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Downscaling opens a new chapter in life

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Financial hardship might necessitate moving to a smaller home but experts say it should be seen as an opportunity, not a failure

Property owners battling to meet their home loan repayments could consider downscaling – a move that will help their finances while still allowing them to retain homeownership status.

It is a move that should not only be viewed in terms of affordability but appreciated for the benefits a smaller property will offer. There is the added advantage of downscaling sellers being able to buy in the buyer’s market, says Stephen Cohen, Dogon agent on the Atlantic seaboard. “One might not achieve the high sales prices of previous years but there are fantastic purchasing opportunities in scaling down to a more manageable home.”

Downscaling is not a failure

Downscaling has become a global trend and sellers should not see themselves as failures, Cohen says. He is a prime example of this. “Having semigrated from Johannesburg, where I had a fairly large home, to Cape Town nine years ago, it became apparent I could not afford the same type of home in the Cape as the one I’d had in Joburg.

“I found a small, 90-year-old home and, with the help of a brilliant architect and clever budgeting, the property was converted into a practical and manageable home with a small garden for my pets and a plunge pool.

“I don’t miss being bound to weekends of working in the garden and constantly paying for maintenance, upkeep, repairs and high bond repayments.” Still, knowing when it’s time to say goodbye to your home can be a difficult and emotional decision, says Craig Mott, a regional sales manager for the Rawson Property Group.

“Downscaling isn’t just about selling well and buying more affordably. It’s also about finding a home that fulfils your needs in the next chapter of your life, so be positive.”

Start planning a fulfilling future

When searching for a suitable property, make it a fun and positive experience for the entire family, Mott says. “Create a property checklist together – list what you and your family will need – list the must-haves, deal-breakers and nonnegotiables that you’re seeking, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, how important off-street parking is, and whether you need a garden.

“Once you have determined the musthaves, you can narrow down your search even more.” Creative people could also make a mood board to pin down their goals and visual elements of their new home. This activity can be therapeutic and will help everyone connect and get excited about moving. Today, there are many choices in finding a suitable smaller home, townhouse, simplex or apartment, Cohen says. Depending on the age group, there are also modern and trendy retirement villages which are designed for community living and have become extremely popular.

“Disposing of furniture and household items can also be of great benefit to family members or charitable institutions.”

Don’t assume you have to live in an apartment or complex

Downscaling does not mean you are forced to abandon the freestanding-home lifestyle you are accustomed to. Cohen says there are many options available today, where architects are specifically designing and catering for people who want the luxury and the privacy of small, manageable homes.

“There are cottages and freestanding simplex units (freehold and not sectional title) that offer an easy lock-up-and-go lifestyle.” Mott agrees: “There are freestanding homes – with two and three bedrooms – that are smaller and more manageable. It all depends on affordability and whether you prefer living in a freestanding home or sectional title unit.”

You do not necessarily have to give up your pets

If you opt for a sectional title home then check what is allowed. Each apartment/ estate/ complex has its own code of conduct by which residents are expected to live, Mott says.

“Some apartment blocks/ complexes are pet friendly and even stipulate the type of pet and up to how many you are allowed.” If your pets are moving with you, you must inform your estate agent so they can find you a pet-friendly home. Echoing this, Cohen says it is important to ask the agent for a copy of the sectional title rules, to ensure that pets are actually allowed. Sometimes the wrong information is given and this could lead to a traumatic situation.

“Often one can get written permission from the chairman or the managing agents allowing you to keep a small pet.”

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