The Experts’ Guide to Downsizing
IT’S EASY TO SEE the appeal of moving from a big home into a compact space that requires less maintenance. But the process involves careful planning. Here are seven tips to make sure you find the right fit.
BE REALISTIC ABOUT YOUR BUDGET
“The biggest misperception is that people equate downsizing with paying less,” says Barb Sukkau, the president-elect of the Canadian Real Estate Association and a realtor in the Niagara region. “But a lot of new bungalows and condominiums are quite pricey.” If you need your house to provide a nest egg, consider other ways you can make your budget work, such as looking for homes in a less expensive location.
DON’T GET CAUGHT BY UNEXPECTED COSTS
Even if you make money off the sale of your home, moving will take a
bite out of your profits. Closing costs—which include things like a home inspector fee, bank appraisal fee and, in many provinces, land transfer tax—range from 1.5 to 4 per cent of the selling price. If you’re buying a condo, factor in monthly maintenance fees and keep a small reserve for unforeseen expenses.
BUY A PLACE YOUR FUTURE SELF WILL THANK YOU FOR
Even if you’re purchasing at 60, think of what your body will be able to manage at 80. That might mean searching for a residence that doesn’t have stairs or scoping out locations that have amenities within walking distance. Another option is to consider a condo or a townhouse, where monthly fees buy you snow removal, repairs and the maintenance of common areas.
THE END IN MIND
Sukkau says a surprising number of people buy a place that fits their furniture, rather than the other way around. “I’ll have couples say, ‘Oh, this bedroom won’t fit my king-sized bedroom suite,’” explains Sukkau. Buy the place that’s right for your lifestyle—even if it means selling your stuff and purchasing condo-sized furniture after, or renting a storage locker to house heirlooms.
SCHEDULE A DECLUTTERING DATE
Before you move, you must sort through your stuff. Victoria, B.C.based Stephanie Deakin, president of Professional Organizers in Canada, recommends tackling the project in two- to three-hour chunks. That’s enough to get one task done—like cleaning out the kitchen cupboards or your closet—but not so much that you’ll be overwhelmed. “Block that time out on your calendar and honour that appointment,” she says.
PROCRASTINATE A BIT
Not every decision needs to be made immediately. If you can’t choose between two end tables, pack them both or revisit the decision in a week, says Deakin. Sometimes you won’t be 100 per cent sure about a choice you need to make; knowing that there’s room to recalibrate afterwards can allow you to move forward.
GET ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT WHAT’S AHEAD
There are a lot of feelings tied up in leaving a home—especially one you’ve lived in for a long time. Still, think about how your new house will help you live the lifestyle you want “Obviously [people are] moving for a reason,” says Sukkau. “It is emotional, but it’s also exciting. It’s a new adventure.”