They say perception is everything. Downsizing could be a chance to clear the clutter and lighten the load, or it can be an unexpected reality you must face. In either case, we think handling the change with a plan and a positive outlook makes the transition better. Someone once said, “Our lives are always just a few tweaks away from perfect.”
Here are some tried-and-true downsizing tips for retirees that will get you started.
Prepare and plan
One of our first downsizing tips is to mentally prepare. Jumping right into a sudden change can be jarring. Your family members, friends, and the real estate agent will have lots of questions about why, how, and when it will happen. Get mentally ready for these inquiries and decide who you want to get involved from the get-go. Knowing the answers beforehand provides peace of mind and comfortable conversations with loved ones. If you are married or have a partner, then both parties agreeing about logistics is ideal. Give yourself at least a month or more before the move to accomplish tasks slowly and thoroughly. You may even want to strategize a timeline with specific details, dates, and budgeted dollars.
You do not need to choose between the past and the future in a downsizing move. You can have both. With foresight, there are ways to preserve your favorite photographs, music, or books without having to pack, carry, and then unpack them. Retirees report that moving books is one of the most challenging tasks. But you can replace hard copies with eBooks, and you can save photos digitally. For example, PhotoScan is an app that takes pictures and scans them using your cell phone. Your family members may want to help you, or even complete the project for you.
Decide if you can live without certain possessions
You are not only shrinking your home; you are also shrinking what you will put inside it. After you have preserved the important memories, you must take stock of your possessions. Ask yourself these questions when you go through all your belongings:
- When was the last time I used it?
- How often do I need it?
- Can I rent or borrow it instead of owning it?
- Is there someone I know who needs it more than I do?
- Can this item be repurposed?
Depending on your answers, you can donate items, sell them online for spending cash, hold a garage sale, or find a new purpose for them to suit your current goals. There are organizations like Pickup Please who will take electronics for you at no charge. Some others will pick up furniture or even cars for donations. Another way to keep some of your favorite items that you might not technically need is to repurpose them.
Measure twice, buy once
If saving money, lowering maintenance costs, and reducing hassle are your downsizing goals, then it is a good idea to measure all your furniture and appliances before you sign on the dotted line. What happens if your current appliances do not fit?
Avoid being penny-wise and pound-foolish
If you still owe a lot on your current mortgage and the real estate market is fluctuating rapidly, is it the right time to take the leap? You might find a smaller place that you love, but the price is too high. Will you have to spend more money than you hoped to fix your current home to get it ready to sell? There are selling and buying costs, even when you downsize. For example, it may be pound-foolish to decide to live in Florida only because they have no income tax because it might mean sky-high property taxes.
We also recommend having a property appraisal done to take the guesswork out of the equation. If, and when, you are ready to move, shop for the best mortgage broker who can get you competitive loan rates to help you sell your home.
Have realistic expectations. Moving to a different location and neighborhood might be exciting and new, but it is not a magic wand that can fix all issues. Your new home needs to have the amenities and safety features that are best for you. Do you need to be on the first level with no stairs? Is having access to grocery stores and hospitals top of your list? We suggest you not skimp on your health or dental insurance to make a move to a new place. Our experience shows that change can cause inconvenience and stress, so take your time.
Location, location, location
Having a home with a walk-in tub and a timed sprinkler system might be just what you want, but if it is not near stores you like or family and friends, it is not the right choice. What if the place is perfect, but the weather is not? At 50 degrees below freezing in Chicago, you will not even be able to step outside. If you plan to find a new location in your current neighborhood or state, know what areas of town you like and do not assume that moving a few blocks over will provide the same living experience. Do some research and check out the new location at different times of the day.
Maybe renting is a better short-term or permanent solution. This could mean renting out your entire place and purchasing a smaller location to live in, or it could mean selling your home and choosing an apartment to rent. We encourage you to investigate if you could rent out a portion of your space. Renting or leasing can provide some middle ground or buy you some time to obtain the perfect solution.
We want you to use these downsizing tips to make the experience as easy and seamless as possible so you can enjoy your retirement. When you establish your downsizing goals, contact us to get the most out of the experience with knowledgeable staff to help you sell or purchase a new home.