Guide to Downsizing in a Seller's Market

Many consider owning a home to be one of the greatest accomplishments of their life, and while there is no place like the first, there may come a time where it feels right to downsize and move into a smaller abode that better suits your needs. If you're 55+ and want to downsize, you're actually in the majority (36 percent) compared to 23 percent who want to upsize according to a 2017 survey from Trulia.

While there are challenges when you're selling your home regardless of whether it's your first or going to be your last move, there is a special set of challenges that comes with downsizing. Ideally, it's best to wait until it's a seller's market, which essentially means that the demand for homes is higher than the supply, thereby not only allowing you to increase the chances that your place will sell in a relatively short time frame but that you may also get a higher price for it.

So where exactly are you supposed to start with this mind-boggling task?

Make a moving plan

It helps to make a moving plan sooner rather than later, as once it’s closer to moving time, it won’t seem like such an unsurmountable task. Start by getting estimates from moving companies, reaching out to family and friends to see who can help you with the move, and finding out where you can get free-yet-sturdy moving boxes. It doesn't seem like much, but every little piece of the plan you put into place can be one more burden that's lifted. Moving costs can range based on a variety of factors, such as how far you're going to be moving. Movers, however, charge by the hour, and there may be extra fees involved as well for additional services such as unpacking. According to HomeAdvisor, the national average cost to hire moving services is $763, so keep those factors in mind when you're getting your plan in order.

Start cleaning out and making improvements

If it's not a seller's market where you live now, it eventually will be, and you're not going to want to be under the pressure of getting your home ready when the right real estate conditions are encountered. Start now rather than waiting. Find out what improvements are probably going to have to be mad, such as repainting the walls, pressure-washing the siding, changing leaky faucets, replacing missing bathroom tiles, updating landscaping, etc., and then get to work on them as soon as you can. When it comes to cleaning out your possessions, it’s likely to take a while, especially if you've been in your home for decades. The sooner you start, the easier it will be. Your life will only have to be disrupted during a minimal time frame by employing more of gradual process that you can do little-by-little in your own time.

Change your mindset

One of the reasons downsizing can be so overwhelming is that while it's happening, it may be looked at in a negative light. Sure, the prospect of moving to a new home can be exciting, but the packing, letting go of a substantial amount of items, and the time frame that's a must to work with? Not so much. Downsizing your home can be physically and emotionally draining, but changing your mindset can make a big difference. For example, rather than viewing the process of going through your items as an exhaustive and never-ending process, consider it an opportunity to make money and clear that clutter weight off your shoulders by selling your items, or helping out someone else, by giving items away or donating what you don’t need. This is an opportunity to do some good for yourself and others. Every time you feel like all of it is way too much to handle, step away for a few minutes and take some time to think about all the positives that can come out of it.

Draw up a floor plan

When you're downsizing, there's only so much space you have to work with in your new home. Big pieces, such as couches, chairs, tables, and beds, are going to prove to be the biggest challenges. Draw up a floor plan of the home you're moving into so you can determine what space you have left for additional items after the necessities like beds, dressers, etc. are moved in, as well as what furniture you're going to have to part with simply because it won't fit or would make your new home way too cluttered. Seeing it planned out in front of you could be just what you need to inspire you to get rid of more items than you were previously considering.

Make your lists

Lists can be wonderful tools for helping you to get your downsizing plans in order. Make as many lists as you feel would be helpful to you. Some you should consider include lists for sentimental items that are a must to keep, items that should definitely be sold, given away, or donated, and furniture to get rid of and keep. When it comes to furniture, make sure you also get measurements of all the pieces that are going into your new home so you can determine if they can fit and, if so, where they will go. Put all the lists in a notebook, binder, or organized on your computer, so that they're easily accessible and won't get lost.

Don't get a storage unit

Getting a storage unit probably seems like an easy solution for downsizing. You can take the items you're not sure about parting with, or you just don't feel like dealing with yet, and put them into a storage unit to deal with at a future date. However, that can prove to be a problem in a number of ways, the first of which is the expense. Prices range depending on where you live, the company you go with, and the size of the unit you have. That’s money coming out of your pocket every month that could be going toward something else. The other problem is that you're just taking the clutter and moving it to another less convenient place. You're still eventually going to have to deal with it, and that thought can often weigh heavy on one’s mind. When you do finally go through the items in the storage unit, it’s going to be a lot more inconvenient than it would have been had you dealt with it in the first place - at home. You're going to have to sort it all in a likely cramped storage unit, carry all the items out of there, and then figure out what to do with them. It’s also likely to take multiple trips. Even if you can go through all of it in a day, you're still going to have to spend hours stuck in a storage unit rather than if you had sorted through everything in the comfort of your own home.

Consider true sentimental value

When it comes to downsizing your home, one of the biggest traps you're going to face is the little sentimental voice in your head telling you to keep everything and let go of nothing, but if you're moving into a smaller home, you're going to have to shut down that voice quickly, as difficult as that may be. There is absolutely nothing wrong with keeping certain items that hold true sentimental value, but keep in mind that items don't replace the memories you have. Parting with them doesn't mean your love diminishes for the original owner, and letting go of gifts doesn't mean you are selfish, ungrateful, or any one of the other series of negative attributes that are often put upon oneself when it comes to letting go of certain possessions. If it will truly, undoubtedly break your heart to part with the item and you know for a fact you're going to regret it, by all means, keep it, but if you're holding onto it for other reasons, it's time to reevaluate whether it should stay or go.

Come up with a plan of attack

There are many ways to go about downsizing a home, so you're going to have to think about which plan of attack is right for you. This is an especially important step if you have many years of items to manage that are spread out across multiple floors and rooms. For example, do you want to do one room at a time? Do a little in random rooms for a few hours each day? Remove a few items every time you go into a different room? As long as you find you're making progress, there's no right or wrong plan. It's subjective; it's all about what works best for you and what helps you get the sorting done in the quickest and most efficient manner. If your method doesn't seem to be allowing you to get things done as fast and easy as you would prefer, don't hesitate to change it up and see what happens.

Keep multi-purpose in mind

A key word to keep in mind while you're in the process of downsizing, is “multi-purpose,” as in how can the item you're looking at serve you in multiple ways. For example, can the inside of your ottoman serve as storage for your books or is it just an item that's going to get in your way? This is especially important regarding - but not limited to - larger items such as furniture that tend to take up the most space. When it comes to downsizing, it's often that organizational skills have to be kicked up a notch for efficiency purposes. If an item can't be used in multiple ways, you might want to reevaluate its place in your new home.

Break out the stickers

There are round, colorful stickers often used in garage sales that can prove useful while you're downsizing. It can allow you to come up with a color-coded system (green=sell, yellow=donate, red=keep, etc.) that makes the process easier. Walk around your home as often as possible and put stickers on various items as you determine what you want to do with them. When it comes time to figure out what to do with each respective category, it's much easier to see a visual system than to just wing it and accidentally forget about one or more items that you're going to have to worry about dealing with separately.

Don't panic

When you're faced with a massive task like downsizing your home, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and panicked, simply at the mere thought of having to do it all, but the important thing is to keep your cool. You're going to want to make rational decisions regarding the home-buying process, which possessions to keep and what to let go of, and how you should go about organizing and arranging your new home. Stressing out too much has a way of clouding judgment. Depending on the situation, you may not be able to go at a leisurely pace when it comes to getting everything in order, but you can take situations little-by-little, making it easier to tackle them in a calm manner.

The aforementioned are just some of the many ways that you can get on the road to downsizing your home in an effective and efficient manner. It sounds like a lot of effort, and while it is that, the good news is that the benefits and rewards often far outweigh all of the work you're putting in to make downsizing as easy a process as possible. The benefits are subjective, but there are quite a few that are typically at the top of the list as some of the most rewarding aspects of moving into a smaller home.

Less cleaning

One of the biggest benefits of downsizing is that you have less cleaning to do. Let's say you're currently living in a 3,000-square-foot home and you want to move to a home that is 1,500-square-feet. You're cutting the amount of space you have to clean in half. Doesn't sound so bad, right? That can make a big difference in several areas of your life, not just in terms of how much less space you're going to have to clean. It's less time you're going to have to spend cleaning, less stress with worrying about getting it all done, and it's even less money you're going to be spending on cleaning supplies because you won't go through them as often anymore.

More spare time

Think about how much time you're currently spending cleaning, managing, and maintaining your home. Now consider what you could do with all that extra time should you choose to downsize. You would have more time to do what you want to do, whether it would be enjoying all of those outdoor adventures that await in Port Ludlow and the surrounding area, spending time with new friends, learning a new hobby, traveling, reading more often, getting a pet, or something else entirely. In today's busy world, having spare time is a real gift. Consider if you were to cut just 10-minutes off a day from maintaining your home; that's 3,650-minutes a year or approximately 60-hours. What could you do with that time?

Less space to maintain

More space in a home comes with greater maintenance requirements. The landscaping has to be done, gutters have to be cleaned, the carpet has to be washed, the floors have to be swept, leaks have to be addressed, the walls have to be painted, any furniture in that space has to be polished and wiped down, and the list goes on and on. Sure they have to be done in a smaller home as well, but not to the same scale as what comes with a larger home. Depending on where you're moving, certain tasks such as landscaping may not even have to be done at all as they may be taken care of for you. All those seemingly little tasks add up in a plethora of ways, and downsizing tends to mean less you're going to have to worry about.

Lower bills

Larger homes usually cost more to run when it comes to heating, electric, cooling, and more. While there are several factors at play, there's a good chance that downsizing will lead to lower bills due to less space. The less money you're spending every month in bills, is more money you could toward something like a shiny new boat to take out into the bay, or whatever else your heart desires.

The chance to experience a new location

Downsizing is your opportunity to finally make the move to a quieter place filled with nature and friendly neighbors, perhaps getting away from the extreme heat of summer, or frigid cold winters, enjoying a milder climate and more time outdoors. Moving is also a chance to meet new people, explore new locations, try different activities, and even improve your health and alter your lifestyle, if that’s your goal. 

More available money

Depending on your situation, you might have a significant amount money coming to you from the sale of your current home, and, as previously mentioned, the bills in your new home may be lower as well. There's also the added bonus in that when you sell your items it could mean an additional nice chunk of change in your wallet. From possibly being able to reduce or eliminate your mortgage payments to less maintenance costs and everything in between, it could very well mean more money in your bank account. In turn, even that could have an even bigger benefit as it allows you to have more money to save and invest.

Less material possessions

According to a 2015 survey from Decluttr, an astounding 54 percent of Americans are overwhelmed by all of their clutter. You may feel the stress of the clutter you're surrounded by and not even realize it until you actually start getting rid of it. It's almost like the possessions have a hold on you, but downsizing can help change that as you start parting with more and more items. There are less possessions in your way, less to clean, and less you're going to have to deal with in general on a day to day basis. It can be a rather freeing experience that you didn't even know you needed.

Opportunity to challenge yourself

Downsizing is a challenge in so many ways, but it's one that could be one of the best you ever took on and fought your way through. Letting go of all the extra possessions can be difficult because of the sentimental aspect or the “what if I'm going to eventually need this even though I haven't used it in five years” issue. Not only is going through your items going to be challenging, but so will getting used to a new home, adjusting to the size difference, organizing the new space, possibly adjusting to a new neighborhood, and then some. Once you get everything in order, however, there's a good chance you're going to feel that all the effort was worth it, and you're going to realize that you succeeded in your challenge. You may be surprised at just how empowering it can feel. Facing challenges like this has also been shown to boost brain power and even lessen the risk of cognitive decline and brain diseases.

When it comes to downsizing in a seller's market, don't wait too long to make your move, as it’s hard to tell just when conditions will shift again. At the same time, don’t rush either. Take your time to figure out what's best for you and what's going to be best for your future. If it's currently a buyer's market where you live, there's no better time than now to start figuring out if downsizing is the right move for you, so that once it starts shifting into a seller's market, you’ll be ready.