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Downsizing vs Rightsizing

Yesterday I spoke with another potential client who said they are thinking about downsizing. I seem to be having this conversation a lot this year, but too many people are using the term “downsizing” when what they really mean is “rightsizing”.

Downsizing is where someone owns a large home, say 4,000+ square feet, and truly wants to downsize to a smaller 2,400 square foot home. Maybe their financial situation has changed and they are now on a fixed income or will be literally be making less money for various reasons. They may not have the time or energy to clean a 4,000 square foot home like they used to. The kids are now moved out and it’s just the two of them so they don’t need this much house anymore. They may even want to travel more often so they are considering buying a maintenance provided villa or townhome. Whatever the reason is, they are at a point in their life where they want to simplify things. Does this sound like you?

Many people use the word downsizing to describe that action. But downsizing implies that you are sacrificing or giving up something better, for something worse. Rightsizing instead implies you are making a move that looks and feels “right.” Big difference. You may own a 2 story home and you no longer use all 3 levels in the home. Oftentimes it’s after the kids have moved out and the parents are only living on the main level 90% of the time. They only go upstairs to sleep and they may occasionally use the basement when friends are visiting. They are spending a lot of money to heat and cool all three levels when they could buy a ranch or reverse 1.5 story home that is more energy efficient and makes more sense for how they want to live.

Sometimes they actually do want to buy a home with less square footage, but too often they’re surprised that the style of home that fits them better, isn’t necessarily cheaper in price. This is where they struggle with the decision. They assume that because they’re buying a smaller home, they should be able to cut their mortgage payment in half. What they don’t realize is that taxes and insurance can make up a huge chunk of their monthly mortgage payment. Just because they go from a 4,000 sq ft house to a 2,000 sq ft house, the real estate taxes and insurance may not actually be cut in half.

The other thing that affects price is the age of the home. Quite often, they want to sell a larger 2 story home that was built in 1981 (40 years old) to a ranch home that was built in 2011 (10 years old). Along with the age factor, their 40 year old home had minimal upgrades but the new maintenance free patio home has granite counters, stainless steel appliances, modern tile and hardwood flooring and updated bath fixtures. They’re surprised to find that the sales price may actually be the same on both homes, or even higher on the newer home. The question is this, “Do you want to downsize to save money on your monthly payment or do you want to rightsize to buy a home that fits your current lifestyle?”

Make no mistake, buying a smaller home is a compromise. Our clients struggle with “giving up” some of their space or losing their favorite furniture because they have no room for it in the new house. They may be giving up that 3rd car garage for a home that only has a 2 car garage. It’s even possible the new home won’t have all that extra space for family gatherings around the holidays. They could even end up buying a home with a smaller kitchen or one that does not have a formal dining room. These are the decisions you will have to weigh for yourself if you’re truly downsizing. The ones that do downsize typically have a very strong reason for doing so and this is important because we’ve also had clients that chose to buy a smaller home and then 2 years later came back to us and said, “I don’t know what we were thinking? We spend most of our time at home and this one is too small for our needs.”

I can also tell you that I’ve never had a client unhappy with their purchase when they were rightsizing. Even when the new home is slightly more expensive, they are never unhappy with their decision. They move from an older home to a much newer home with modern upgrades and now they are not spending time and money updating their house or making repairs. Their stress level drops dramatically and now they have the home that fits their lifestyle and they are relaxed not having to worry about “that big house” anymore.

If this sounds good to you, call me and tell me you’d like to discuss “rightsizing” to a new home.

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