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Down to size

Smaller homes

March 20, 2008
By Jimmy Mincin,
When it comes to houses, sometimes smaller is better.

Downsizing the home has long been the province of aging parents whose children have left the nest, and who are seeking out smaller homes to reduce living costs and minimize upkeep. But more young people are starting to see the benefits of simplifying and decluttering the home earlier in life, area realtors say.

“It still tends to happen a lot more with older people, but there is some downsizing going on in the middle years as well,” said Scott Strayer Sr., real estsate broker/owner of Strayer and Associates Inc., Altoona. “Sometimes, even when kids go off to college, they find they have more space than they need. It’s really an across-the-board trend nowadays.”

Early-in-life downsizing is a proactive means of preparing for the future, he said.

‘‘If you (downsize) when you’re younger, you won’t be in such a state of urgency if you’re forced to downsize because of cost later in life,” he said. “You have more of a time cushion to work with.”

Strayer also has found downsizing to be popular with people nearing retirement.

‘‘As you get older, it’s harder to keep up with all that maintenance — painting, exterior work and yard work,’’ he said. ‘‘When people are getting close to retirement, they don’t want to have to maintain a large house; they want to get a home that’s lower maintenance. Sometimes, they sell a large home, and get enough money to buy a smaller summer and winter home.’’

No matter the reason for downsizing — whether moving from the suburbs to the city, trading the larger family home for a smaller, more manageable one, or just looking to simplify a lifetime’s accumulation of belongings, it can be a challenge.

Matt Evey, broker/owner of Exit Realty, John Hill, Altoona, agrees that downsizing has become more popular with people of all ages, but he does have a different conception of what the term actually means.

‘‘These days, downsizing can still mean having very big house,’’ he said. ‘‘I just looked at a house in the $350,000 range designed for an older couple.

‘‘I don’t like calling it downsizing, because it’s not always a smaller house you’re dealing with — it has more to do with the floor plan,’’ he said.

‘‘If you have a family in which the kids are all grown, they’ll more than likely be looking for something that facilitates one-floor living. You might still have a basement, but you’ll have the laundry room, kitchen, living room, dining room and bedrooms all on one floor,’’ he said.

Condominiums also have increased in popularity in Altoona, according to Mike McCaulley, associate broker at Coldwell Banker Town and Country Real Estate, Altoona.

“You definitely see a lot more condos around (Altoona), because this is something where older people can live and not have to worry about anything except taking out the garbage,” he said. “All the outside work is done by maintennnce personnel, and is fixed into the monthly maintenance fee. A lot of people go to warmer areas during the winter, so they can just shut their doors, leave for two months and not have to worry about anything — like the pipes freezing.”

McCaulley said the conception of downsizing is “a pretty strightforward idea.”

“There are many situations out there where a a spouse is lost, the children are gone and they just don’t need a house with that kind of size,” he said. “In fact, most people do it for health reasons —getting into a one-story house so they don’t have to go up and down stairs.

“Moving away from a house you’ve lived in for a very long time can be a very emotional experience in itself,” he said. “But for the most part, people are glad they did it afterward. It just makes their lives easier.”

Mirror Staff Writer Jimmy Mincin is at 946-7460.

Article Photos

Fact Box

Making the change, step by step
n Identify your vision or goals for the way you want to live in your home.
n Communicate your plan to family members.
n Set a realistic time frame to accomplish your project. The decision-making process always takes longer than you think.
n Ensure that items you intend to donate are in good, usable condition. If you wouldn’t give them to a friend, think twice before donating.
n Establish a policy: For new things you bring into a home, the same amount or more must leave.
n If your home contains several rooms to be downsized, concentrate on one room at a time.
n Think about how much storage space you require. If you can’t live without certain items, determine how you can modify existing spaces to accommodate them.
n Downsize to furniture that serves dual purposes. For example, an ottoman that doubles as a filing cabinet or coffee table.
n Measure open spaces, such as living and dining areas, and create a space plan using existing furniture in the new location. If it doesn’t fit, sell it in advance and use the money to purchase something that will fit.
n When packing for your upcoming move, pack your boxes by what will be in each new room — rather than just boxing up existing spaces in the house you live in.
Source: Laura Leist, president of Eliminate Chaos LLC, Seattle (

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