“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?
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.
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.
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