“The downside of retirement downsizing in a McMansion world”

Downsizing has its challenges:

Anne Tergesen at The Wall Street Journal explored the problems of moving from a larger home to a smaller home at retirement: “But downsizing isn’t always simple, painless — or even all that beneficial financially. With the real-estate market still fragile, many baby boomers are getting a lot less than they expected for the old homestead. All too often, they have little cash left over after buying a new place, and their monthly expenses don’t fall as much as they thought — or may even rise instead.”

Tergesen also wrote about the emotional pain downsizing might cause: “They can’t bear to sort through or part with all those boxes in the basement, or argue with the adult children who want to keep the house where they grew up. Sometimes they downsize only to find they miss their old lifestyle and stuff.”…

Of course, downsizing doesn’t necessarily mean a scaling back in comfort. Architect Sarah Susanka, author of the best selling “Not So Big House” series of books, writes about how people can live in smaller homes that seem bigger because the design eliminates the wasted space in homes — such as dining rooms and formal living rooms.

Buying and selling homes, though, has its own challenges. Jacob Goldstein with NPR looked at the question of whether homes are cheap right now: “Houses are much cheaper than they were six years ago. Of course, six years ago was the peak of the biggest housing bubble in the history of America. So does ‘much cheaper than they were six years ago’ mean cheap? Does it mean ‘cheaper, but still overpriced’? Or does it mean ‘about right?’ ”

Moving can be difficult. But, downsizing can be viewed as a good thing: it gets people out of unnecessarily large homes that take up too much space in the first space; it could help people get rid of stuff they accumulated over the years (American consumerism at work) as well as begin a lifestyle where they can’t accumulate as much because they have less room to store it (though there could be problems with passing down heirlooms); and it might reduce housing and utility payments.

So, if downsizing is a good thing, can’t someone figure out how to make it easier? How about some sort of company or program that matches people who want a larger house with people who want to downsize? How about communities or perhaps governments that would guarantee people a certain value for their home if they live there a certain amount of time and then leave for downsizing purposes? What if a company promised to buy a downsizer’s home if they purchase an somewhat equally priced new Not So Big House? These ideas might be out there but if we wanted to promote downsizing, there are things companies or governments could do help the process along rather than just leave the process to the twists and turns of the real estate market.

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