The do’s and don’ts of downscaling The long-held belief that bigger is better when it comes to property is certainly one that is being challenged all the time. Reports suggest that some 26% of sellers are selling to downscale.
While the most typical reason for downscaling is the change associated with a later life stage, such as ageing and children leaving home, and the physical demands of the upkeep a big home requires, financial and security reasons are also cited in reports of this nature.
Whatever the reason for downscaling, many people find it difficult to get used to a smaller space, and even miss the responsibility of the property upkeep and maintenance. Some psychologists reckon that moving home in this sense counts among the most stressful things an individual can experience.
“There’s typically a lot at stake with this kind of move, which is why it is crucial to approach it with an open mind and to consider the financial implications rationally,” says Giel Viljoen,
Principal at Leapfrog Stellenbosch. A property, especially a family home, represents a lifetime investment and letting go of that can be daunting. “Make sure you work with a trusted property advisor if you’re thinking of downscaling. The right professional will be able to advise and guide you to ensure you get what your property is worth,” Viljoen explains.
More than just facilitating the sale, a trusted property advisor will make an effort to understand your needs and guide your search for a new place to call home. You may also want to involve your financial advisor in the process, since downscaling doesn’t always have a clear financial benefit.
“Recent reports from reputable sources suggest that the average difference between the selling price of a medium-sized home and the cost of a small-sized home is negligible,” Viljoen says.
He adds that one also needs to account for costs such as sales commission, bond registration, transfer duty and the associated legal fees, as well as the cost of physical moving your possessions.
Another factor to bear in mind is that properties in new developments, which is what many downscalers opt for, cost as much as 20% more that pre-owned properties of a similar size.
In effect this means that the decision to downsize should not only be lifestyle-motivated, but financial as well, and one that should be considered and planned for, rather than one that is taken in haste at a time when the move isn’t necessarily voluntary.
While crucial, the financial side of a downsizing move tends to be the more “black and white” aspect of the decision, while the changes in lifestyle (and living space) that invariably result from moving to a smaller home can be very stressful.
“We’re seeing that retirees want to downscale to something more affordable, secure and stress-free, but don’t want to change their lifestyle too significantly,” Viljoen shares. He adds that this is exactly what a trusted property advisor can help with.
“If you love gardening, opt for a townhouse with a small garden rather than an apartment with only a small balcony. Similarly, if you love entertaining, go for a modern, open-plan property where you can still do that. A trusted property advisor will make an effort to understand your particular needs and will have plenty of insights into both the market in general and in the neighbourhood in particular.”
Unsurprisingly, another major concern for those on the downscaling wagon is the question around what to do with all their possessions.
“The best advice we can give is to deal with your possessions in good time, and to go about it systematically and with an open mind,” Viljoen recommends.
Off-site storage also offers a solution if you’re not ready to part with some things. A smaller property will mean that you can’t take all your things with you. Rather than feel disempowered by this – or worse, squeeze it all into a space half the size – use it as an opportunity to assess everything you own and be realistic about what’s worth keeping, what your children or relatives might want, what you can donate and what you can sell.
“Stay focussed on why you want to downscale in the first place and it’s likely to make the process go a bit smoother,” Viljoen adds. While downscaling is about making a clean break for some, it remains a good idea to emulate at least some parts of your beloved family home in the new space.
This could be as simple as positioning the artworks in the similar space they were before or arranging the kitchen things in a similar format to your old home. “The goal is simply to ensure your new place feels like your home, and the familiarity of our objects and how we position them can help with this,” Viljoen says.
At the end of the day the decision to downscale needs to be a considered one, and approached with care, vision and an open mind. “Done right, downscaling can be the best chance at a ‘second life’,” Viljoen believes.