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12 Signs It’s Time To Downsize

Our lives are dynamic, changing things, and it can be hard to predict our future needs. What once may have been the perfect home for you and your family may now seem too large or too impersonal. If you're on the fence about whether it's time for you to downsize your home, here are 12 signs that may point you in the right direction.

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Signs to Downsize: Maintenance is Becoming Overwhelming

If the cost and physical activity it takes to maintain your property has become intimidating, then it’s likely time to downsize and find something with less overwhelming maintenance. While every home will occasionally require maintenance that lies outside your physical or financial comfort zone, if you’re regularly struggling to perform the chores required to maintain your property and your home has become a source of frustration, it’s time to find a solution. Homeownership should be a pleasure, not a source of physical exhaustion or mental anguish.

And the truth is that every home requires maintenance. For a quick reality check, here are the top crucial fall maintenance tasks you should never forget.

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Signs to Downsize: Empty, Unused Space

Do you have multiple guest rooms collecting dust? A three-car garage holding just one car and an old bicycle? Why spend the time and money to keep unused areas clean and heated when they’re far more likely to collect junk than bring joy? Because that space isn’t just sitting there, it’s actually weighing you down financially and mentally.

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Signs to Downsize: Unsustainable Monthly Expenses

In addition to the price of maintenance, large homes can carry steep holding costs, which are generated simply by owning the property. Some homeowners see their tax burden rise dramatically as valuations increase, which can be especially difficult for those on fixed incomes. Generally speaking, a smaller home equals a smaller monthly expenses. Mortgage payments tend to be lower, maintenance costs are less, and utility expenses are almost always reduced. Combine that with the fact that many people get a financial boost when they downsize (more on that later!) and your month-to-month cost of living might drop dramatically in a smaller home.

If the thought of having lower month-to-month costs sounds like heaven on earth, then it might be time for you to consider downsizing. And if you’re nervous about holding costs, here are things you need to know about property taxes.

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Signs to Downsize: You’re Often Away From Home

What’s the point in having a big, beautiful home if you’re never in it? Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, if you’re rarely home then the mortgage interest, taxes, and utility costs to maintain that property is almost money down the drain. If it feels like you’re not making the best use of your home, reconsider whether it makes more sense to downsize or to relocate to someplace more convenient.

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Signs to Downsize: Needing to Cash Out the Land Bank

Earlier we mentioned that unsustainable expenses were an indicator that it’s time to downsize. But even if you’re doing fine, you may want to consider selling a home with a value that has risen steadily over the years. Maybe you want to set up your retirement, or maybe you want to cross some items off the bucket list. No matter what you want to do with it, take that money tied up in your larger home and make it work for you more directly! If you want to get the most for your home, here are 20 ways to make your home attractive to potential buyers.

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oldJacob Lund/Shutterstock

Signs to Downsize: Fears about Aging in Place

When a young family moves into a home, they often aren’t thinking about what it will be like in 20 or 30 years. But as you age, you may have to make tough realizations about how your body will hold up to the demands of your current home. We’re not talking about maintenance and upkeep (though those earlier points are important) we’re talking about whether the baths and showers have grab bars, how often you need to climb the stairs, and whether the doorways are large enough to allow for wheelchair or walker access. The aging in place movement helps seniors and disabled members of the community stay in their homes, and is perfect for those who’d rather downsize to an accessible home than go into an assisted living facility.

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Signs to Downsize: Emotional Agony

Sadly, for some people the home they live in is a constant reminder of something they’ve lost. Empty nesters, widows or widowers, divorcees, even people who’ve lost a job may find that it’s time to scale down and move on.

Your home is literally the first thing you see when you wake up in the morning. If it causes more heartache than pleasure, take a moment to consider what it would be like to live someplace new. If that thought lifts a weight from your shoulders, then it’s likely time for you to downsize. For inspiration, here are 10 things that will make you happier at home.

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Signs to Downsize: Tax Advice

When you talk to a tax attorney, accountant or financial planner, are you consistently getting advice that it’s time to address your home? While everyone’s tax situation is unique, if you are consulting with professionals and learning about the advantages of selling your home and downsizing, then that’s a good sign that it’s time to consider that move.

For most people, their home is the largest investment they’ll ever make.

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Signs to Downsize: A Growing Desire to Simplify Your Life

One amazing facet of the late ’90s and early 2000s boom in large housing was that many of the people who settled in large homes ended up wishing that they had purchased or built a smaller home. In fact, a 2017 survey showed that a full 60 percent of people who lived in homes 2,000 square feet or larger said they hoped to downsize.

Some of that is certainly due to the financial considerations we discussed already, but some of it may also be driven by a more thoughtful mindset. Typified by the tiny house movement, some people seek to downsize in order to strip away unneeded complications and focus on what matters most.

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Signs to Downsize: Major Life Change

Dealing with major life changes often requires a change in setting or environment. When your family is growing, for example, it’s common to upsize your home to accommodate additional children, pets or extended family. But, sometimes a major life change is a sign that it’s time to simplify and downsize.

For many people this occurs at retirement. A change in life combined with fewer people in the home encourages downsizing. Other such events could include divorce, the loss of a loved one, a change in employment or a desire to chase a long postponed dream. Whatever the reason, if your life is undergoing seismic changes it’s time to consider whether your current home is the best match for your new situation. To help get you started, here are 15 fantastic tiny homes to buy after retirement.

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Signs to Downsize: A Love of Design

Big homes can certainly be beautiful homes. But if the quality of the craftsmanship that went into your home is of utmost importance to you, then chances are you would be happier in a smaller home, where the builders and craftspeople were able to spend more energy in perfecting the details.

It’s a simple fact that as quality increases, so does expense. That means that a large, truly high-quality home is extremely expensive. If you want to focus on the quality of the home and property, with emphasis on smart, meaningful interior design, decoration and landscaping, then a smaller home and property is probably a better fit for you.

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Signs to Downsize: Concern about Environmental Impact

If your impact on the environment is a top priority for you, then downsizing may be in your future. Because, after all, if you care about the Earth but you’re consuming fossil fuels in order to heat and maintain a large property that you don’t use, let’s just say that your compost pile probably isn’t balancing out your gigantic, half-empty home. One of the most dramatic ways to reduce your carbon footprint and be a bit gentler with mother Earth is to downsize your home to the size that’s perfect for you. You can also consider embracing other technologies that are more environmentally friendly, such as geothermal heat pumps.

Dan Stout
Ohio-based freelance writer and author Dan Stout is a former residential remodeler, commercial site supervisor and maintenance manager. He’s worked on nearly all aspects of building and DIY including project planning and permitting, plumbing, basic electric, drywall, carpentry, tiling, painting and more. He also publishes noir fantasy thrillers, including The Carter Series, from Penguin imprint DAW Books.