How to know when it's time to step down to a smaller home
Shhh, hear that? It's the quiet countdown to a blaring alarm set to go off at some point in the future. But if you don't wake up now to the reality of the situation, you may find yourself sleeping through some serious contemplations that should have been made previously. Hitting snooze on this matter could leave you unprepared and forced to play catch up.
We're talking here about a crucial consideration many homeowners face eventually: Knowing when it's time to downsize to a smaller home or "right-size" to a more manageable dwelling.
Experts say it can be easier than you think to overlook or ignore the telltale signs.
"Take a moment to ask yourself several important questions," says Michael Hitz, a broker in Portland, Maine, and a designated Senior Real Estate Specialist with the National Association of Realtors. "Is your location no longer convenient to stores or family? Are you paying too much for heating and cooling of spaces you never use? Are the stairs becoming a discomfort? Do your current surroundings satisfy your potential need to live in a neighborhood, association and supportive community of like-minded folks? And are you tired of maintaining a larger home and yard?"
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it's probably time to explore options for a more convenient lifestyle by selling your home and downsizing to another one.
Caleb Liu, the owner of Orange, California-based House Simply Sold, says good candidates for downsizing also meet other common criteria.
"Maybe you've experienced major life events like the children moving out, retirement or the passing of a spouse. Perhaps debt or living expenses continue to creep up with income failing to keep pace, creating financial stress. And it's possible that several rooms in the house remain empty or filled with unused junk you wouldn't miss if tossed out," Liu says.
Michael Menn, an architect and Certified Aging in Place Specialist in Northbrook, says other candidates include those who may increasingly suffer from physical limitations.
"Many people don't want to give up their current home, but circumstances like the use of a walker make it harder to access the home, which can't accommodate their changing needs," Menn explains.
Hesitant to consider downsizing? Ponder the possible pros of this decision.
"The biggest benefit is often reduced monthly expenses. Moving to a smaller house means smaller costs spent on housing, including potentially lower property taxes, insurance premiums, and utility bills," Liu says.
Additionally, assuming you move to a property with a smaller footprint and yard, that may equate to less upkeep.
"And if you opt to move into a condo or certain homeowners association communities, some expenses like lawn care and exterior maintenance are already included in your HOA dues," adds Liu.
Miami Lakes, Florida-based interior designer Kate Diaz says paring down to a smaller property with fewer household chores needed can also result in having more free time to devote to hobbies and pastimes.
Plus, if your next home is more compact and lacks stairs -- say a smaller ranch -- it will be easier to access.
"You may also feel catharsis in moving and getting rid of past junk," Menn says.
As far as an ideal size for your next abode, Diaz recommends opting for a home with around 1,200 square feet.
"This may seem like not enough space, but it can provide you with one or two bedrooms and possibly a spare room for an office or guest quarters. And if it's designed as an open floor plan, you'll have plenty of space for you and your visitors," Diaz says.
Aim for a minimum of 650 to 800 square feet, Liu adds.
Before settling on a next home, Hitz advises asking another set of questions.
"Will any stairs or transitions present limit your mobility? Is there a bedroom and a full bath on the main level? Will your existing furniture accommodate your needs, or will you need new furnishings? Will you be able to maintain your property yourself or will you have the means to hire help?" he asks.