5 questions to ask yourself before you downsize your home

5 questions to ask yourself before you downsize your home
Thinking of downsizing? This isn’t a decision that you’ll be taking lightly. Moving home is one of life’s most stressful events, and moving to a smaller property will inevitably mean that you’ll need to make some major changes to the way you live. Here are 5 questions you should ask yourself before committing to this significant step.

1. Why are you downsizing?

Perhaps you’re nearing retirement, or your children have finally flown the nest, and you want somewhere smaller and more manageable - or maybe you need to release some capital from your equity to supplement your income. You might also be downsizing following a breakup, or to reduce your commuting time by moving closer to work. 

You have a lot of work ahead of you, and ultimately you'll need to grow accustomed to living in a smaller living space - don’t underestimate how difficult that might be. If you’ll be living with your partner, you may have less personal space than you do at present: will that put a strain on your relationship?

If you can remain focused on your reason for downsizing, it will be easier for you to cope with these potentially stressful issues. Keep in mind how much money you’ll be saving each month and what that money will buy; remember how much you hated vacuuming the carpet in all those rooms or up those stairs; count up the hours you'll save on travel by moving closer to where you want/need to be; think about what you’ll be spending your lump sum on. 

2. Can you actually sell your home?

The housing market is notoriously fickle. House prices have increased considerably over recent years, and that could mean that your large, family home might be too expensive for another family to buy. Listen carefully to the advice given to you by the estate agents who come to value your home - what do they suggest you do to increase the likelihood of finding a buyer? Do you need to redecorate to a more neutral pallet? Should you move some of your belongings into a self storage unit to make it easier for a potential buyer to visualise their own furniture and possessions in place of yours? These are relatively easy steps to take and could be all that’s needed to sell your house.

If you need to make more significant changes - such as having a new driveway installed, replacing your double glazing or fitting a more modern kitchen or bathroom - be aware that doing so will make your home more attractive to buyers but won’t necessarily get you a significantly higher price. These major costs will naturally reduce the amount of capital you’ll ultimately receive from your house sale.

3. Can you actually afford a smaller home?

This sounds like a silly question, but bear in mind that if you’re buying a significantly smaller home you’ll be competing with first-time buyers, who won’t have a chain. More competition in a particular part of the housing market will increase the price, so do your research to see how much of your equity you’ll be left with after paying perhaps more than you’re anticipating.

Don’t underestimate the cost of selling your house, either. Factor in the estate agent’s fees, legal fees, removal costs and the cost of redecorating or renovating your new property.

4. What do you need in your new home?

When choosing your new home, think about what areas of your home you actually use, and what you use that space for. Do you need a spare room for regular overnight guests? Do you need a separate room to house your hobby paraphernalia? What about your bathroom - do you need a separate bath and shower, and do you need a separate WC? 

Are you planning to stay in your new home for the very long term? If so, think about how you will manage physically, as you grow older. Will you still be able to manage stairs comfortably, or would a bungalow be more practical? Bungalows are fairly rare (and attract a premium price), so could you envisage converting your new home to allow you to have a master bathroom and bedroom on the ground floor, reserving the upstairs for guests and occasional use?

Make a checklist of must-haves and compare this against potential properties before you arrange to view them.

Further reading:  12 Ways to use your spare room

5. What should you do with your excess belongings?

Once you’re certain that downsizing is financially worthwhile, and you’ve found a home that will be comfortable and livable, start thinking about what you’ll need to take with you. 

Picture each room of your new house. Use the floorplans that should be available through the estate agent to mark out the size of existing items of furniture such as your bed and settee. Decide what else will fit into each room without creating a cluttered environment. 

Write a list of which items of furniture you will definitely be taking to your new home, and what bedding/furnishings you will also need. Then you’ll need to think very carefully about what you’ll do with everything else that currently resides in your current home.

Your options for what to do with those items are as follows:
  • Give them away
  • Sell them
  • Recycle/bin them
  • Store them

Take your time in deciding what you should give away, sell or recycle. At least wait until you’re settled into your new home and have moved in your essentials before deciding what else you’d like to keep with you. You can store your extra, non-essential belongings in a self storage unit until you’ve unpacked and worked out what else will fit, or what else you can’t possibly live comfortably without. You could keep your self storage unit for a few days or weeks until you’re certain about what you’ll do with all your belongings.

You might decide to keep your unit for the longer term if you have certain items of furniture earmarked for your children or grandchildren for when they upgrade or move into their own homes. Storing them in your self storage unit will keep them safe, clean and dry until they’re needed at a later date. 

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll be ready physically and emotionally to move on to the next chapter in your life. Downsizing can be tough, but think of the extra money (and time) that you’ll save by doing so!

Further reading: How to help a loved one downsize

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