Downsizing -- pros/cons?

Hi - curious for those who have gone from a suburban home to a condo, apartment rental, or other much smaller space - how has that worked out? Do you miss the yard, suburban neighborhood, etc.? Do you like the reduction in home maintenance responsibilities/costs? Is there enough space for two, with room for visitors? Any other pros/cons?

We are looking ahead to downsizing (before retirement, ideally) now that youngest is midway through college and we (currently) don’t have pets. Would like to reduce costs, provide for more space (financial and responsibility-wise) for travel and possible move closer to kids. Will be trying out the smaller spaces via some AirBnB rentals etc. - just wondered what others have thought? Thank you!

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We had begun discussing it over the past year, since our town has very high property taxes, and we no longer need the good schools. Problem is, we still want/need to stay in the area for business reasons. Meanwhile, during the pandemic, we wound up needing all of our space for us and two of the three kids, plus one kid’s friend. Now we’re not in such a hurry to downsize!

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We downsized during ds’s senior year of college. Went from a 3,500 sq ft house (had previously had a 4,300 sq ft house) to a 2/2 935 sq ft condo. We have since upsized to a 3/2 1,650 condo which has been just the right amount size-wise.

Positives:

  1. less stuff
  2. less space to clean
  3. no yard to maintain
  4. ease of lock and go
  5. no state income taxes

Negatives:

  1. less space for guests
  2. I miss having a dog*
  3. moving away from where ds grew up
  4. higher property taxes

*N.B. Our building allows dogs/pets, but without a back door that opens into a yard for letting a dog go do his/her business without my walking them, I am not going to have a dog. That’s just me.

The thing I would point out is that there is a difference between less stuff and less space. To me, less stuff is always a positive. Less space can be more challenging.

The 2/2 was just fine for the two of us. And, while cozy, even with another couple coming to visit it was adequate. However, that wasn’t workable when my mil and ds came to visit at the same time because they couldn’t share a bedroom with a queen sleeper sofa in it. One of them had to be outsourced. That only happened once a year for TG. So, keep in mind who would come and stay with you when thinking about number of bedrooms/beds, etc. The 2/2 was fine when a couple or single came to stay with us, however. Again, we didn’t want to maintain a ton of space that we truly only needed once or (maybe) twice a year.

We moved away from the area where we had lived for a long time and raised our ds. I miss those friends. There is something about being around people that were in your tribe as you raised your family. We had friends in the area we moved to as well, but ds no longer gets to go, “home.” He is in that area now visiting friends and couch surfing. We’ll meet him in a few days at my mil’s house for TG. I know his life would be easier if we still lived in the area where he grew up, but it wasn’t his decision.

We do have to pay a pretty high HOA fee, but we live on the beach in Florida and a huge chunk of that is for hurricane insurance for the building. Just be sure to see what that cost is and understand what is and is not included in that fee.

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We have considered it…but right now…costs of purchases wouldn’t really make it possible for us to get what we want…where we want it.

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I really wanted to downsize in our last move. We were in a 5000+ sq ft house in OH and I wanted a condo in IL. We found exactly one that H would consider - 2500 sq ft, 3 bed/2 bath but it sold before we could make an offer. Nothing else came on the market that met our parameters within our budget, and to be honest H wasn’t really interested in downsizing so he made it difficult.

In retrospect, it would have been super tough being in a high-rise with the dog, and with everyone home during pandemic in the condo. I also wouldn’t have had room for my parents’ belongings that I wanted to keep after they died. So, blessing in disguise.

At this point, I don’t see leaving this house for a very long time…hopefully never ; )

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We just started what we are calling the great experiment. We are renting a 2 bed 2 bath apartment near my daughter (only child). We have not sold or emptied out our 3 bed 2 bath house (with lots of property, where we raised our child). We have a one year lease (so that gives us lots of time to experience the new area and make a more permanent decision).

So far we have been upsizing to downsize (needed to buy many duplicate items to furnish the apartment). I honestly really like having a smaller compact space - easier to do everything from laundry to cleaning etc. We will see how it goes when my daughter comes and stays over for the Thanksgiving weekend. Where to do Christmas is still undecided.

The pluses so far - location (we like the location and convenience to so many things including my daughter), not having to do any repairs (it was nice to have the maintenance guy take care of the stuff that was not done before we moved in), new apartment - we are the first tenants (our house is over 60 years old and things always need repair), and plenty of amenities in the community that are included in the rent (pool, gym, green spaces to walk, etc.)

I feel sort of refreshed to not be encumbered by so much stuff (but on the other hand realize the enormous task of getting rid of stuff that is both ours and our daughters which we have to do at some point).

We realize this will be an expensive year - paying the expenses for two places at the same time. If we settle with just the apartment it will be a little more than the home with all its expenses but we will have a bankroll from the sale of the house. We are not sure if a condo is a better alternative - seems like condos have the worst of both houses and apartments - HOA and property taxes are very expensive and you have to do your own repairs but with the limited space and close neighbors.

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Our primary house is 2900 sq.ft (3/3.5), a right-size from the 3100 sq.ft home we raised our son in. Not much difference in square footage, but a significantly better layout and use of space (2100 sq.ft main house, 800 sq.ft casita).

We’ve spent the past five months in a 1232 sq.ft 2/1 cabin in the woods in Maine that we bought last April as a summer home. To our surprise, the cabin felt exactly right for the two of us. We didn’t feel cramped at all, just cozy. It has only what we need, no clutter, super easy to keep clean and, best, not much to maintain outside as we don’t plan to groom the forest, just keep the perimeter clear of growth and work a small garden. We had two visitors who each spent a week with us. Single visitors work well, but we know that we will be hosting couples in the future and that single bath won’t work. The cabin has a walk-out lower level with full-size windows, so we will be adding a bed/bath/kitchenette next summer to turn that space into a guest suite.

We are en route back to our main house (currently at our son’s in GA for T-day) which will feel cavernous and unnecessary after the cabin, especially now that we will only be using that house 6-7 months each year. We are considering selling and downsizing, but it sticks in our craws that, due to the current market, we’d pay more for a house half the size than we did for this one.

I guess the point is that our stay at the cabin showed us how little (of everything) we really need. I was exceptionally happy there all summer. If DH weren’t so opposed to cold/snow, I’d chuck the main house altogether and just keep the cabin. Not gonna happen, though.

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I designed my parent’s retirement house. It was on a farm. I can’t remember the square feet, but it had a guest suite up stairs (two bedroom plus bath) and two bedrooms downstairs - master bedroom and what my mother called the snoring room. There was a small house on the property with two bedrooms as well. All that was barely big enough when all three kids and the assorted grandchildren came to visit. I believe taxes were less than they would have been if they stayed in town. Eventually the house and isolation was an issue and they moved to the same town as one of my brothers. The new house ironically had everything the old one did except a room for a pool table and the outside pool in probably half the square feet. (maybe 1600 or so?) It was cozy, but worked very well and they lived there until my father passed away.

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I had to sell my house due to divorce. We had raised 3 kids in a 1400 sq. ft. house with one bathroom. I sold and donated a lot of things and got a small storage space. I could not find a rental after the house sold, and stayed with my mother for 3 months. I noticed that I didn’t need anything from storage that entire time, so I got rid of everything. Basically my possessions fit in my small hatchback.

For the last 6 years I have lived in winter and summer rentals, including studios and one bedrooms (900 sq/ ft. at the largest). Kids visit one at a time and sleep on the couch. I am in a high rent area to be close to my elderly mother, so I keep my apartments small so they are affordable. And they are furnished. I have come to like traveling light.

Not sure when I will commit to a living space. When my mother dies, I will probably move closer to kids and buy some furniture and pots and pans all over again. For now, this works well.

I have a lot of relatives and friends who have two houses. I try to keep my mouth shut about not having one!

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We went from a 4,000 sq ft 2-story house to a 2,200 sq ft 1-story house. We are regretting it, as storage space is at premium and we seem to accumulate stuff no matter how hard we try not to. Plus I need space for my weekend toys. I hate moving, however, so we are staying put for now.

We are going from the 3800 sq ft house with a large yard and a pool to a 3000 sq ft house with a small yard (no grass) across the country. Losing LR, DR, Game room and 1 BR. The biggest change will be the yard. We are excited to not have to spend so much time doing yard work, which can be significant after traveling for a few weeks. Yes, we could pay someone to do it (already pay for weekly grass cutting), but really do not need all the extra space and are ready for a change.

I am in the process of downsizing. I sold my 4/2 2900 sq ft house with 1/2 acre yard 2 weeks ago and will be moving Into a 1/1 600 sq ft apartment. Currently I’m living with one of my daughters while my apartment undergoes extensive remodeling.

Between having some recent mobility issues (knee problems) and living alone (I’m widowed), both my children worried about me a good deal since they both lived far away (1-2 days drive).

The pluses–No yard work. Less to clean. No house maintenance. Access to a pool. Better climate. Better neighborhood walkability to get to bakeries, post office, parks, restaurants, coffeeshops, etc. D, SIL and grandbabies live immediately adjacent to me and I have use of their space (like basement to store stuff and huge kitchen if I get to urge to bake hundreds of cookies.) Having family nearby gives me a measure of security in case things go pear shaped, Plus, in some ways it’s much less lonely. With twin 1-year olds, there’s always something going on at their house.

The cons–I miss my friends. I feel less independent. (That may change once I move into my own space.) Have to find new doctors/dentist/accountant, etc. I had to give up my crafting/art studio and it’s not clear if the apartment will be conducive to having a workspace. California freeway driving/traffic. Higher COL.

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We like having a big house near Portland but also a cozy cabin in the mountains. It’s pretty good sized, actually. There are two queen sized beds, one full sized beds, two bunks cabs two sleeper sofas. Only one bathroom but there’s a clean outhouse if anyone needs it. People know they’re roughing it when they visit us there.

DH would love to downsize from our main house, but I love it too much to agree now! I love the three wooded acres next to the river. Lots of room for our two Aussies to run around.

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We have a big house and a big yard in a place I like and H does not. I think he would like to move but not downsize. He likes a big house. He has also said he wants our house to have room for the kids if they ever come home. I would like to downsize some day and when we move find a place near the kids. I think we should eventually settle near them (when they settle) and move into a place easy to care for and easy for old people to live in.

My downsize was 5 years ago and made necessary by property taxes as well as wanting to get rid of a mortgage. I still have the accoutrement of a midwestern house, basement, enclosed porch, small garage, attic, but just 884 square feet in the house itself. There were a few places I wanted that did not have some of these features, and I ended up with more house than I perhaps thought I needed. But I am so glad! I like my nice things, my books and instruments, a living room with plenty of seating, a sit down dining room for the 9 I will host on Thursday. There is space for offspring to stay when they visit. I need a kitchen remodel, and in time that will hopefully happen. The area is well suited for walking and I don’t need to drive many days. My previous house was over 1000 square feet more, historic and beautiful on a larger and complicated lot that I struggled to stay on top of with massive trees that threatened to bankrupt me over time. I miss living in such beauty, and the neighbors. But I am well pleased in my smaller place and hope the yard work keeps me young and strong over many years.

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I guess we sort of upsized, in a way. We brought up the kids in a 2 1/2 bedroom, 1 1/2 bath home, overall about 1200 sq. ft… (My son’s room was tiny and had no closet, so not a full br). We bought a second home about fifteen years ago which we will eventually retire to. It is 4/2, 1600, so larger than our original one. It also has a bigger yard. The four bedrooms means room for kids to visit with their kids, or other guests. It’s in a vacation area, so lots to do when people visit. We are still working, so we can’t live there full time yet.

The pros are room for everyone to visit, beautiful area, easy to bike, kayak, walk on beaches etc., less urban congestion.

The cons when we are full time are: farther from kids and grandkids (2.5 hour drive; right now we are minutes away), less convenient access to services and stores, and we are somewhat out of sync with prevailing values.

Both are paid off, fortunately so we are content to live one foot in each place for the foreseeable future. We have toyed with the idea of selling the old house and renting an apt in the area, to cut down on maintenance, but rents are through the roof and clearing out this place will be a huge job.

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I would love to hear about the experience of those who are not with a spouse or partner, and move to a new place while downsizing. I used to be brave about this but as I get older, and especially with COVID limitations, I find it a bit scary. Many on here are part of a couple.

We can join a church, join a book group, attend town meetings, volunteer locally, take an art class or yoga, and meet people, but it gets harder as we get older I think, especially if retired.

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I think the hardest part is that most other people aren’t really invested in making new friends so you have to make all the effort yourself. I realized my friendship group had somehow dwindled to people I was tired of and have been trying to branch out. I’ve been involved with a group called Healthy Yards which has the advantage of being able to meet outside all summer. I’ve had to pick up make new friends pretty regularly throughout my childhood and into young adulthood. The only place it really didn’t happen was in Hong Kong - but we were only staying for 3 months so I was trying very hard either.

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We tried an experiment a while back and rented a brand new 2 bd/2 ba apartment. It was on top (4th) floor but we could still hear conversations in the parking lot below as well as other noise, despite needing to run the A/C for 8+ months of the year. It didn’t take long for us both to realize that neither of us wanted to live in an apartment or condo again. Fortunately, the apartment was less than an hour from home so H remained in it during the week for the very short commute to work while I returned home full time. Noise and lack of storage were our biggest complaints. Even having a washer and dryer in the unit wasn’t as great as we’d first thought due to the noise and the extra humidity. I would not want to have to share an elevator during this pandemic, either.

We’re in the process of downsizing now to a house we’re having built. The new lot is about half the size of our previous home’s lot, but still over an acre. We bought a temporary house on a small lot nearby before we found the property for the new house and have realized just how spoiled we’ve become over the years. On the plus side, in both locations we’re only about 10 minutes from GD which was the reason for moving here.

We will hire a yard service and pay for other outside jobs as needed. H does about half the household chores now so the inside work is manageable. At some point, I’ll hire inside help but hope to put that off a while since previous experiences were disappointing. We refer to it as our forever house, but admit to ourselves that we may move again some day.

My parents moved from a nice, but not huge, house on a large flat lot to a 2 bd/2 ba condo on the ground floor where they had to use the elevator to the communal laundry upstairs. Mother liked the social aspect. Dad hated it but went along to keep her happy, knowing that she’d be hell to live with otherwise. He missed his vegetable garden, his yard work (he had a ride-on mower), and the large screened porch surrounded by palm trees. After he had to give up playing golf, he was so bored at the condo. Some of the health issues that made him give up golf meant that other hobbies were out, too. Having a garden to putter around in, plan for and enjoy would have meant a lot to him.

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Thank you all so much for sharing your experiences! I really appreciate it. I can see there are so many variables. I like the idea of a ‘trial run’ in a smaller place - we stayed at a small cabin in the woods recently (about 1200 sq ft, 2 bedrooms, 1 bath) and it seemed really perfect (had a big deck for expanded outdoor living). I think I would miss being around people though.

Some of the variables in our lives will still need to play out (will youngest kid go to grad school or work near where oldest has settled? Will I get a more portable job to make a move easier? etc.). I was surprised recently when my H said he would not miss using his big riding lawn mower at some point in the future (I thought that was a bit of a fun job…? lol).

One thing I know for sure - I want ‘Stage 2’ to be an adventure - something different, not just a reduced version of our current life. Glad to hear others have felt something along those lines too!

As noted above - I have a feeling that making friends and getting settled in a new place might be easier if done sooner, rather than waiting until retirement (or just before)…

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