Bigger is not always better when it comes to home-sizes nowadays. Unlike in the 1990s when square footage was a venerable measure of success, homeowners today are more aware of their carbon footprints, household budgets and other factors that play into the size of their residences.
According to a 2017 report from Trulia, 60% of Americans who lived in a home 2,000 square feet or larger when surveyed said they would choose a smaller space next. And while 36% of baby boomers surveyed said they would downsize, either to retire or because their kids have left the nest, less than half (46%) of millennials aged 18 to 34 said they want bigger digs.
For those who are planning to reduce their square footage, here are some tips from real estate experts on what to look for in a smaller place, whether it’s a house or an apartment:
First Thing’s First
“One of the first things I ask my clients who are looking to downsize (especially from larger apartments) is to tell me which rooms they are using most and which they are no longer using at all,” said Michael Franco, a New York City agent with Corcoran. He’s noticed that most people gravitate toward one particularly treasured place: “The kitchen has truly become the heart of many homes, and if that is the case then that should be the start of any new downsizing search.”
“Downsizers … are looking for homes that have a similar proportion of rooms, but on a smaller scale,” explained Robin Kencel, an agent with Compass in Greenwich, Connecticut. She recently helped a client scale down to a home at 3 Khakum Wood Road. “What’s unique about this property is that it gives you a sense of a larger home, but in 1,500 square feet,” Kencel said. “It really just features the rooms you really use and isn’t what I like to call ‘over-bedroomed.’”
The home at 3 Khakum Wood Road has no formal dining room. Instead, it features a “great room,” divided into dining and living spaces, along with a library area. “A formal dining room is redundant in a downsizer home since it will only be used every few days,” Kencel said.
Since downsizers often plan to spend several years, or the rest of their lives, in their new homes, it’s often best to pass on fixer-uppers, advised Steven Gottlieb, an agent with Warburg Realty in New York City. “Be aware of what this home will look like [years] from now, and who will have the responsibility (and bandwidth) for managing this sale,” he said. Plus, “once you move in, making renovations and updates will not be as easy, so make sure it’s at its best now.”
Downsizing usually entails getting rid of unneeded possessions, “but you still have to have enough storage and closets to hold things close to your heart (or that are necessary),” added Claire Groome, also with Warburg in New York. “Most likely you don’t want to move again so it’s important to take the time to find the right space.”