happy monday, friends! for those returning from fincon, we hope you had an amazing time, and got home safely! we’ve loved seeing all the pics from fincon, and hope to go next year, when it’s in the west.
today’s post is continuing the conversation we began in our post should you move to retire? // why we moved to a small town. that post was more about the small town lifestyle, and today’s post is more about the physical structure we live in. quick recap: we used to live in a big, expensive city, but moved a few years ago to a small mountain town, where we could buy a house for significantly less than our city condo cost. our current locale is still a high cost of living area, but it’s vastly cheaper than the city we moved from — not to mention that small town life is just generally not conducive to spending a lot. there’s less ability and opportunity to go out to eat, and many fewer places to shop. the culture is different here, too, in ways that are good for spending: people are far more likely to suggest a hike or picnic than a night out. plus car insurance is a lot less, although utilities are a bit more, so those balance out.
but now that we’re here in our mountain town, the question we have on our minds in a big way is: should we downsize our home in a few years when we quit our jobs?
some backstory: when we moved to the mountains in 2011, we didn’t yet have such an aggressive early retirement plan in place. we knew we wanted to retire “early,” but we hadn’t yet defined what that meant. so we bought our house thinking that we’d be working full-time from it for a while, since we both telecommute for work. back in the city, we had a two-bedroom condo, and our second bedroom served as the office we both shared, as well as our guest room. on a good day, when we didn’t have guests around, we’d still find ourselves on conference calls at the same time, and have to do this dance where we’d silently wave and scowl at each other, each one of us trying to get the other to take their call elsewhere. it was frustrating. and not something we wanted to repeat in our “forever home.” and that’s not even talking about what a bad day was like, when we had guests, and both got displaced from our office.
so our wishlist for our mountain house was: three bedrooms plus at least one bonus space like a loft or finished attic, so that we could have our bedroom, a dedicated guest room, one bedroom for one of our offices, and then the bonus space for the other’s office. this, we felt, would increase our harmony, because we’d no longer share an office, and would no longer get displaced by guests. in the end, we found a house that we love, which checked all the boxes: three bedrooms plus loft plus small finished attic for a second office, so we actually ended up with two dedicated guest rooms. and though the house has more space than we need, it’s fairly modest as far as today’s homes go, clocking in at 1800 square feet. it’s not a fancy house, but it’s definitely nicer than our dirtbag aspirations would suggest it should be.
fast forward almost four years, and we still love our house. we love having separate offices, and we love that when we have guests — which is fairly often, since we live in a popular mountain destination — we don’t feel like we’re all on top of each other. but there are some things we also don’t love: the upkeep that comes with a house this size, and knowing that we could take money out of the house if we downsized, and be that much closer to retirement. plus, we know that we just don’t need this much space. so, in the time-honored tradition of decision-makers everywhere, we’ve made a pro/con list to help us think through whether we should truly think of this house as our forever home, or plan to downsize when we retire, or possibly sooner.
pros to downsizing
free up money — we think we could potentially free up as much as $100,000 by downsizing in our market, if we had the patience to find the right house to move into. that’s a big deal.
reduce our footprint — we would need less electricity, gas and firewood to keep a small house operating, which appeals to our sense of environmental responsibility (and frugality!).
less work — in a smaller home, the interior maintenance and cleaning would be less time-consuming, although we’d likely still have to tackle just as many pine needles outside.
cons to downsizing
less desirable rental — we plan to rent out our house when we travel to offset our costs, and a 3-bed 2-bath house will be a lot more appealing to renters or vacationers than a smaller home. and of course we could collect more money renting out a larger home!
less ideal for guests — right now we have a nice set-up for when we have guests. our room is upstairs and the guest rooms are downstairs, so everyone gets privacy.
property tax could increase — where we live, property taxes are based on purchase price, and because we bought near the bottom of the market in 2011, the price we’d pay for a small house now would likely be more than we paid for our big house back in 2011, and our taxes would go up.
small common areas — we have been quoted as saying that we’d be willing to sleep in a closet if we could just have room for a big, loungy couch and a table big enough to host a big dinner party. but houses just aren’t designed this way. every small home that we’ve seen has had a correspondingly small living room and dining area, as though people in small homes have no desire to entertain. and the bedrooms in those homes are “normal size,” not scaled down. why is this?? if we could find a small home with tiny bedrooms and full-size common areas, we’d jump on it in a heartbeat. (and no, we’re not into the idea of building a house to suit us, because we don’t want to waste new materials building a new house when there are plenty of existing homes.)
right now the pro/con list has three pros and four cons, so is leaning toward don’t downsize. but we’re not planning to make this decision anytime soon, and some of the factors may take on relatively greater weight. or maybe, once we buy our future small travel trailer, we can think of that as an extra guest room, skewing the scale in favor of downsizing. stay tuned to find out!
do you plan to move in retirement, either to move to a new location, or to downsize? have you already found your forever home? or does your life plan involve long-term renting, giving you lots more flexibility? any factors we should add to our pro/con list?