What to consider when downsizing to a smaller property

By Johanna Seton

People downsize to apartments or smaller houses for many reasons. For you it might be to save money, repropping equity in your mortgage to spend on travel and fun as a result of your children having grown up. Or it may be that you are trying to be more conservative in a post-GFC world.

In any case, moving to a smaller home comes with some specific challenges, and you need a plan of attack to make the process as seamless and stress-free as possible.

Research properties and locations

Moving home always involves a certain amount of stress, and moving to a smaller home has the potential to add to your angst. An unavoidable truth about downsizing is that you will have less storage and less space. So it's worth doing some comprehensive research to compare several smaller properties and different neighbourhoods to see how they will meet your lifestyle goals.

  • Check out the local facilities. Choose an area with good local transport links, leisure facilities and public services close by.
  • Entertain outside the home. Choose an area that enables you to spend more time in community spaces with your friends and family (such as a nearby park or beach). Make sure there are cafes and restaurants nearby, this lets you get out of the house for coffee or lunch when you feel like a change of scene and adds rather than detracts from your lifestyle.
  • Assess the storage available. Is there enough space for the furniture and personal belongings you will keep in your new home? Look for properties with innovative uses of space such as under-stair cupboards and lofts
  • Consider your privacy. Will you have enough privacy? If you're not used to apartment living, consider the additional noise that comes with apartment blocks, and put this on your list of things to consider when looking at properties.
  • Is the property ready to move into? If saving money or repropping equity is your priority, the last thing you want to do is invest the money you save into updating your new property. Assess any repairs and updates that are required and factor them into your budget.

If you can remain flexible when it comes to location, you stand a better chance of finding a property that meets your needs (and possibly unlocks new lifestyle possibilities!) whilst keeping stress levels to a minimum. Where you move depends on your priorities - if your priority is to save money, moving to a different area may deliver even bigger savings.

Try before you buy

Downsizing will involve a great deal of planning and adapting, so it's important that you know your new home and neighbourhood are suitable.

Instead of plunging straight into a buying a new home, consider renting in the area first. You could even try a few different neighbourhoods out using a service such as AirBnB to try living in an actual apartment for a month to see how you like it.

If you can prove that you can make downsizing work in a particular area, you can protect your investment by buying a property that meets your needs.

Rationalise your life

Perhaps the biggest wrench you will face when downsizing is dealing with a greatly reduced living space. This will not only have an effect on the furniture you can keep, it will probably mean parting with some of your belongings. If you move into a significantly smaller property without rationalising your belongings first, the experience could be a stressful one.

  • Be ruthless when it comes to discarding unnecessary belongings. A good rule is if you haven't used it in 12 months, then it has to go. There is no sense in keeping those old toys, magazines and vinyl LP collections if they simply gather dust in your attic. If you've spent many years amassing possessions, chances are you'll need to make quite a few tough decisions before moving
  • Try to make the process fun by getting a friend or family member to help you go through everything you own systematically
  • Pack the items you can't be without right away
  • Get rid of the items you decide not to keep - perhaps to charity, or you could sell them on eBay, Gumtree or at your own 'garage' sale. There is little to be gained by spending time and effort on packing belongings that you have no intention of keeping
  • Try to avoid putting extraneous furniture and belongings into storage - this is particularly important if you are renting before making a permanent decision to downsize.

Consider the drawbacks of downsizing

Whatever your situation, and despite the obvious benefits of having more disposable income and a neater, simpler life, there are some significant drawbacks to downsizing. Make sure you are aware of these and you are going into your new home with your expectations in check.

  • You may have to live in a different neighbourhood to find a smaller home that offers the other benefits you are seeking
  • You will have to adjust to life with fewer belongings
  • There won't be as much space or privacy in your new home
  • You may not be able to accommodate guests staying with you
  • Your existing furniture may be too big for your new property

Downsizing involves a number of big decisions that will affect your general lifestyle, financial situation and overall happiness, so it's important to have the guidance and support you need to make the right decision.

With the right plan in place, and the right team helping you through it, you can make the transition smoothly and successfully. You can unlock more disposable income, simplify your life and achieve your downsizing goals.

If you're ready to downsize and need an agent to help, contact OpenAgent today and we'll help you find the perfect agent in your local area to suit your needs.


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