At a time when many people plan to move upward in the size of the home they inhabit, could it actually be preferable for your family to downsize and settle into a smaller space? Though it might sound countercultural, thousands of American households have made this choice in the past few years.
Perhaps it could be an attractive option for you as well. Let’s look at the reasons.
Making the Case for Downsizing
America is a super-sized country … and that’s especially true in terms of its attitudes about housing. From 1920 to 2014, data show that the size of the average American home scaled up from 1,048 square feet to 2,657 square feet.
This substantial growth of more than 150 percent comes at a time when the size of the average family in the U.S. has diminished from 4.11 to 3.14. Thus, American families have shifted into homes that are 2.5 times the size they used to be, but with an average of one fewer person living in them.
That seems a bit counterintuitive, doesn’t it? When you combine these changes with a rise in environmental concerns, climbing household debt, stagnant middle-class wages, and lack of affordable housing, it’s easier to see why many Americans are enthusiastic about downsizing.
Here are five salient reasons you might want to join this trend.
1. Lower Expenses
Despite an ostensibly thriving economy, many middle-class Americans are struggling to make ends meet. If your budget isn’t working with a larger house, perhaps a shift to smaller quarters could provide some relief.
“As a rule of thumb, your monthly housing payment (mortgage, interest, taxes, insurance, etc.) should equal no more than 28 percent of your pre-tax income,” Green Residential explains.
“Ideally, you want to be somewhere in the 10-20 percent range. If you’re way out of this range or are struggling to make ends meet, there’s no sense in building up debt in other areas or letting your house go into foreclosure. By downsizing, you can experience immediate relief.”
Downsizing won’t just reduce your mortgage payment. It can also bring lower real estate taxes, utility costs, insurance costs, and maintenance expenses.
You’re likely to require fewer belongings and furniture, which in turn reduces other unnecessary expenses that may be draining your savings.
When you’re living in 1,200 square feet instead of 4,000 square feet, you have to be more intentional about using the available space because you have no other choice. Every decision – whether it relates to design, storage, upgrades, or maintenance – has to be addressed with a clear head. This tends to result in better decisions and a higher quality of lifestyle.
3. More Time
Homebuyers often don’t take time into account when they purchase a property. It’s a worthwhile facet of your pending lifestyle to consider.
When you own a large home with an extensive yard, they require more of you than monetary outlays for acquisition and upkeep. More space indoors and outdoors also means more time to devote to maintenance and care.
Less space means you have fewer things to worry about. Unless carpentry, plumbing, and gardening are your thing, downsizing means you can free up your schedule to pursue more activities that interest you.
4. Better Resale Value
The more square footage a house has, the fewer potential buyers it can attract. If you downsize your home, you’ll probably find it easier to sell in the future. Strange as it sounds, you might find you’ll get more bang for your buck.
5. Smaller General Carbon Footprint
A smaller house comes with a smaller carbon footprint. This should be pretty obvious. But downsizing isn’t just about reducing energy consumption.
Research by Ph.D. candidate Maria Saxton shows that choosing smaller quarters often accompanies greener choices in other areas of life. “As a whole, I found that after downsizing people were more likely to eat less energy-intensive food products and adopt more environmentally conscious eating habits, such as eating more locally and growing more of their own food,” Saxton explains.
“Participants traveled less by car, motorcycle, bus, train, and airplane, and drove more fuel-efficient cars than they did before downsizing.” So if you long to reduce your carbon footprint, downsizing may be one of the natural steps you can take to get there.
Are You Ready to Downsize?
Downsizing isn’t for everyone. If you’re currently in a 1,500 square foot home and you have a young child with twins on the way, downsizing probably wouldn’t make sense.
If you’re empty nesters with a 5,000 square foot home, however, it’s a more practical option. You have to make the right decision for yourself and your family … but don’t discount the benefits of swimming against the tide of historic American values and trying a slimmer option.