Sometimes big life decisions seem relatively easy. The new job is too good to pass up. The right school accepted you. The ideal partner came at the ideal time. And that 3 bedroom house with the big vaulted ceilings and the swing set already in the backyard fit right within your budget. Unfortunately, sometimes those choices can be a bit more murky. For many people, knowing when to downsize falls into that category. You might love those vaulted ceilings, it’s a great place to host family gatherings, and you spent so much time getting the home just the way you like it. However, as we age what was once a blessing can turn into a burden. Here are some key points to think about as you try to decide when the right time is to move to a smaller home:
Does your current home bring more stress than joy:
When you look at your daily life, how much time do you spend dreading your home rather than taking pleasure in it? Is the yard work getting too much? Is general upkeep taking a larger toll? Are you worried about the home becoming dated, with remodeling out of the picture or overwhelming? If the house starts to feel more like a burden than a blessing it might be time to reevaluate where you live.
How much of your income is going towards housing:
Are you spending more than 30% of your income on your home? According to experts, a general rule of thumb is that you should not be spending more than about 30% of your total monthly income on housing. If your current home is costing more than that (many in retirement have a lower monthly income to live off of) it’s time to reevaluate where you should be living. It is not a smart financial choice to have greater than 30% (this includes things like home insurance) going towards your living situation. If you pass this threshold, it is likely time to take some action.
Is maintaining your home getting harder:
Homes come with a lot of work. From cleaning, organizing, and basic repairs, to lawn maintenance a home is a lot of physical work. It’s not just about having the time or energy to maintain a home but also about the physical ability to do it. Some people have the financial resources to hire out much of this work. If you do, that’s great. However, if you don’t have the money to pay for all the chores and home tasks that need to be done you might have another reason to think about downsizing sooner rather than later.
What happens if your mobility gets limited:
It’s not all about finances and upkeep. As we age the likelihood we will need an accessible space greatly increases. If you require a walker, or wheelchair, can’t do steps, or need significant bathroom modifications is this something that can be easily done in your current home? If you live in a ranch-style home this might be more possible. However, if your current home can’t easily accommodate these changes you could put yourself in a hard situation. It is better to plan for these things, and not just hope it will all work out in the event something happens.
Do you have a lot of unused space:
Your current home might have been the perfect place to raise a family or host gatherings, or maybe it was a great location for where you were working when you were younger. However, if you have empty rooms, a section or floor level collecting dust, or a large backyard that never gets used, this might be another sign it’s time to make a change.
Where to go next:
There are lots of great options when you decide downsizing is right for you. From townhomes and flexible retirement communities to small patio homes and upscale apartments, the opportunities are extensive. And depending on your life circumstances you might have the ability at this stage of life to expand your geographic area. Have you always wanted to live somewhere warmer, near other family members, or maybe in walking distance to great bookstores and coffee? This time of life is a great chance to reinvent yourself. Look at all of the reasons that make sense for you to downsize, and then spend some time finding the perfect next place to land.
Far too often the decision to downsize gets put off so long that it becomes an emergency. Whether it’s because of finances, illness, or upkeep, don’t let it become something so significant you lose flexibility and planning on where to go. It’s exciting to start with a clean slate in a new home, and you want to have and take the time to focus on what matters and what the ideal situation is. Experts advise not to procrastinate on this big decision, and do it while you still have lots of control and opportunity to analyze all your options. Doing this can make the next move one of excitement, and not stress.