Your Money and careers writer for the NZ Herald

Diana Clement: Eight reasons to downsize your home

Rattling around a large home, storing too much clutter? Maybe it's time to right-size your home. Photo / Getty Images
Rattling around a large home, storing too much clutter? Maybe it's time to right-size your home. Photo / Getty Images

Is your home big enough to be an aircraft hangar at Motat?

Modern New Zealand home-buying culture is to go big every time there's some "spare" equity in our homes to extend the mortgage with.

Not everyone needs a Hummer home. Sometimes swallowing the ego and right sizing is better for our wallets, lifestyle, and even the environment. That's especially so if the family has fled the nest.

READ MORE:
How to release the cash in your home
The downsized dreams of today's first-home buyers

Here's why it might be time to put that bloated home on the market and take a Back to the Future approach with your yesteryear-size home.

1. No-go zones

Home-stager and stylist Anthea Baker of Homebase says many clients who are downsizing find they barely visit parts of their house. "Sometimes they find it pointless [in the end] having such a large home," says Baker.

2. Clutter is keeping you there

One of the problems if you live in a big home is all the stuff you've accumulated over the years.

The clutter clouds thinking and many homeowners believe they need the space or moving is too monumental a task. Homeowners who part with the kids' schoolbooks from 20 years ago and teddies that haven't had a cuddle for even longer sometimes find they can live in a smaller home.

Most Kiwis could learn to live with less stuff, says Catherine Foster, author of Small House Living. Get rid of clunky colonial furniture, she says. And get i-literate, replace CDs and bulky cookbooks, for example, with digital music and recipes.

3. Cleaning and maintenance is taking over your life

There is a point in people's lives where the upkeep of the big home becomes too much for physical, psychological or practical reasons.

Though they may not be able to keep up with the cleaning, maintenance and gardening of the old 180sq m home and 1000sq m (quarter acre) section that the kids played cricket on, an 80sq m home and a 300sq m section is do-able.

But beware, sometimes the sudden realisation that the house is too big to handle comes too late for people. Their house deteriorates as a result and loses a bit of capital value (although not as much as people assume).

4. Your house is too big for your budget

Whether you're retired or are younger, if your income/expenditure ratio has changed and you can't afford regular maintenance it's time to downsize.

Baker has had many clients in suburbs of Auckland such as Herne Bay who have multimillion-dollar homes, but can't afford to pay the rates, let alone a cleaner, gardener and lawn mowing contractor when they lose the ability to do these jobs themselves.

Flicking on the old rattler frees up capital, or at least reduces debt. The extra capital or cashflow can be very welcome in that situation. Some right-sizers move to smaller homes in the same areas. Others pocket a double whammy by skipping the city for less expensive areas such as Matakana or Tauranga as well as a smaller home.

5. Living somewhere more social

Baker has clients in their 60s who are downsizing to move into retirement villages for the "cruise ship lifestyle".

6. Gardening exhausts you

If you're a gardener at heart, the idea of moving to a smaller section might fill you with horror. Having said that, a lot can be done in small garden spaces and there's no reason you can't still have some homegrown fruit and vegetables and the much-loved herb garden.

Take a trip down to the library, or on to Pinterest, if you need convincing and take a look at what others have done with small green spaces. There are plenty of different ways to slice and dice small gardens.

7. Newer homes are designed better

A new home is often smarter with space than pre-1970s homes. The better design that usually comes with 21st century living means smaller homes can feel just as spacious as larger ones.

Homeowner and architect Regan Johnson, whose Taieri Mouth House is featured in Foster's book found small home living didn't mean constriction.

"Driving towards home is when I most feel I don't have a care in the world."

8. Reduce your environmental impact

More Kiwis are becoming concerned about their environmental footprint. Right-sizing your home means you will consume less power.

How you live is not about what other people think. Just because too big has become the new normal-sized home doesn't mean you need to live that way. Downsize and say good bye to the Joneses.

- NZ Herald

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Your Money and careers writer for the NZ Herald

Diana Clement is a freelance journalist who writes about personal finance and careers. She has worked as a journalist for more than 25 years in both New Zealand and the UK. Diana has contributed to a large number of local and international publications. Her pet topic is the secrets of saving money.

Read more by Diana Clement

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