Could now be the time to think about downsizing?
If you’re a home-owner planning a move to a smaller property that costs less to run and requires less maintenance, now is the ideal time to start making those tough decisions about what furniture and possessions to take with you, and what you won’t need anymore.
“The nationwide lockdown has already prompted many people to tidy cupboards, clean out garages and declutter their homes,” says Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group, “and now they are starting to look at how they can simplify their lives even more – while also pruning their accommodation expenses.
“For many, this points to a move from their current home to another - often smaller - residence where they would have lower utility bills, municipal rates charges and maintenance costs, and possibly a higher level of security. We have seen this in the surge of enquiries we have had in the past month for Sectional Title townhouses and apartments, not only from first-time buyers, but also from many existing home-owners now contemplating a move.”
What is more, he says, most of these prospective buyers don’t want to wait until lockdown is lifted to list their properties for sale and start hunting for something smaller or less expensive.
“There is a growing awareness that technology makes it quite possible to achieve both sales and purchases ‘virtually’, provided you are working with a qualified and reputable agent, and many of our clients are keen to get deals done so that they can move quickly once the deeds office reopens to process transfers.
“However, with downsizing comes the inevitable need to decide which belongings to keep and which to let go – and we would seriously suggest that those who are contemplating such a move should use this period of continued restrictions under Level 4 to do so. This will make things so much easier when they are allowed to move.”
Kotzé says the first thing to concentrate on is “quality over quantity”, which means selecting those things that are most useful, most durable and most valuable, and not keeping things for purely sentimental reasons or “just in case” you might need them or find a space for them.
“If you have been keeping heirlooms for grown children, now is also the time for them to decide if they want them for their own homes, while any surplus belongings are boxed up for collection by your favourite charities. There are already many people who really need your children’s outgrown clothes, for example, or toys, books, kitchenware, tools, sporting goods and even furniture, and that need is going to be greater in the economic aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The second step, he says, is to imagine how you will make the most of the space in your new home. “You could plan, for example, to make a spare bedroom do double duty as an office, especially if you anticipate that you will be working from home much more from now on.
“You could also plan to save space in your living area by opting to hang a flat screen monitor on the wall and do away with a bulky TV stand; by getting rid of your movie and CD collections and keeping only digital versions of the content; by scanning all your photos and storing them ‘in the cloud’ on a platform like Google Photo, and by keeping only your most treasured books.”
Third, you must ensure that there will be enough storage space in your new home so that it will stay uncluttered and not look cramped. This means taking a careful look at the photos and videos of homes that are listed online to see if they have enough cupboard space in kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms – and imagining where you will put your belongings. It also means evaluating your own furniture in terms of any extra storage space it offers – and planning for any changes you might need to make.
Kotzé says that downsizing can be quite an emotional and stressful experience, “but is definitely easier if one has time to sort and plan and start anticipating the benefits of the move, including more financial freedom. So the earlier you can make the decision and start packing, the better.”