Downsizing is the new real estate trend

Looking to lower expenses, homeowners are looking to downsize

by Dan Krell, Realtor &copy 2009

When you think of downsizing, you might think of empty nesters trading down from a suburban home to a smaller, more convenient condo. The downsizing stereotype has long gone by the wayside as downsizing isn’t just for older adults; downsizing has become the focus of anyone wanting to pare down their expenses.

Looking for ways to save money in the current economy, many home owners are re-evaluating their expenses- including their mortgage. The rally cry of “bigger is better” is no longer heard from home buyers. Even home owners are discovering that “less is more;” the less the mortgage payment, the more cash they have at the end of the month for such items as savings, travel, or paying down debt.

The benefit of downsizing is not just the potential of lowering your monthly mortgage obligation; the property tax, maintenance and utility bills are typically scaled down along with the home. In order to gain the financial benefits of downsizing, finding the right home to meet your needs is important. When searching for your new home, considerations in size, style and location will not only affect your financial picture but your lifestyle as well.

Your first thought might be to look into condos because of the low maintenance and convenient living. Nevertheless, the low maintenance and convenient amenities come at a price in the form of a condo fee, which can sometimes negate the savings of downsizing. Additionally, downsizers often experience “size shock” due to the limited living area and scant storage that a condo offers.

Other downsizing options may include a townhome or a smaller single family home. You might find these options more appealing because there is no condo fee associated with this type of housing (although there may be a HOA fee). Even though you are seeking to reduce your “housing footprint,” these options seem roomier than most condos; however, these homes typically have higher maintenance and utility costs than a condo.

Another consideration of downsizing is that you will most likely have to downsize your possessions as well. The first step, as with any home sale, is to reduce your clutter. Going through all your items in storage and throughout your home to dispose, sell, or donate items that you do not use and will most likely not use. A widely accepted de-cluttering tip is to identify and discard items you have not used in a year or more. Items once thought of as collectibles and keepsakes may now seem just a token of a forgotten time. As you soon realize that items such as pieces of furniture, forgotten collections, and tacky beach gear won’t make the trip with you to your new home, you will most likely feel the ambivalence of holding on vs. freeing yourself from the past.

It is important for you to discuss downsizing with your financial adviser, accountant and/or financial planner to see how it fits into your larger financial picture. After looking at the numbers, you may realize that downsizing may not be for you because there may not be enough savings from downsizing, you may not be able to net enough from your sale, or you simply owe more on your mortgage than the value of your home.

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of June 8, 2009. Copyright &copy 2009 Dan Krell.