Bigger is better. Right? Maybe for steak, margaritas or tax refunds but not necessarily when it comes to real estate. Instead, bigger houses mean more cleaning, more maintenance and more spaces filled with more stuff. Are you still storing your kids’ Return of the Jedi figurines? Yeah, we thought so.
Wouldn’t you prefer something smaller that fits your lifestyle and your life?
You’re not alone. With the Baby Boomers becoming empty nesters, downsizing is officially trending.
“We get people frequently coming to us looking to downsize,” says Josh Mente, the #5 real estate agent in the metro Baltimore area. “There is a big push right now with empty nesters. They raise their kids in the suburbs, and they have all this extra space that they don’t need anymore.”
Big properties and big homes were perfect for your growing family, and now that the kids have kids of their own, you are ready for a little change (and it doesn’t include a riding lawnmower).
But does downsizing mean sacrificing?
Living large doesn’t have to mean living in a 4,000-square-foot home. In fact, living in a smaller home can mean freeing up your finances, so you can spend money on what you really want. That may be a better location, beautiful tile work and new fixtures, efficiency and smart design. Small homes don’t just mean a smaller price tag (though, they do usually mean a smaller price tag). You will spend less money on upkeep, repairs, décor, utilities, property taxes and landscaping. That means you have more money to make your smaller home into your dream home.
“If you play your cards right, you can upgrade — not in size — but in quality or design,” Mente says. He gives his own aunt as an example. She recently moved from a 3,000-square-foot home, which she had lived in for 25 years, into a 1,500-square-foot ranch. She was able to find a home that was more updated than her previous house. Plus, it has a pool.
One of the other great benefits of smaller homes is that they are often located in cool areas. Lofts, apartments, condos and townhouses in cities are a newfound favorite for Baby Boomers.
“They want to live in those urban areas because they don’t have the constraints they used to,” Mente says. “They don’t have to worry about school districts or driving their kids to practice or parking. …They want to live like a millennial.”
Good Things Come in Small Packages: Downsizing House Plans That Stand Out
Still not sold? Here are 15 house plans that will show you that less can be more.
The Modern Cottage
This award-winning design focuses on efficiency and a perfect balance between shared and private spaces. Efficiency is vital in an 800-square-foot home, and this modern cottage is a celebration of functional, effective use of space — with tons of built-in storage and seating. High ceilings and countless windows make this home feel twice as big.
The Craftsman With the Big Master Suite
This craftsman-inspired 1,675-square-foot home balances function with comfort. A large master suite, two-car garage and open concept ensure that you have space where you need it (ahem… walk-in closet). Guests will feel comfortable — but you know, not too comfortable — in the two extra bedrooms.
The Rock n’ Roll House
This house is a little country and a little bit rock n roll. The large porch, workshop space within a two-car garage and the eat-in kitchen give the home a casual, relaxed vibe while also boasting a skylight, jet tub and vaulted ceilings. The 1,408-square-foot space includes lovely little details like a pot shelf and art niche.
The Charming Traditional
Perfect for empty nesters, this beautiful home’s 1,457 square feet have a grand feel. You will love the molding, the fireplace surrounded by built-ins and tons of design details — not to mention the curb appeal. There is plenty of entertaining space but not much room for long-term guests, which may or may not be a good thing. Want more room? There are options for a basement and partial second story.
The Dog Trot House
Originating in the Appalachians, a “dog trot” house consists of two living areas connected by a breezeway or screened-in porch, in this case. Despite its history, this style of home can look really modern — at only 1,112 square feet. On one side you have your common areas and one bedroom (plus a loft), and on the other, you have two bedrooms. It’s perfect for getting a lot of people into a smaller space.
The Convertible 2 Story
This charmer offers two stories and two bedrooms in just 1,480 square feet. It’s a big bang for your buck, as they say. The second story can double as guest quarters, and the large living room and porch give this small home a surprisingly convivial feel.
Like the idea of downsizing but hate the words “cozy” and “quaint”? This simple, contemporary design is a modern-architecture lover’s dream. Sleek, sunlit and small, there is not a lot of frill or fluff in this non-traditional 1,439-square-foot abode. And that’s just the way you like it.
The Comfortable Craftsman With Vaulted Ceilings
This 1,338-square-foot home is all charm. It proves that downsizing doesn’t have to mean forgoing comfort. Sure, you will sacrifice a formal dining room, but who wants to be formal anyway? The open concept makes this home feel larger than it is, and the master suite with vaulted ceilings (Bonus: on the opposite side of the house from the guest rooms) puts the square footage where you want it most.
The Modern (Almost) Tiny Home
This modern beauty is a stunner. At just 910-square feet, it may give you an excited feeling in the pit of your stomach. It’s the feeling that small homes don’t have to be little, older bungalows. Super modern with tons of light and a second story deck give this almost-tiny home a luxurious urban air.
The Two Story Town House
As we said, downsizing often means finding townhouses, condos or even apartments in fun areas. This two-story townhouse feels spacious and smart. It’s filled with tons of flexible space, including a loft that can be used as an office, playroom for kids or grandkids, crafting space or your own personal yoga retreat.
The Sunny Contemporary
Perfect for warmer climates, this 985-square-foot contemporary house is made for people who love the sun and fresh air. The terrace, sun deck and trellised walkway extend the living space into the great outdoors. Still, the interior space has a chic comfort that will leave you comfortable even on a chilly day. The upstairs guest quarters mean privacy for you and your visitors.
The Tall Townhouse
When you move to a more urban area, it often means living in levels. What this town home lacks in square footage it makes up for in height. The modern plan gives residents just more than 2,000 square feet of space on three floors. That includes three bedrooms and three bathrooms in the heart of any city.
The Contemporary Retreat
Really ready to commit to a downsized life? Check out this 930-square-foot contemporary retreat. It is ideal for couples that want to spend most of their time outside of the house — but want something beautiful and efficient when they are home. It’s modern and chic without feeling lavish.
The Cute One With the Metal Roof
This cute-as-can-be home shows that a downsized lifestyle can be plentiful. Three bedrooms, a first-floor master suite and a large, open common space is efficient design at its greatest. Easy to clean, maintain and love. Bonus: A metal roof.
The Cozy Cabin
Downsizing is often a lifestyle change, but this is the kind of lifestyle you can get used to. At 1,172 square feet, it’s easy to see yourself cozied up in this sweet cabin-inspired cottage. Enjoy a fireplace, second-story master suite, mudroom, balcony and vaulted living area.
All the Small Things: Challenges and Tips
Have we piqued your interest? Have you realized that there are plenty of perks that come with living a downsized lifestyle?
Before you call your real estate agent, there are just a few boxes to check.
Downsizing is not for everyone. If you love/need/want your stuff and your space, if your identity is wrapped up in all those belongings and all that square footage, or if you use every last inch of your current home, downsizing may not be for you. Or maybe just not yet.
If you are not sure if downsizing is for you, Mente suggests the good ol’ fashioned pros and cons list. Write down why you want to downsize, the pluses, the minuses and the things you are willing to sacrifice. Oh, and what you are not willing to sacrifice.
“Think about what is it you want and what is it you are OK giving up?” he says. “Everyone is sacrificing something. They need to pull together a needs list.”
Before you buy a smaller house, take stock of what you have, what can go and what absolutely cannot go. Get rid of redundancies and focus on organization and storage (even before you start looking). And emphasize the positives this change will bring: Less time cleaning and maintaining your digs, more efficiency and functionality, and more time doing the things you’d rather be doing. Remember, you are streamlining your life and ensuring your reality matches your priorities, which do not actually include dusting your three guests bedrooms on Sunday afternoons.
“You may have that moment of clarity of ‘Is this all worth it?’ Is that whole idea of ‘keeping up with the Jones’ worth the sacrifices?” Mente says. “They realize they don’t draw happiness from their belongings.”
And importantly, find an experienced real estate agent who can help you find a smaller home that works for you and your needs (and can also help you sell your big ball and chain… err, I mean, your lovely home). That may mean finding a place with big garden and lots of outdoor space. That may mean an open concept with a big kitchen and lots of sunlight. Whatever it means, a real estate agent can help you find something that ensures you are only sacrificing what you are OK with leaving behind.
“It’s a discovery process,” he says. “As an agent, I use my expertise to discover what it is you need and find the right fit.”
The key thing to remember, yes, downsizing does mean some sacrificing. As Mente says, “You can’t have it all.” However, sacrificing square footage could have a big pay-off once you find yourself enjoying more time, less work and better location.