Downsize your home in five simple steps

Oct 17, 2019
If you're thinking about downsizing, but don't know where to start, this step-by-step guide can help. Source: Getty.

Making the decision to downsize and part ways with your family home can be tough, but more and more older Australians are choosing to do so, thanks to perks such as the downsizing for super rule and an increasing range of options within the retirement living market.

On one hand, downsizing may seem like the most logical choice now that your children have grown up, moved out and started families of their own. However, with decades of memories contained within those four walls, it can be hard to take the leap and embark on this exciting new stage of life.

Rather than dwelling on the decision for weeks, months or even and fretting over what to do with your furniture or the wardrobes filled with clothes and belongings you won’t have space to take with you, it’s important to make a plan and do some research about how much you stand to make from the sale of your property and, most importantly, where you might like to move to.

So, follow these five simple steps to make sure the downsizing process as pain-free as possible.

Get your finances in order

Before you start making any plans, it’s crucial that you know the state of your finances. And, let’s face it, money probably played a big part in your decision to downsize in the first place, as maintaining a large family home can be costly.

It’s important to know how much money you currently have, along with how much you expect to have to live off in retirement – if you haven’t already given up work for good – before you start thinking about where you want to live. Whether you’re still working, planning to live off your super or rely on the Age Pension to get by, you need to work out how much you might be able to put down as a deposit, or how much rent you can realistically afford to pay, for example.

If you’re lucky enough to own your own home, another factor to consider is the worth of your property in the current market, which you can find out simply by doing a bit of digging online. The easiest way to get an idea of how much your home is worth is to peruse the listings for similar properties in your area online. This will give you a good idea of the profit you stand to make, and therefore how much you can invest in a new property.

Where would you like to live?

Once your finances are in order and you have a clearer idea of how much you’re able to fork out to achieve your downsizing dream, you should next consider where you might like to live. Location is key as the last thing you want is to give up work and find yourself spending the bulk of your time in an unfriendly, unsafe or unappealing neighbourhood.

If you don’t have a specific location in mind then it could help to think about what type of retirement you’d like to have. For example, would you like to be active and regularly take long walks? Is it important to be close to the beach? Are there amenities, such as a GP practice, hospital or supermarket, close by?

Then, once you’ve decided on the ‘where’, there’s also the ‘what’, as in what type of retirement living would suit you best. The options really are endless, from more traditional retirement villages to lifestyle communities, seniors rentals, houseshares and apartment living. Plus there’s even the option of hitting the road and trialling life as a grey nomad.

Choose the right real estate agent

Picking a real estate agent to trust with the sale of your home is no easy feat. From fees and experience to personality, there are so many things to consider when you start looking for the right agent to handle your listing.

The first question to ask yourself is whether your needs would be better served by a traditional real estate agent with a bricks and mortar office,  or whether you’d rather pay zero commission and opt for one of the modern online options who charge a single one-off fee instead. As with most things, there are pros and cons to both and the ultimate decision rests with you as it depends entirely on your personal needs, wants and preferences.

If you don’t fancy trying out an online firm, then a trusted local agent could be right for you. Local agents are familiar with the area, which means they will know the other properties on the market, as well as those that have sold recently. The best way to research is to Google agents within your area or the surrounding suburbs, view their websites, read any online reviews that are available and familiarise yourself with the services they offer and the fees they charge. You can also view their other listings, to see whether they have experience selling properties in a similar style or location to yours.

It could also be a wise idea to see them in action by visiting an open house event they’re hosting. This would allow you to see how they interact with potential buyers and homeowners, as well as giving you the perfect opportunity to introduce yourself and ask any questions you might have.

Declutter your home

When it comes to decluttering, it can take days, weeks or even months to sort through every room in the house. So before you begin the decluttering process, it is a good idea to decide on a timeline you want to stick to.

You should also know exactly what you want to do with the items you no longer need. If they can still be used, consider offering them to friends, donating to the local op shop, selling them in a garage sale or even selling them online via websites such as Gumtree or eBay. This could be achieved by starting up separate piles for items that need to be donated, items you’re keeping, items you want to sell and items that can be thrown away.

Sell, sell, sell!

By choosing a real estate agent and decluttering your home, you’ve already taken care of the hard part! Now it’s time to sit back and let your agent do what you’re paying them to do and find a willing buyer for your beloved home. Your real estate agent will take care of all of the advertising and marketing of the property, as well as dealing with all of the negotiations with potential buyers until an appropriate price is reached.

Once they’ve found a buyer, they will then be required to pay a deposit which means the property will officially be under contract. Once this happens you have entered into a legally binding agreement with the buyer and cannot agree to sell your home to anyone else.

All that’s left to do is the settlement process, which usually takes between 30 and 90 days, then it’s simply a case of handing over the keys in exchange for the transfer of the final sum from the buyer and saying goodbye to the home that’s served you and your family so well over the years.

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