Downsizing Your Home: Tips and Strategies
A look at a big real estate trend through a Central Texas lens
From affluent homebuyers who want both less square footage and premium amenities to busy young couples seeking to spend more time with their kids in vibrant urban spaces, downsizing is an increasingly popular option.
But what does that process look like, especially in Central Texas? Who undertakes the downsizing journey? What obstacles might you encounter if you opt to go down that road, too? Finally, how can having the right real estate team at your side help you downsize?
Let's explore some answers to those fundamental questions.
Downsizing: What’s behind it?
Much of what’s happening in the shift to smaller homes appears to be tied to generational needs and goals.
As Boomers reach retirement age, many seek living spaces closer to their families as well as properties requiring less upkeep (including — in the case of condos, town houses and garden homes — having the cost of lawn services included in HOA fees). Although they initially may explore renovating their current home to support aging in place, many ultimately decide that those changes are too costly or time consuming.
For older adults, a simple shift from a two-story to a one-story home holds the promise of continued independence — with the added opportunity to clear out clutter and pass along family heirlooms and personal mementos.
Younger people — including Gen X and Millennials — in search of smaller dwellings may be more inclined to think of their realty goals as being about “rightsizing” versus “downsizing” their lives. Older Gen X homeowners, having raised their families, may want a smaller footprint that allows them to travel or focus on hobbies. Millennials may want more free time to focus on their children.
Increasingly, people of every generation are choosing to leave behind larger suburban homes to embrace a more walkable urban lifestyle, especially if there’s easy access to parks and livelier street life such as farmers markets, restaurants and boutiques.
Downsizing tips for every age
On top of those generational inclinations, there are changes typical of every life stage. This includes younger people navigating changes in the wake of divorce and older people reconsidering their dwelling in anticipation — or as a result — of a partner’s death or need to move to a care facility. Working professionals facing company downsizing or an inflationary economy may seek to downsize to protect themselves financially. Similarly, older professionals planning to retire soon may look to cut housing costs by reducing square footage.
Whatever your generation or age, if you’re considering downsizing, be sure to think through:
- How much of your possessions you want to keep
- To whom or which charitable organization(s) you might want to give your excess items
- How a new home might impact your monthly budget
- What type of home and community you seek — and where
- How a change may impact your commute (if you’re working hybrid or on-site)
- If you’ll need to address your loved ones’ concerns about a big move
Taking care of big emotions while downsizing
For people hoping to downsize in the wake of a significant life event, the challenges frankly may be more personal in nature. In the case of job loss, divorce, illness or the death of a spouse, grief could be a factor that adds friction to the downsizing journey.
Should you find yourself in this situation, remember to:
- Show yourself patience and compassion.
- Seek out friends and family who are, if not outright empathetic, at least sympathetic to your situation.
- Take time to have conversations with loved ones who may be resistant to your desire to move, especially children or grandchildren who have long called your house “home sweet home.”
- Focus on what you may be gaining (e.g., new neighborhoods to explore, the freedom to build a new life) rather than what you are giving up.
Downsizing in Central Texas
It can be helpful to understand the broader context in which you will be shopping for a smaller dwelling. Talk with a few local real estate professionals, however, and you’ll quickly learn that buyers hoping to downsize in Central Texas encounter challenges right out of the chute.
One of those obstacles facing buyers in 2023 is a big one: a shortage of smaller, more affordable homes.
In recent years, many real estate developers focused on building larger homes to meet a perceived need for more space, especially as more workers turned to remote work during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, with many Central Texas employees having experienced layoffs as the economy showed a downturn in 2022–23 and some homeowners deciding they’re less enamored with maintenance on a larger property, competition for modest, affordable homes increased across the region.
For female buyers seeking to downsize in the area, there may be another motivating factor in play: a strong desire for community. They appear to be motivated not only to find a home with smaller square footage but also the promise of stronger social bonds.
“Typically, they’re more interested in places that offer low maintenance options with a built-in social network,” said Carolyn Rhodes, Senior Vice President of Sales and Operations for Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty. “I see it with single mature women — those who’ve lost a spouse or partner — as well as working female homeowners with children and young professionals. They want community.”
Naturally, when blocks of buyers seek out similar neighborhood or development amenities, prices go up. So, if you’re looking to downsize into high-demand areas or properties, allow yourself ample time to find a place and secure a good realty team to help you navigate the process.
How the right realty team can help
For starters, solid advice from your own real estate agent is critical to helping you navigate our ever-changing housing market.
A good agent can help you set reasonable expectations about:
- How much your current home is worth
- What you can realistically afford to give up in square footage given your possessions and lifestyle
- Where you may want to modify your timeline to reflect local market realities
If you ask, an experienced agent will share tips such as how to store clutter so that you can stage your house well for showings or how to puzzle through the pros and cons of multiple prospective new homes. These and other preparation strategies can improve your experiences as both seller and buyer.
Meanwhile, as you prepare your finances to buy a home, a knowledgeable mortgage lender may be able to help you find a reasonable loan payment. They can also help you with the process of securing a mortgage preapproval or prequalification as well as give you strategies for dealing with today’s economic realities.
Downsizing may require sustained effort and perhaps a willingness to work through strong emotions. In Central Texas, there are additional considerations, including too few properties to meet demand and, in some cases, premium prices in the most desirable neighborhoods. This means that downsizing in the region may take a little longer than one might like.
With the right information and resources to guide you, however, you can develop an action plan that suits you, your pocketbook and your lifestyle needs.
Ready to make your next real estate move in Austin, San Antonio or the Texas Hill Country?
Kuper Realty Holding Company, LLC dba Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty is a subsidiary of RBFCU Services LLC. RBFCU Services LLC is affiliated with Randolph Brooks Federal Credit Union (RBFCU).
Flanigan, R. L. (2022, November 29). Should you downsize or renovate as you age? AARP.
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Koterbski, K. (2022, September 7). House regret: Most people who bought a house recently have regrets. Fortune.
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