain. With our eldest launched, one in college, and one in high school, we no longer needed such a big house and yard. We downsized to a smaller but still spacious home with almost no yard, and with the house being brand new, there is nothing it needs in terms of updating or remodeling. Less to clean and keep up = more time for leisure! I’ve got a friend who is loving the freedom of her downsize from a single-family house to a condo in a doorman building. She calls it a “lock and go” setup because she literally turns one key and she can travel and work remotely from anywhere in the world.
3. Less Stuff
When we downsized this past summer, we had two dump runs plus several dozen bags of donations—what an eye-opener to how much stuff we had accumulated in that house in over 10 years. So many old, unused, and unneeded items! The downsize gave us the opportunity for a fresh start towards a simpler existence. We did major decluttering and reorganizing for every room and closet, went through a lot of tools and equipment, clothes, household goods, and keepsakes, and brought it down to a much more manageable amount. Having a smaller home now means I carefully consider anything I buy because space is at a premium. “Does it bring me joy? Is it worth the real estate in my cupboard or closet? Do I already have something similar?”
4. New Lifestyle
Maybe you and your partner used to be big on bike racing and organic gardening, but these days it’s more about local hikes and Settlers of Catan game nights. Downsizing offers you the chance to pivot your home towards your current lifestyle. You may not need a three-car garage anymore if you’re selling all those bikes, nor the .5-acre property for your garden beds. It’s okay to let go, shift your thinking, and set up your downsized home according to your new way of living!
5. Early Retirement
For some, downsizing is a means to an earlier retirement. If you’ve been in your home for a long time and have no idea what its current value is, it may not be a bad idea to check out Redfin’s home value calculator, or get a free estimate from a realtor. Crunch some numbers and see what the sale of your home could net you—you may be able to buy a smaller home with no or very low mortgage, while also adding a good chunk of the net proceeds to your retirement nest egg. Equity is a beautiful thing!
6. Fund a Second Home
Once my in-laws became true empty-nesters, they sold their suburban home and bought a small townhome near downtown and a beach A-frame on the Pacific Ocean. It was a great way for them to use their equity while significantly lowering their mortgage payments…and getting two homes out of it. My parents’ neighbors did something similar, except they bought the tiny flat of their dreams in a picturesque Italian village!
7. Help the Environment
For a growing number of downsizers, decreasing their carbon footprint on the planet is top of the agenda. A smaller home takes up less space and uses less resources, from water to natural gas to wood. It takes much less energy to heat or cool a 2200 square foot house than it would a 4,000 square foot one. Our water bill took a huge dip when we moved from a house with a huge front and backyard with mostly lawn, to our smaller lot with a tiny backyard and a front lawn covered with drought-tolerant shrubbery and perennials. And of course, less space naturally brings you to acquiring less stuff (see #3).
8. Ease the Burden on Your Loved Ones
Downsizing is also a good time to evaluate your keepsakes, your home’s contents, and your estate plan. With more time and cash freed up, you can finally tackle the stacks of old photos you’ve been wanting to digitize and organize, or the boxes of family heirlooms, or your father’s coin collection. It’s also an appropriate time to have the necessary conversations with your family. You can evaluate and consider as you downsize, and with a lighter, more organized load in your smaller home, there will be less burden on your loved ones later on.
The average American home contains 300,000 items, so downsizing would benefit most of us looking for a calmer, less stuff-oriented life. There is no “right age” to downsize—consider your home, neighborhood, work, finances, lifestyle, and needs. Decide what your priorities and desires are, and if you need to make changes to achieve them. Not everyone needs to downsize, but for those who do take the leap, it’s a step towards their goals!