Deciding to downsize your family home, after one to many decades of living, is never an easy decision. Many homeowners debate their selling decision for ages, because they have more questions than answers. Once you have the answers to these universal questions, the solution will be much easier to make. Many self-help books today proclaim the importance of finding your Why. Knowing your Why gives you a filter to make choices that will help you find greater fulfillment. So, let’s start with Why.

Why: Why do you feel it is time to move? Do you want to let go of the burden of looking after a detached house for the convenience of condo living? Condo living might mean that you can easily lock the door and travel whenever and wherever you like. Or, do you find yourself “over-housed”, only using a small percentage of your actual square footage. It can be expensive storage for your “stuff”. Also, many older homeowners find their health has deteriorated and this might mean navigating a detached house has become a safety issue or unwanted burden.

What: What kind of housing are you looking to transition into? A townhouse?
A condominium apartment? Maybe you like the “idea” of a house, but want someone else to look after the grounds? There are “life lease” communities that can provide you with both benefits. Or, maybe you are feeling isolated socially and like the idea of an independent retirement residence, where you can enjoy the company of others in your demographic and have built-in amenities and group activities to enjoy with your new friends.

Where: Where is a big one. One school of thought on “aging in place” is to stay in your own familiar neighbourhood, where you will be able to continue accessing your doctor, dentist, place of worship, and other social clubs that are important to you like your weekly bowling or bridge club. Or, have your family and friends moved off to far-flung places and this is a chance to move closer to enjoy family functions that you have been missing?

When: Let’s face it, no one really wants to move in winter. I like to look at the end game and date. When do you want to be in your new home? Then work backward. It may take a month to get your home ready to sell. After being in a home for 10, 20, 30 years or more, there are always little maintenance issues that we meant to get to, but after a while, we don’t even notice anymore. Buyers notice, so this is a good time to do those little fixes. Investing a little will mean a bigger return. So, if it takes a month to get your home ready to go onto the market, it may also take another month to sell. The average number of days on market is about 25 now, so let’s call that a month.

Closings can happen quickly, but 60 days is the norm since many buyers have a house to sell as well. So now we are up to four months: one month to prepare for market, one month to sell, and two more months to close and pick up your cheque. So Spring is a natural time to make your decision.

How: So many homeowners (myself included) have said “How will I ever move into a smaller place? What will I do with all of this “stuff” I have accumulated over the years?” Even if we can put sentimentality aside and be very pragmatic about what to keep and what to let go, complicating the issue is the fact that the younger generations often don’t want any “stuff”. They live in smaller accommodations and quite frankly much prefer experiences like travel over possessions.

Don’t worry. I work with some very talented people who specialise in helping people “right-size” their living situations. They will help you sort through what can be given away, sold, or saved for your new home.
I have heard more than one story like an old musical instrument that Uncle Joe or Dad had cherished and might possibly be worth something. Sending some of these to auction can produce some astonishing results. Like the saxophone that was initially appraised at $350, and then on closer inspection, hopes were that it might bring $2,000 – 3,000. When the gavel went down, the final price was $35,000. What a nice bonus to help start the next chapter of your life.


Who: Don’t try to do it on your own. Call in professionals. Even if you have children or friends you want to call on, chances are they have full schedules of commitments to their jobs, children, and volunteer activities. You didn’t amass your house full of “stuff” overnight and sorting and dispersing also takes time.

Remember also, it costs you nothing to hire a Realtor to help you buy your next home and your real estate professional will be able to provide you advice on the kind of home and its location you’re likely to be happy in. My experience is that people get far more excited (and less anxious) about the place they are going to, rather than the place they are leaving. So, find an agent you know, like, and trust, and get excited about the next chapter of your life.

– Chip Barkel, MCNE, SRES, REDM, Toronto Real Estate. Extraordinary Service. Top Results.