Downsizing crosses the minds of many Canadians in the later stages of life because of the potential financial benefits and lifestyle improvements it can provide. When the kids have left the nest and work life is winding down moving to smaller property can seem like the obvious move, yet there are many Canadians who are unsure about whether downsizing is right for them.
A recent survey about downsizing in Canada found that nearly half of baby boomers say they have no plans to downsize. So why such a contentious split on the issue?
Quite simply, Canadians just aren’t sure about the realities of downsizing. It’s not as simple as just selling your home, buying a smaller residence, then pocketing the difference. In fact, four out of ten Canadians who haven’t downsized say they’re skeptical of potential savings while a third of those who plan on downsizing admit they aren’t sure about the costs.
So, this guide will share what we at Frank Leo & Associates have learned over decades in the Toronto & GTA real estate industry helping 1,000’s of residents buy and sell homes to downsize.
We’ll start with the fundamentals, and remember that if you have any questions or require clarification about your situation don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
Downsizing involves selling your property, usually a single-family home, and buying a smaller property, often a townhouse, condo, or bungalow. Downsizing can mean different things to different people, but it involves switching to a smaller, cheaper residence, often with lower square footage, with a substantial difference between the selling price of the old home and the cost of the new property.
Although many people downsize because of the financial advantage of liquidating part of their net worth to fund retirement, some people downsize to reduce maintenance expenses on a property that isn’t fully used.
There are a number of reasons Canadians choose to downsize, but they mostly come down to financial and practical considerations. Here are some of the common reasons people choose to downsize:
As many positive reasons as there are for downsizing, it’s a life-altering decision that shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. Individual circumstances vary and downsizing isn’t right for everyone even if the real estate sale and moving process goes smoothly.
Prospective downsizers should be aware of all the costs, risks, and considerations which can come up with downsizing. Remember that there’s more to consider than just finances when downsizing. Emotional ties to a home, local amenities, and lifestyle choices are all important factors to consider.
Buying and selling real estate comes at a price. There are government taxes to consider on top of the expense of staging, marketing, and putting in the effort of finding a buyer who will pay top dollar for your property.
Although getting a real estate agent to sell your property comes at a price, that extra cost can be well worth it if you’ve selected the best real estate agent for you.
For one, you’re saved the hassle of handling all of the administrative and legal matters of the sale of your home. That can be a full-time proposition on its own and isn’t exactly something most downsizers want to worry about as they’re planning their new life and making the moving arrangements.
Perhaps most importantly, the right real estate agent will maximize the profit you make on the sale of your property. That extra profit can outweigh the expense of the agent’s commission.
Real estate agents specialize in finding qualified buyers for your property to maximize the value of your home sale. At Frank Leo & Associates, for example, we put a multi-million dollar marketing system to work for each client to attract the type of buyer who knows the value of the home and is willing to pay what the home is worth.
You can find more information about why choosing the right real estate agent is important in our article on the importance of picking the right real estate representation.
An often overlooked detail of downsizing is getting the home into a presentable condition for the sale. Referred to as staging a home for sale, making a home look its best can help up the sale price and help the home sell fast.
Staging can come at an additional cost if handled privately or with a brokerage which holds open houses. However, not all brokerages depend on open houses to sell homes. You can read more about how we market and sell homes without the use of intrusive open houses if you are interested in selling without the disruption of your day-to-day life.
There may also be essential repairs to consider before selling a home. The cost of these repairs or improvements must be factored into any downsizer’s financial calculations if they are to get an accurate idea of where they will stand after the sale.
A smaller home means less space to keep things. Most people have collected a lifetime of “stuff” off all kinds – from books and clothing to furniture and even vehicles.
Some of these items are just clutter, kept just in case they come in handy someday. Others are reminders of precious family memories or a different stage of life. It’s important to consider what it’s practical to keep and what has to go. Having that question sorted out before finding a new place to live helps avoid unpleasant surprises later on.
For some people, sorting through so many personal affairs can be daunting and downright difficult.
A storage unit is always an option, but that tacks on a monthly expense that most downsizers are looking to avoid.
Condominiums are a popular downsizing option, especially for older Canadians. The convenience of the amenities most condos have combined with the lack of maintenance responsibilities make condominium community living an attractive option indeed.
That added convenience does come at a price. Condo fees should be carefully considered and budgeted for to get an accurate idea of finances.
There’s no way to get around moving costs and expenses, and they go up the farther away you plan to move. The practical option is to get rid of unused things, but there’s probably a reason you’ve kept them all those years if you still have them around when it’s time to downsize.
The more things you have to take with you the faster moving expenses can add up. Moving across town is one thing, but crossing the country with a lifetime of personal effects can really eat into the profit of a homesale.
When we’re young, moving to a new place means making new friends, having new experiences, and starting life on our own terms. All of those factors may be true later in life as well, but most downsizers would probably agree that they’re moving to create a more comfortable lifestyle and not because they didn’t enjoy the community they had at home.
Unfortunately, we can’t take our friends, favourite neighbourhood spots, and local community with us. Moving away from the place you’ve called home for years isn’t something to be undertaken lightly.
For some people, the concern isn’t even personal. With 35% of young Canadians between 20 and 35 years old living with parents, downsizers may be considering the potential return of their children when picking a new place to live.
There are so many real-world factors to consider when moving that one couldn’t possible factor them all in, but having as many changes accounted for as possible will make for a smoother transition.
Everyone has a special attachment to the place they call home. Simply being prepared to say goodbye to a home where you’ve shared memories and gone through milestone life events is something every downsizer should anticipate.
Even if it isn’t possible to prepare for the emotional impact of such a move, accepting that it will happen is a step closer to a smoother transition to the next place you’ll call home.
If you’re thinking of downsizing give us a call or contact us through our website. Even if you’re not ready sell and you’re just looking to shed some light on a few questions or concerns, one of our staff would be happy to help make sense of downsizing and share some of the insights we’ve garnered over 3 decades in the Toronto real estate industry.