Property Wisdom – Make Do With Less

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Small is beautiful, says property expert Laura Henderson, even if it takes a little getting used to.

“My room is so small, the mice are hunchbacked.”
- Henny Youngman

The clarion call to consumers is “bigger is better”, but the housing market has become so obscenely bloated precisely because of our desire for more leg room - it’s a quirk of human nature. Wouldn’t it be better instead to question what we really get out of all that extra space? And why is it that when we downsize, and learn to live within our diminutive means, it can actually end up being a huge relief?

House purchases are usually sparked by life changes – be it a new baby, a promotion or impending retirement. While it’s generally accepted that we all want to be climbing the property ladder, there are times when actually stepping back a couple of rungs makes more sense, particularly if it ensures that your home becomes a true reflection of your current and future aspirations. Downsize your square footage and you can upgrade your lifestyle - put aside that extra capital for a rainy day or realise a lifetime ambition. Alternately, you could purchase a smaller house for the same value as your current property, but upgrade to a more desirable neighbourhood. A smaller home doesn’t have to be a compromise. You don’t need to skimp on the size of the main rooms – you simply opt for fewer of them. So how can you make downsizing the smart choice for you?

Prioritise function
Make a list of the rooms you have and when and how often you use them – you may find you can get away with less space, but have a layout that’s better suited to your everyday needs, e.g. trading that formal dining room you use once in a blue moon for a bigger kitchen with heaps of storage space.

Crunch the numbers
Work out just how much you’d save by trading down. This includes difference in monthly mortgage repayments, utility bills and taxes.

Evaluate the trade-offs
Monetary gain alone can’t seal the deal. It’s important to consider how downsizing will impact on your life. You may for example, be working round the clock to support a lifestyle that’s not ultimately satisfying – if it is, then it’s time to think again.

Take action
Draw up a wish list as well as a corresponding manifest of absolute no-goes in a smaller home. This will save you time sifting through property particulars. Get at least three valuations of your current home from experienced local agents. Remember that as a downsizer, you hold a lot of value with estate agents. Chances are you occupy one of the best properties on the market, and once you sell you’ll have cash to spend.

Choose wisely
Look for properties that have ‘hidden’ value: a place where rooms can be repurposed – the garage into a office, the study doubling up as a guest bedroom, or a home that offers the possibility to extend, whose loft can be converted or a portion of land sold off for development.

Tricks and Mortar: The Little Book of Property Wisdom by Laura Henderson is out now

3 Responses to “Property Wisdom – Make Do With Less”

  1. Audrey Regan Says:

    Interesting and helpful as I am ‘putting a toe in the water’ to find a bungalow to move to.

  2. Jan Wadman Says:

    It was so refreshing to read your comments about ‘Small is Beautiful’ as we have a 1936 mock Tudor detached house with a small lounge and large garden which we love and are selling to release the equity. Unfortunately most buyers are looking for a large open plan kitchen and sitting room.

    I know it is not a good time to sell but hopefully some potential buyers will read your comments and have second thoughts.

  3. Thea Johnston Says:

    I have now sold a big house on the mountain above Conwy. Not wanting to lose the sale I have rented a small semi in another village and have put most of furniture in store or given away a lot. Now I must find another house because this is only a 6 month rental and I can’t move in the small house for boxes etc. There’s down sizing and down sizing but after living in roomy houses for 30 years I really feel disadvantaged !

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