It's the ideal: a serene home with little clutter and hardly any yard work. Here's how to achieve it.
Homeowners could be driven to downsize for diverse reasons. Some seek a smaller space, less outdoor maintenance, or a lower cost of living. Others are looking for a lifestyle change that may include more travel or a second home, meaning they’ll spend weeks and months away at a time.
Downsizing isn’t just for empty nesters or retirees, but anyone who is looking to simplify their lifestyle, explains Seattle real estate agent Matt Parker, author of Real Estate Smart: The New Home Buying Guide.
“You don’t get any love back from stuffed animals or chairs or old baseball cards. Over a lifetime, people accumulate two, five, 10,000 material possessions that are never going to serve them financially or emotionally,” Parker says. Keeping those unused belongings can weigh on homeowners. “A large space does not create happiness for a family.”
No matter the reason, Parker and local realtors recommend keeping a few things in mind to make any downsizing go smoother.
1. Know your goals
Realtors say it’s critical for clients to define downsizing objectives before listing larger homes or putting a bid on a tempting townhome or ranch house.
“It is important to focus on your goals early and revisit them often during the shopping process,” says Laci Hansard, buyer specialist with the Allen Brake team at Keller Williams Realty in St. Louis. “It is easy to stumble across a charming home you fall in love with, but doesn’t really meet your needs.”
2. Consider your needs
Many homeowners looking to downsize still want plenty of room for pets and visiting friends or family members. For buyers close to retiring age, centrally located properties with easy access to parks and other amenities are in high demand, as are spots that offer quick commutes.
Agent Stephanie Connell’s current client list includes a couple looking to move closer to work in Clayton whose current home in Wildwood, set on an acre of land, no longer fits their lifestyle now that their kids have moved out. Another couple in a large Frontenac home are seeking property with less maintenance (and without a pool).
Newly built homes often offer open floor plans, which fit modern lifestyles and make the most of existing square footage. That’s perfect for downsizers who want to minimize maintenance and cut costs without sacrificing quality of life, says Parker.
“Nowadays, people are much happier in open floor plans,” says Parker. “It doesn’t seem to be generational. So, the irony of it is, you could go from a 2,000-square-foot house to a 1,500-square-foot house, but it could feel bigger because of an open floor plan.”
3. Know the market
“The local trends that we are seeing in the Central West End, Clayton, and Ladue area is condo, townhome, or villa lifestyle living,” says Connell, an agent with Gladys Manion Real Estate. “New-construction homes have become more desirable in the last 18 months or so. I believe this will continue throughout 2017.”
4. Prepare for renovations
Locally, Hansard says, buyers may need to renovate in order to achieve a downsized dream home. Already-renovated ranch homes or smaller properties with main-floor master suites and laundry rooms are in short supply in some areas.
“Many of the older neighborhoods have ranch homes that are in desperate need of renovation. Also, the lower ceilings of a ranch can seem dark and depressing compared to the modern, open floor plans with high ceilings that we are used to in a larger home,” she says. “Vaulting the ceilings makes a big difference. Many downsizers end up taking on a huge remodeling project to get what they are looking for.”
5. Remember your budget
The savings homeowners realize from moving into a smaller space could make it easier to fit such renovations into the relocation budget. Parker estimates one square foot of housing costs about 42 cents per month to maintain when accounting for expenses including heating, repainting, repairing and replacing roofing, and more.