Downsizing Done Right: One Senior's Story“I know what I’m doing, and I won’t be rushed!”
Marilyn was pleasant but adamant. I came to her highly recommended, but she was making the ground rules clear from the start – and why not?
The project we did together – downsizing her from a 3-bedroom suburban house into a 2-bedroom mid-town apartment – was a breeze. But I don’t take the credit – Marilyn was the perfect example of downsizing done right. What were the secrets of her success?
She Gathered her Team
A fast-advancing case of macular degeneration resulted in 75-year-old Marilyn losing her licence – and everything changed in her happy suburban existence. Without a car, and with the prospect of decreased vision, her single-girl dream of living downtown re-asserted itself.
For the first time in years, she combed the Classifieds to research two things – a selling price for her car, and the value of her house.
With a firm price in mind, she sold the car, and began asking friends and neighbours for recommendations on real estate agents. She ‘road tested’ several, asking how they’d showcase her property and manage multiple offers.
She also cast around for help with downsizing and house clearing, taking time to interview several candidates to find the chemistry she was looking for.
She Did the Math
Armed with solid research on what her house should fetch, she did not rush to list it. She did however have a good idea of the funds she’s have to work with, and enlisted her financial manager to help her plan for her goals.
Everyone cautioned her not to blow the proceeds of the house – and she ignored them! She earmarked funds for various projects over the next five years. Project #1 was travel ‘while I still have the energy’, then to plan her legacy for family, her church and preferred charities. She was leaving nothing to chance, and instructed her planner in purchasing investments which would come due just as she needed them.
She Followed a Logical Sequence
While others might have rushed to cash in on the real estate bubble, that was not Marilyn’s style. Since her ophthalmologist first gave her the news, she’d been considering her options carefully and deliberately. Here’s how she thought things through:
Selling the house
- don’t list until you’ve researched your own market – not just the area, but the size, age and condition of your house
- think about how much ‘staging’ you’re willing to pay for, and live with
- are you comfortable with multiple offers, bully bids and the other realities of an aggressive real estate market?
- are you comfortable with your realtor, and does she understand your position on these matters?
- how quickly are you able and willing to move? – that affects the closing date
Marilyn did some cosmetic fix-ups, priced the house realistically for its age and the upgrades it needed, and considered all offers carefully. She accepted an offer from a couple who planned to live in the house – not tear it down, and compromised on the closing date.
Buying vs. renting
- friends advised her to stay in the housing market by purchasing a condo
- Marilyn considered the condos she viewed to be far too small
- instead she found a mid-town rental building, 25+ years old and therefore spacious, and negotiated upgrades to the bathroom, kitchen and floors
- renting for a year or two, while she travelled and invested her money carefully, was an acceptable approach for her
Keeping an Open Mind
- initially, Marilyn planned her new space in a traditional manner
- however as we worked on the floor-plan, she was open to suggestions
- why not use the large master bedroom as an airy office-cum-TV room, with a new fold-out couch for the occasional guest?
- this left a cozy bedroom, and a TV-free living room with a new Bose sound system
- the ancient ‘rumpus room’ and guest room furniture found new owners, extra kitchen items went to the church rummage sale; deck furniture was sold with the house
A Successful Result!
Marilyn has just returned from India – ‘the trip of a lifetime’ – and is ready to travel again. No worries about snow tires, mortgages, lawn care or taking in the mail.
She’s justifiably proud of having done it ‘her way’, and has every confidence she’ll handle the next stages of her life just as well.
E-book: How to downsize and declutter your home: Key advice and tips
Taxes on selling your home: Myths vs. reality
Six tips for a successful downsizing sale
Retiring in a rural area or small town: What you need to know
How to get the best offer for your home
Have you downsized successfully? What tips can you give others moving from their homes after many years? Share them in Comments below.