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11 Mistakes to Avoid When Downsizing

Downsizing has always been a thing, but it’s currently having a moment in popular culture. The combination of Baby Boomers looking to move to more senior-friendly homes with a cultural shift toward minimalism and sustainable living means that many people are looking for smaller homes, apartments, and condos. If you are among those looking to simplify your life and your home, here are the pitfalls you should watch out for.


Not Knowing the Local Market


Getting to know the local market in depth is the best way to avoid overpaying or under-budgeting. So, make sure to look beyond the basic data (e.g., how many days on average it takes a home to sell) because list prices can be misleading.


Expecting an Easy Sale


If you’re counting on your beautiful, big family home to sell itself, think again. Millennial buyers also want smaller homes, which means that selling a large property can be difficult and that there is quite a bit of competition for the downsize-appropriate houses on the market.


Not Finding a Loan That Fits Your Means


If you haven’t sold your home yet or aren’t selling it at all (e.g., you’re keeping it in the family), it will be tougher to finance the purchase of a new home. Instead of putting 20 percent down on a new home, look for loans with more flexible options. For example, PennyMac FHA loans have lower down payment requirements and more flexible credit, income, and debt requirements.


Rushing It


While you may be tempted to rush into your new lifestyle, you are much less likely to make mistakes and bad decisions if you take your time throughout the process. A good timeline to give yourself one year before listing to evaluate the home and make improvements, while slowly downsizing possessions throughout the process.


Falling for the Tiny Home Fantasy


Yes, tiny homes are adorable and cheap. However, they are not for everyone, and many people don’t understand that their affordability can be deceiving. The house may be cheap, but you need to own land to put it on, which can bring the cost back up to that of a small home.


Not Communicating with Family


Whether you are a family of five or an adult trying to convince your older parent to downsize, it is important to get everyone on board. Have open conversations about how downsizing is going to affect everyone’s life, and make sure everyone is involved in the process.


Not Planning the Layout Before the Move


When you are downsizing, you need to know exactly how all your furniture is going to be set out beforeyou move. Online digital room planners like 3Dream can help you visualize the rooms ahead of time, and they also happen to be very fun to use.


Overestimating the Emotional Value of Things


People tend to vastly overestimate how emotionally attached they are to a given item. You may think you could not possibly bear to part with that old sweater, but if you do, you’ll most likely find you almost never think of it.


Expecting Magazine Perfection


If you draw your downsizing inspiration from gorgeous, glossy pictures of perfectly organized smaller homes, it’s best to mitigate your expectations. Your home is still a functional space, and it will most likely not look like that. As explained by a professional organizer in Apartment Therapy, “you will ultimately be disappointed if perfection is your goal.”


Thinking There’s a “Right Way” to Declutter


Sure, it’s good to have a plan when you’re tackling the decluttering phase. However, you don’t have to stick religiously to one pre-defined strategy, whether it’s the now-famous KonMari method or the 30-day minimalist game. Instead, take parts from different strategies to see what you like and what feels “right” for you. For example, you might use Marie Kondo’s “spark joy” trick but ignore the regimented order her method imposes.


Not Staying Organized


Moving is complicated, and downsizing is often even more so. Stay on top of everything with a detailed moving checklist that outlines every possible task you have to remember.


The process itself of downsizing is not often a lot of fun. There’s a lot of planning and organization, plus the uncomfortable reckoning of just how attached we can be to our material possessions. However, the vast majority of people find it well worth the time and effort. Once you are settled into your new home, you will be astounded to find just how easily everything flows — and just how right you were to make the move.



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