Many times downsizing a home is considered a retirement issue, one that you don't even think about until your golden years are imminent. But downsizing from a house in the suburbs to a condo in the city could serve you well, no matter what your age. Scaling back on the square footage of your living space and moving to the city can help you cut costs, open up free time and even eliminate your commute.
You should have some money left over from the sale of your home in the suburbs after you've purchased your condo in the city. This is subject to the housing market and how much, if anything, you owe on a mortgage on your house in the 'burbs. Even if you aren't able to pad your nest egg, you'll still save money on heating and cooling a smaller home and, if a mortgage is necessary, the payment should be less than what you were paying on the larger house. In a condo you won't have to worry about upkeep, as your Homeowner's Association Fees will cover maintenance like keeping the lawn mowed, the leaves raked and the gutters cleaned. In the city you'll be closer to shopping, entertainment and work, too.
A huge issue when downsizing is, well, downsizing. You'll have less room than you're accustomed to living in. You'll find that everything you've accumulated over a lifetime probably won't fit into your new urban condo. There won't be as much space between you and your family, either. Even if it's just you and your spouse, a significantly smaller home can make you feel crowded. You may not be expecting the difference in your surroundings, either. Your neighbors are just on the other side of the wall and, although many times developers go out of their way to include walking trails and other aspects that generate serenity, there's always the chance that you'll have to adjust to the sounds and the atmosphere of city living that will be different from life in the suburbs.
Once you've decided to downsize your house, you should take measurements of all the rooms in your condo to help determine what you can realistically bring along with you from your larger home. You might also have to adjust your mindset. Maybe you're used to having an entire room for your home office, but in your smaller condo you might not have that luxury. You may have to compromise and use only a corner of a room like the bedroom or dining room, which could mean your entire office suite has to be reduced to a small desk and a two-drawer filing cabinet.
Once you know the amount of room you'll have to live in, you then have to decide what is a necessity and what is a luxury. In her article for "Style At Home," Helen Racanelli advises readers to make a list of everything they absolutely cannot live without. It can include things that you simply love or have a sentimental attachment to, but you may end up going through the list a couple of times to trim out items that can't realistically fit into your downsized home and lifestyle. About three months before the move start going through your rooms one at a time, and get rid of the things that aren't on your "keeper" list. Racanelli points out that recycling and donating are better ways of disposing of items you no longer need than throwing them away. Ask family first if there's anything they want or can use, yard-sale or online auction what you can, and donate the rest to a shelter or other charitable organization.
- David Sacks/Lifesize/Getty Images