Downsizing? What To Look For In Your New (Smaller) Home

Downsizing from a large family home to a smaller house or condo can be liberating; the promise of less space to maintain and clean, and more freedom to live how you want is convincing many empty nesters across Canada to take the plunge. In fact, the Conference Board of Canada says more than 80 per cent of new housing demands will come from those over 65 in the next 20 years.

If this sounds like it’s you, or will be soon, here’s a handy list to look over about a few things you’ll want to consider if (or when) you decide it’s time to downsize.

Determining the right size for your new home is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face. Your kids have left home and you just don’t need as much space, but how small is small enough? A good way to look at this is number of bedrooms - do you want a spare bedroom for family and friends to stay in when they visit? Depending on the number of bedrooms you want, will likely play a significant role in whether or not you go with a condo or small house. Three bedroom condos can be hard to find - so if you need more than two separate sleeping areas a small house may be your best option.

  • Location, location, location

Picking a location for your new home is all about priorities: you should strive to live near to what’s most important to you. Many empty nesters choose to sell their family home and move closer to cultural attractions, shopping and restaurants, while others opt for proximity to amenities like recreational services, doctors and dentists, open spaces or transit. Ultimately, it comes down to how you see yourself spending most of your time. If it’s on the golf course or on the bowling green, do you really want to have to drive a significant distance to get there?

  • Maintenance

Imagine never having to shovel snow, mow grass or garden ever again? For some it’s a dream come true, for others offloading maintenance takes all the fun out of home ownership. This is a big part of downsizing - reducing the amount of space that requires upkeep, but remember to keep what’s important because it’s often what keeps us active.

If travel is big part of your plan, and you’re thinking you’ll be away for months at a time, then maintenance and location are likely going to be two very big considerations. Being able to lock the door and walk away without worry, will make for a better travel experience.

  • One floor or two?

You may be able to take the stairs without issue now, but planning for future mobility issues may save you having to move in the future. Consider buying a one-storey house or a condo that doesn’t require you to take stairs. Making your home accessible or buying a property that can be easily converted in the future will benefit not only you, but your friends and family who may need it in the future.

  • New life, new toys

Downsizing to a new home doesn’t mean sacrificing the things you want - it means prioritizing them. This is a great opportunity to buy a home that fits your hobbies and interests. If you love cooking, find a home with the kitchen of your dreams. If you always wanted a fireplace, look for a home with a hearth. If you love to entertain, look for a condo with a large great room or bar. You no longer have to worry about bedrooms and playrooms, so focus on the amenities you want the most.

  • Money matters

By downsizing to a smaller, and in theory, cheaper property often people find they decrease their annual yearly expenses; property taxes, home insurance, heat, hydro, and mortgage payments are often less, as are general upkeep and maintenance. However, when looking to downsize don’t forget to factor in potential added expenses. For example, will your big home furniture fit into your new, smaller space? Will you be putting anything into storage? If you buy a condo, will you have to pay for a parking spot and what about the condo fees?

This new chapter in your life means finding a space that means less upkeep, more enjoyment and even possibly saves you money. Think about what’s important to you (and your partner), and find your downsized dream home. After all, you’ve earned it.