Recently at a party, I had the pleasure of chatting with a good friend whom I wish I could see more often. He mentioned that he plans to move from Virginia to Maryland; primarily to be closer to the family. The move also aims to downsize to a smaller home than his current residence.
He currently lives in a large single family home in Loudoun County, one of the top 10 best counties to live in the United States. He’d like to move into Howard County, also one of the top 10 best counties to live in the United States. Even though he plans to downsize, he’s finding that home prices in Howard County are generally more expensive than Loudon County. So what gives?
Well, there is a huge supply in Loudoun County as compared with Howard County. Many parts of the county have been developed recently, that is over the past 20 years, whereas Howard County, you could say is more of at a maturity stage and land for sale or building is scarce.
We all know the laws of supply and demand. I like the way Investopedia breaks it down: “the correlation between price and how much of a good or service is supplied to the market is known as the supply relationship. Price, therefore, is a reflection of supply and demand.”
Since Howard County is more in demand because the supply is low, the prices are higher, especially in certain sub-sections. This presents a challenge and thus a consideration, yes, in downsizing.
Downsizing Itself Is Almost A Slam Dunk
The major expenses we incur month in and month out are usually housing, transportation, and food. Housing is number In fact-fact, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, housing costs account for over 33% of annual average expenditures. More so, for low-income families, housing costs account for over 40% of their income!
Needless to say, if you ’re starting the exercise to try and cut cost, the first place to look is the housing expense line.
Downsizing Is About Location Location Location
If you plan to downsize, your destination location is a big consideration. A 2,000 square foot home in a rural area could be the same or even less than a 600 square foot apartment in the heart of a major city like Manhattan. Property Management, Inc. notes that a two-bedroom apartment in NYC is almost $3,500. I have double the rooms and my mortgage is just a bit over half of this amount.
It’s important to find the right balance between exchanging for lesser square footage with stuff to fill it with and more inconvenience, free time, and cash in your pocket.
Sometimes people will downsize just 15-20 minutes away to stay close to the places and people they regularly like to visit. If you live in a busy suburb, this is a great option which provides lots of flexibility. That 15-20 minute difference in location could amount to a difference of a hundred thousand dollars or more in savings. But it can go either way; I can leave my home and drive 15-20 minutes in two different directions and see significant price increases and decreases for the same square footage of space.
Reasons To Downsize
It’s important to understand the reasons for downsizing. Putting together a framework and calculating out the savings in time and money can propel you to move forward with excitement and eagerness. The reasons for downsizing could be one or more of the following:
- Reduce mortgage/rent payment
- Reduce property tax
- Reduce utility bills
- Reduce clutter/items in your home
- Reduce home maintenance (e.g., mowing the lawn and other yard work, home cleaning, repairs and basic upkeep)
- Get rid of your car(s)(elimination of gas, car insurance, registration and even car payments if you have them) and walk everywhere
And here are some out-of-the-box reasons for downsizing which should be considered:
- You may become healthier. You may have an excuse to get out of a smaller home and enjoy the outdoors more. You may develop a hobby of biking or hiking at local parks and trails.
- You may find yourself with no reason to have to go to a store and buy stuff for your home. A lot of times when we see an empty space in our home, we feel the need to fill it with something, anything. With a smaller home, it’s more about function and convenience. You come to realize that you don’t really need or even want extra decorative stuff that just stands or sits or hangs.
- You may become more social. When you downsize, especially to a condo building, chances are you’ll run into the same people over and over again. This can be used as an opportunity to build relationships with your neighbors. We’re a social being and part of us needs that. Use your smaller home as leverage to widen your network of friends.
When you have an idea of what you hope to accomplish, you can basically work backward. You can take those reasons as a checklist and use them as your criteria to find the right property to accomplish your downsizing goal. And don’t forget that a reduction in costs can lead to opportunities for savings and investment. It may even help you retire years earlier!
Don’t Let A Downsize Of Space Lead To Upsize Fees
If you downsize to a condo or apartment complex, there could be fees associated with the maintenance that is performed by the property management folks.
Within the upscale towns of Montgomery County Maryland, for example, condo fees could range from $500 to over $1,000 per month and are even more in Washington DC. So in a way, you could end up right back where you started, except this time with the lesser square footage.
Condo fees generally cover the maintenance of the condo building itself and exterior landscaping along with the use of facilities within the condo such as a gym. It’s important to consider the condo fees and if these resources, such as a gym are already available to you, let’s say at your workplace.
Downsizing is a big change in lifestyle and in personal finance. It’s important to take your time and consider all the financial and non-financial factors at play so that you can make an informed decision with support to back it up.
- Do you have plans to downsize in the future? If so, what aspects are important for you?
- Have you downsized recently? Did you face any challenges and how have you adjusted to your living situation as a result?
- Has downsizing increased your expenses elsewhere?
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