First Person: We Missed Our Chance to Downsize to a Smaller Home

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My husband and I regret the fact that we didn't downsize to a smaller, more affordable home about a year ago. Looking back now, we realize that the housing market in Florida had hit its bottom at that time. Because we still had our two teenagers living in the home, we wanted to keep our home with four bedrooms and three bathrooms. However, now that our older son has left for college, we are starting to see the wisdom in downsizing. According to a recent article by U. S. News & World Report, there are positive signs the housing market is recovering, but a full recovery is still to come. Although that may be true, in my Florida subdivision, prices are going up fairly quickly. If we could have timed it right, I could see several advantages of downsizing to a smaller home.

Paying lower property taxes

One of the reasons we regret not downsizing to a smaller home is the fact that we pay more in taxes. Our tax bill was about $2,000 last year, but we expect it will go up rapidly as the values of the homes are recovering. In comparison, people who live in 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom homes in my Florida subdivision pay only about $1,600 a year in taxes. Since we don't actually need three bathrooms and four bedrooms, we are just throwing our money away on our property tax bill as well as higher homeowner's insurance.

Saving on the utility bills

I have a close friend who lives in my same neighborhood, but in a smaller home. She pays between $50 and $125 a month on electricity, depending on the time of year. Because it takes more electricity to cool our larger home with high ceilings, we pay between $150 and $300 a month for our electric bill. Since we feel as though we missed our chance to downsize to a smaller home last year, we decided to use window tinting film to lower our electric bill. It did help, but not as much as we had hoped.

Staying in the same area

Although we still could find good real estate deals in some parts of the country, we can't find the same deals in our area anymore. If we had downsized a year ago, we could have stayed in our same area. I can't justify selling my home now that the prices have recovered from their all-time low about a year ago. My close friend bought her 3-bedroom 2-bathroom home for $94,000 through a short sale a year ago. Similar homes in our subdivision are now up to about $120,000. Meanwhile, a Realtor in my community told me I could get about $150,000 for my house. After paying the closing and moving costs, we would have a difficult time justifying a move at this time.

Using all the available space

I would feel better living in a home that didn't include empty rooms that aren't being used or are only used a few times a year. At this time, we have a guest bedroom and bathroom that is rarely used as well as an optional office or second guest bedroom. Even though some people use extra bedrooms for storage, I don't want to turn any rooms in my home into a storage unit. Also, I have no interest in renting out rooms to make additional money.

Since we plan to stay in our home, my husband and I are going to make an effort to use our empty rooms. We don't expect to move in the future only because we don't anticipate housing prices ever bottoming out the way they did a year ago. Instead of downsizing, we are staying put and paying down our mortgage. We figure as the years go on, we may have grandchildren who can put our extra rooms to use. We may even one day be glad we missed our chance to downsize to a smaller home.

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More from this contributor:

What We Gave up to Buy Our Dream Home

Remodeling our Empty Nest will Save us $50,000

Rental Demand is Up in my Florida Neighborhood


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