Bigger Isn't Always Better
Why You Should Consider Downsizing Your Home
By Megan Wild
Maybe you’re tired of cleaning a large home every weekend. Maybe the cost of maintenance and upkeep on your current home is steadily rising. But perhaps you’re starting to think hard about why exactly you are living in a home as large as your current one. Would downsizing, you think, be so bad?
Downsizing is a move many people make, especially if their children have left home or they are divorced. Seventy years ago, the average home size was 1,000 square feet and today, many people think we live in more space than we need.
But downsizing should be considered very carefully. You don’t want to make a move and then find out that the walls are closing in on you or you had to give up a piano and really miss it. Here’s a list of pros and cons to weigh while making the decision.
Saving Money on Real Estate
It’s possible to save a lot of money by moving to a smaller home. Since homes are priced by the square foot, a comparable smaller home — same neighborhood, same condition — will cost you less. The average home in the U.S. is 2,500 square feet and just imagine how much cheaper it would be if you cut that size in half.
If you move to an area where real estate costs less in general, you can save even more. People priced out of the hot markets in San Francisco and New York, for example, are moving to more wide open spaces and finding real estate considerably less expensive.
Saving money doesn’t end with real estate prices, of course. The less square feet you inhabit, the less expenditure of energy will be needed to heat and cool it. Smaller homes cost you less in energy.
Speaking of energy, you will simply expend less in a smaller home. If you’re concerned about leaving a smaller carbon footprint and consuming less of the world’s finite resources — and we all should be — smaller homes will lead to using less oil, coal, natural gas and water.
Many smaller living spaces, such as condominiums and apartments, are also being built or repurposed from older buildings to revitalize downtowns. The repurposing is also environmentally friendly, as it means at least some of the materials are recycled. Plus, residents in urban areas are often able to walk to cultural events and parks, using less carbon emissions-producing gasoline.
If you’ve ever wearied of raking autumn leaves from a large lawn or spending all your Saturday cleaning a big house, downsizing to a smaller home can be a big relief.
First, the sheer square footage you have to clean and maintain is less. It can take a half hour to clear a postage stamp-sized lawn or clean a smaller living room, versus three or more hours.
Second, if you move to a condo or apartment, you may not have to perform outdoor maintenance at all. Condos generally have yard crews to do yard work. If you’re renting, a landlord may do it.
You can’t automatically assume you’ll save money by downsizing. You must run the numbers and consider all aspects of the costs. If you move to a condominium complex, you may have to pay homeowners association (HOA) fees. These can add up. If you rent an apartment, you will no longer have mortgage interest or property tax to deduct. When you sell your home, you’ll be giving up any equity appreciation as well.
Factor in other potential costs as well. Will your current furniture fit a smaller place? If not, you’ll have to buy new furniture. Will you be driving more to see movies or visit friends and family? That’s more gas, and maybe a new car. Have you rented out a room in the past? That won’t be an option any longer.
If you’ve lived in your current place for a while, you have all sorts of associations with it. Friends, family, the annual Fourth of July picnic — these memories matter. Homes are more than just real estate.
You need to consider how you will feel if you no longer live in your current home. Will the loss of your lilac bush matter? Will markedly smaller space every day simply feel like too tight a fit? What if your eldest daughter wants to move home, and you no longer have room for her?
No Savings in Maintenance
You can’t assume that a smaller place automatically means less maintenance. You have to look at all the circumstances that can prompt cleaning and maintenance.
If you downsize to a charming Victorian cottage in a renewed downtown, for example, the home may need refurbishment and repairs that your current home doesn’t need. Older cottages need roof repairs too. If it’s had a roof for 20 or more years, you will need to supply a new one.
Maintenance also depends on the environment. If you’re in a more urban place, you may need deep cleaning from pollution or a more sophisticated security system. These costs can add up.
Make a Choice for You
Downsizing can be a great move if it works for you. But it’s not a quick decision — consider the pros and cons of your situation carefully. Make the best decision for your life circumstances.