For many decades, American homeownership has been defined by an unofficial mantra of bigger is better. Homes have been getting bigger and bigger, even as the average family size has gotten smaller and smaller.
But it appears that we’ve finally reached a tipping point over the past several years. Americans are downsizing in force, including here in Houston where McMansions are getting replaced with more reasonable living accommodations.
The “Who” of Downsizing
Nationwide, 12 percent of all home buyers between the ages of 45 to 64 are downsizing. And if you zoom in and look at Baby Boomers in particular, you’ll discover that 46 percent of home sellers in this group are opting for smaller homes than the ones they’re selling.
It’s not just one demographic that’s downsizing. When you study the trends, you’ll find there are several “profiles” of people moving into smaller spaces. This includes:
- Seniors. When you look at seniors, there are three downsizers for every one upsizer. Survey data reveals that 60 percent of seniors self-report having “more things than they need,” while 28 percent say they’ve been told by others that they should downsize their belongings. This is one of the primary reasons why so many seniors are trading in their larger homes for more reasonably-sized accommodations that fit their changing lifestyles.
- Empty-nesters. Once the kids go off to college and leave the parents at home, the square footage that was once quite reasonable becomes unnecessary. Empty-nester couples often move into smaller spaces once their adult kids leave home. This is actually one of the largest demographics of the downsizing movement.
- Young professionals. For many years, it was young professionals with growing families who were spending their newfound wealth on big homes. But today’s successful young professionals are different from previous generations. With an emphasis on traveling and experiences, they don’t want to be tied down to a large property and all that it demands (in terms of maintenance and upkeep). They’d rather have a smaller property that leaves them more time and money to enjoy a mobile lifestyle.
Look across Houston and you’ll find everyone from aging seniors to young professionals opting for less square footage. And while there are still plenty of people looking for bigger homes, this trend is taking root faster than most would have expected five or 10 years ago.
The “Why” of Downsizing
People downsize their homes for any number of reasons, but it often comes down to factors such as:
- Price. In some cases, people are downsizing as a necessity. After selling their home, they find that rapidly increasing prices and real estate bidding wars make it impossible to afford the same-sized home in the neighborhood or location they want to live.
“Even though we’re starting to see signs the housing market is cooling down, it’s still difficult for buyers on a budget to find everything they’re looking for in a home,” Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather says. “That’s because there’s still a very limited supply of homes for sale, along with sky-high prices for the ones that are on the market and rising mortgage rates. If buyers don’t want to compromise on location, they probably need to settle for a smaller home.”
It’ll be interesting to see how a cooling market impacts this trend in the months ahead, but for now, affordability is a factor within the downsizing movement.
- Monthly costs. For some homeowners, it’s less about the purchase price and more about the monthly holding costs. Smaller homes mean less maintenance and utility costs. This can save a Houston family hundreds of dollars per month.
- Stress. In many cases, it’s an issue of time, stress, and frustration. Homeowners are growing tired of spending their weekends landscaping and doing odd jobs around the house. They’d rather own smaller properties that are much more manageable to maintain.
- Lifestyle. As mentioned, many younger homeowners are more interested in lifestyle than possessions. They’d rather have the time and finances to travel and enjoy a robust social life outside of the home. So rather than investing all of their money into a home, they choose to purchase smaller, more affordable properties that create room in their budget. There’s also a segment of downsizers who are interested in the minimalism movement and have chosen to buy a smaller home as a way of being more intentional with what they own.
Helpful Tips for Downsizing in Houston
As you think about downsizing your Houston home, here are several tips that you may find useful:
- Purge your belongings. Before doing anything else, purge your belongings and get rid of anything you don’t need. This includes furniture, decor, tools, home supplies, paperwork – anything! If you don’t use it regularly, get rid of it. Take stuff to Goodwill, have a yard sale, and sell things on Facebook Marketplace or eBay. Spend a couple of months getting rid of things and you’ll see that you really don’t need as much space as you think.
- Track your daily habits. Spend a couple of weeks tracking your daily movements and habits throughout the home. Make notes of where each member of the house goes during the day and how much time they spend there. You’ll find that your family primarily only uses just 25 to 50 percent of the house. As you think about downsizing, look for homes that focus on these rooms.
- Emphasize quality over quantity. Downsizing doesn’t necessarily mean buying a cheap house. In many cases, the decision to downsize is one based on stress/lifestyle more so than finances. By purchasing a quality home that’s well-built, you’ll benefit from the “less is more” effect.
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