We regularly work with people downsizing (a.k.a. going from a 2,200 sq ft house to 900 sq ft condo). Here’s our take on what you should consider if you’re thinking about downsizing your home:
Should You Downsize?
- How much space do you really need?If your spare room only gets used three times a year, it’s probably cheaper to put your guests up at a hotel then pay the mortgage on a room that rarely gets used. Of course, a smaller space will come with less room for your stuff (see below), but if you’ve tied up $300K of home equity to pay to store your things, well that might not be the best use of your money.
- What else could you spend the money on? It’s no secret that most Canadians are relying on their home to fund part of their retirement. If you sold your $800K house and moved to a $500K condo, what opportunities and doors would that open for you? Travel? Earlier retirement?
- A word about maintenance. Many house owners are wary of paying condo fees, but the truth is that it’s generally cheaper to pay condo fees than to maintain a house in Toronto. From dealing with regular maintenance items like cleaning gutters and maintaining the furnace, to big dollar unsexy money spent fixing a leaking roof or basement, the costs can add up fast. Condo fees are also predictable (which is nice in retirement). And how nice would it be to simply make these problems someone else’s?
- How often will your kids really visit? A lot of people considering downsizing are doing so because they’re suddenly empty nesters. The kids are (finally) on their own and downsizing to a smaller place is a guaranteed way to make sure they don’t move back in. While I’m not suggesting you need to downsize to a one-bedroom condo, most condos will have party rooms that can host your 20-person Thanksgiving Day dinner and many have guest suites for extra guests.
- Neighbourhood Change One of the most exciting (and scary) parts about downsizing is getting the opportunity to live in a new neighbourhood. If you’re currently in the suburbs, imagine being able to walk to cafes, theatres and parks? Don’t forget to imagine the TTC and traffic too – there’s good and bad in every neighbourhood.
- Lifestyle. The biggest adjustment to a downsize is your lifestyle – you’ll likely be giving up backyard BBQ’s and hosting big family reunions, but you’ll also gain time and cold hard cash. What kind of life do you want to live?
- Stairs! If you’re downsizing for the long-term, avoid townhouses with lots of stairs. Your knees will thank you.
- When in doubt, throw it out. One of the easiest ways to be comfortable in your smaller space is by getting rid of all of that stuff you’ve been living with and not using: old magazines, paperwork from 20 years ago, old laptops, broken furniture, books you never look at anymore, etc. You’ll also enjoy your new space more if you pare down the number of knick knacks, framed photos and trinkets.
- Donate, donate, donate. If you aren’t using something, the chances are that someone else will both appreciate and use it. Consider donating kitchen appliances and gadgets, clothes you’ll never fit back into, sports equipment from before you had problems with your knees, etc. Make sure to check out our What To Do with Your Stuff blog for information on where to donate.
- Use the good china every day. Your new smaller home likely won’t have room for two sets of dishes and glasses. And really who are we kidding…don’t you deserve to use the good dishes?
- Re-think collections. Nothing creepier than going to a 700 sqft condo filled with dolls. Consider selling your collections on eBay (but make sure to take a photo before you part ways).
- Memories are just that – memories. While it’s nice to have family heirlooms and keep items that are personally significant to you, you probably don’t need every greeting card or concert ticket stub. Make a point of moving just the important stuff with you (they’ll be more important to you that way too).
- Paperwork – you may need to access up to 7 years of tax history, so make sure important legal and tax documents can be easily retrieved. That doesn’t need to mean they take up prized space in your new home though – that’s what storage lockers are for!
- Storage – A well-organized storage locker can be a godsend when downsizing – but don’t spend hundreds of dollars a month to store things you’ll never need again. If you do rent storage, make sure it’s climate-controlled, water-proofed and that your belongings are safe.