Downsizing Your Home for Retirement: Is it the Best Option for You?
Retirement often sparks a number of changes in a person’s lifestyle. It’s an exciting milestone we work towards our whole lives, and we look forward to the freedom it will bring.
If you’re at this stage in your life, chances are you have big plans! Often those plans involve moving, and in particular, downsizing your home and moving into a smaller home.
There could be a number of reasons you’re planning to downsize. Maybe you want to travel more. Maybe you plan to move closer to your children and grandchildren, or to a warmer climate. Maybe you’re moving to a smaller home on your dream property. Whatever your plans, it’s likely you’re choosing to move in order to reduce your monthly cost of living in order to free up cash for more important things.
Downsizing your home is a big step – one that comes with its own set of challenges when compared to a regular move. And, like any move, it will be a process that will cause you some stress along the way, which is why we’ve put together these tips to help make it a little easier.
Should I Downsize My Home?
Sometimes it’s hard to know when it’s time to pull the trigger on a major life change like selling your family home. If you’ve raised your family in your current home, you will be surrounded by memories, making it harder to leave.
If you’ve lived in your home for many years, you may have great friends and neighbours nearby that you’ll miss. But as we get older, a large home and yard becomes harder to maintain.
Whatever your situation, downsizing is probably something you’ve been considering for some time now, and if you’re still not confident enough to make the decision to move, perhaps asking yourself these questions will help:
1) Where do I really want to live?
If you have children and grandchildren who don’t live close by, you may find yourself wishing you lived closer to them so you can see them more often. Or, if you’ve always lived in the suburbs, you may want to live somewhere that’s more pedestrian-friendly so you can walk to appointments, grocery stores and other amenities.
If changing your home for factors like these makes you think your life will be happier, easier and more enjoyable, chances are that downsizing is a good option for you.
2) Do I still need this much space?
Many people have the mentality that “bigger is better”, so sometimes we need to take a step back and really look at our needs in a home. If you often host large family gatherings and need several bedrooms, then downsizing may not make sense for you just yet. But, if you’re the one who has to travel for most get-togethers, then a large home may not be practical anymore.
In addition, you have to consider your ability to take care of a larger home. Are you starting to find it hard to keep up with the cleaning or yard work? Are you cleaning and maintaining rooms that nobody uses? If so, living in a home with two bedrooms and two bathrooms instead of four of each, and a smaller yard will make daily maintenance easier on you. Plus, less work at home means you’ll free up some of your time to do the things you want to but never had time for!
3) Will downsizing improve my financial situation?
After retirement most people begin living on a relatively fixed income. You’ll also have more time to do things and go places than you did when you were working. This is where the topic of cash flow will come into play.
Crunch some numbers to figure out your current monthly cost of living versus what it might be in a smaller home. A smaller home will most likely mean that your energy costs will go down, as well as monthly mortgage or rent payments and property taxes. But, don’t forget to factor in the cost of the move and things you’ll need after the move.
Make sure you consider the following factors when assessing the financial pros and cons of downsizing:
- Calculate how much money you think you will make on the sale of your current home as well as the cost of a new home in your desired area. Sometimes, just because a home is smaller doesn’t mean it will cost you less to purchase.
- Make sure you research your desired neighbourhood to find out what homes cost. It may be a good idea to connect with a licensed Realtor who is familiar with both your area and the new neighbourhood to help you with this process. There will also be Realtor and lawyer fees and other expenses that will come up during the sale and purchase of a home, which a real estate agent can help explain. It’s always a good idea to add in some contingency as well.
- If you have a lot of furniture in your current house (such as sofas, love seats, sectionals, dressers, TV stands, china cabinets, beds/bed frames, etc.) think about how much of it you will want to take to your new home. How much of it will fit in your new home? If the answer is “none of it”, then shop around for pricing on new furniture so you aren’t blind sided with extra costs to replace what you had.
- Bottom line: lower payments, fewer costs and lower debt will open up a world of exciting opportunities and possibilities for you in your new home!
Benefits of Downsizing Your Home After Retirement
There may be some great benefits to moving into a smaller home that you haven’t even realized or thought about yet! Here are a few benefits that will help you make a decision to move and feel better about it:
Less stress and less upkeep.
Keeping a large home clean can be a huge chore in itself, but also keep in mind that the larger house you have, the more likely maintenance issues will come up. And, as a home ages, issues and repairs will become more common.
A simpler life.
When you downsize your home, you need to take a very close look at the things you REALLY need. You’ll have to weed out a lot of excess “stuff” that would just clutter your new space. Freeing yourself of things you don’t actually need or no longer use will not only simplify your home, but it will simplify your life.
Save money on energy costs.
The cost to heat and cool a large home can get expensive, and it seems that energy costs are going up all the time. A smaller home will use less energy, which means lower utility bills, freeing up more money for leisure activities.
In addition, you can feel good knowing you’ve reduced your carbon footprint on the earth. If you’re curious to learn how a smaller, more energy-efficient home, and things like energy efficient appliances, could change your monthly energy costs, contact your residential energy provider. Often they can assess your current usage and estimate how you could save by moving to a smaller home.
Freedom to travel.
When asked “What will you do after you retire?” one of the top answers is always “I will travel more!”. You’ll definitely have the flexibility and time to travel more, but travelling can be expensive and having a large home and yard to worry about while you’re away can take some of the fun out of it.
As mentioned in #3 above, downsizing can save you money and free up cash for the fun stuff, like travelling. But, as every homeowner knows, even when you’re away a home still needs attention. Having a smaller home (especially if you move to a townhome or condo) with a smaller yard that requires less or no maintenance, will make it easier for you to get away for longer periods of time.
You can also consider 55 plus communities, where you can have a smaller single-family home that is part of a strata community. The strata usually looks after the yard maintenance, which means you have more freedom. They’re also a great way to make new friends!
View it as a new adventure!
Of course, moving after retirement will seem like a daunting task that can cause fear and anxiety of the unknown. And, yes, the act of packing and moving will not be fun, but if you consciously choose to look at the process as an adventure that will bring you exciting new opportunities and experiences, those positive thoughts will help get you through the rough parts of the moving process.
How To Downsize Your Home
OK, you’ve made the decision to downsize your home… Now what?
Try not to panic or overwhelm yourself by thinking about what needs to be done! There are things you can do before, during and after your move to make it easier, but it all hinges on planning. If you’re prepared for your move, there will be fewer surprises, you’ll feel more confident in your decision, and you’ll be able to enjoy the process more.
Here are a few ideas and tips to help when planning your move:
Take your time when packing!
If you’ve lived in your home for many years, there will be a lot to do. Don’t feel like you have to sort through everything in one day. If you’re moving to a smaller home, decisions will have to be made about what will go to the new home, and what won’t. Making the decision to part with personal belongings can be emotionally draining, so give yourself some time.
If you have a lot of stuff to sort through, using a BigSteelBox for your move can help enormously. Your moving container can be delivered as far in advance as you need it, so you can pack at your own pace. A BigSteelBox is extremely secure, so you can gradually load your items and have peace of mind knowing they will stay safe and dry inside.
Having the ability to pack over a number of days or weeks will help eliminate some of the stress caused by making rushed decisions, and you’ll feel less overwhelmed by the entire process.
Need some extra hands? Professional moving companies like Two Small Men with Big Hearts can provide labour to pack your BigSteelBox, or even offer complete packing and moving services if needed.
Remember to update your address
Moving is exciting, but it comes with some administrative tasks you won’t want to forget about, such as changing your address. If you’re retired, there are some specific changes of address you might have to do. Two are particularly important. You may have to inform the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS).
Fortunately, it’s easy to change your address with the government through My Service Canada Account online.
That said, there are other changes of address that are important to do as well. Nowadays, there are free online moving concierge services, such as MovingWaldo, that can assist you with completing moving tasks including but not limited to updating your address with providers (i.e. TV, phone and Internet), purchasing or changing home insurance, and finding moving boxes, all in one place.
Prepare yourself to purge
Moving to a smaller home means there are going to be items that just can’t go with you. Paring down your things means tough decisions will have to be made.
Can it be donated? When sorting, take a step back and think about how often you use an item. Can you remember the last time you used it? If not, that’s an item you could donate to a charity or secondhand shop. Knowing that someone less fortunate will have an opportunity to receive or purchase that item at a discounted rate, can make you feel better in your decision.
Here’s a tip: If you’re donating large items to a charity, find out if they offer free pick up. Not having to arrange the moving, loading and delivery of items will save you a lot of time and energy.
Is it trash? If it’s broken, toss it! If you cannot use an item and it’s in no shape to donate, don’t waste time and energy bringing it to your new home. If the pile of items headed for the trash starts to add up, you may want to consider hiring a company to get rid of it for you. Removal companies like 1-800-GOT-Junk or JustJunk may be very helpful if you have a lot of stuff to dispose of.
Can you give it a new home? Do you have a large piece of furniture that has a lot of sentimental value? Maybe it’s an antique china cabinet your grandmother gave you, or a dining room table that was the centre piece to countless big family dinners during the holidays. If this is the case, you may not feel comfortable donating that item, or selling it to just anyone.
Put some thought into where you might want that item to go. Has a family member expressed interest in an antique piece of furniture that has been passed down from generation to generation? Do you know someone who would really enjoy having that piece in their home? If so, consider giving it to them before your move. Not only will you make someone happy, but you’ll rest easy knowing it will be well-taken care of.
Know your new space and have fun decorating!
Moving to a new home means you will have a new canvas to make your own. Measure the rooms in your new home carefully and assess your current furniture.
Will your large dresser fit in your new bedroom? Will your sofa take up too much space in the living room? If what you have won’t fit, don’t worry! Take some time researching new home décor ideas or the latest trends in furniture. There are so many ways to make a smaller space work for you.
Treat yourself to a few fun, but efficient new pieces of furniture that will maximize the use of space in your new home. There are all sorts of trendy items out there for smaller living spaces.
Will you need storage in between homes?
During the moving process there is often a need for temporary storage in between homes. Whether it’s because your new home won’t be ready when you need to move out of your current home, or you need to keep your things in storage while you look for a new home in a new city, mobile storage can be very handy.
With BigSteelBox, you can keep your storage container at your home as long as you need it, or we can move it to one of our secure locations until you’re ready to unpack. It allows you to pack and unpack at your own pace, and because you keep the key, no one else will have access to your things.
If you’re trying to decide whether you should use a traditional moving company, or a moving container company like BigSteelBox, check out this comparison of moving options, or contact a BigSteelBox Storage Consultant directly at 1-800-373-1187 with any questions you have about our service.
Downsizing Feels Better When You Move with BigSteelBox
If you decide to downsize your home after retirement, it will definitely require some work, but in the end it will all be worth it. Our BigSteelBox moving and storage experts want to work with you to help take some of the stress out of the process. All moves take time, but our service provides you with as much time as you need to pack and sort your things.
You don’t have to fit all the stress of packing and moving into one day! BigSteelBox will drop off a moving container at your home as far in advance as you need it. Take your time packing – whether it takes you weeks or a months, you can keep your BigSteelBox as long as you need it. When you’re ready, we’ll pick it up and deliver it to your new home, or store it at one of our secure locations until your new home is ready.