A Change of Venue: Tips for Downsizing

Local Experts Weigh In On the Nuances of Downsizing


Arlene Gerig is an expert. To be sure, she is a longstanding area real estate agent with RE/MAX Preferred Associates. She knows the market and has built her reputation on helping people solve problems. “I have always said that if you feel you are a ‘difficult’ buyer or seller I am your gal. I love to help people find home solutions.”

Recently her expertise has entered into a new realm, that of downsizing the family home. Her mastery of the details of downsizing is personal. She recently downsized herself. Now she is on a mission to help families, couples, and individuals make the leap to new spaces.

Downsizing isn’t Downgrading

Gerig’s story is typical for this type of move. “My husband and I created our villa together,” says Gerig, comfortable with the memories. “Although many of the villas in the area were cookie-cutter, we really worked to make our space unique. A couple of years after he passed away it became important for me to create my own space. Hence my interest both as a real estate professional and personally in the process of downsizing.”

The first and foremost thing on the mind of anyone who is considering a downsize is, “Will I be downgrading?” The answer is, of course not. “I had 3000 square feet with a 3 car garage,” remarks Gerig. “And yes, it was filled with stuff. As I looked around I got to thinking about a wonderful space that was manageable and charming. One that suited me and my new needs.”

That desire, to find and even modify a new space after kids have grown or post-retirement should not be overwhelming. “The place to start,” says Gerig, “is to simply decide that less is more.” Walking through that gate is the beginning of a journey and, if well planned, is filled with possibility.

We All Have Stuff

“One of the first obstacles”, says Gerig, “is deciding what to keep. For instance, you can’t take 3 sets of china. The goal is to keep what brings you joy.”

It can be hard to separate yourself from your stuff. You may not have big meals and get-togethers in your new place. You may not need that extra-large pan, turkey roaster, or 30 cup coffee maker.

“These decisions shouldn’t be made the day of a move,” says Gerig. “Whether you are looking at selling some of your things directly, gifting them to family, friends, or charities, or using a reseller, the process takes time and energy.”

Prepping the Property

It is easy to get paralyzed. After all, besides looking at your stuff there may be modifications to make to the home for sale. What was fashionable 20 years ago may have become passe today.

“It is always interesting looking at the perspective of each party in a sale, states Gerig knowingly.  “In particular with family homes, sellers are looking back at all of the memories they have built.  Buyers, on the other hand, are looking at all the memories they will create. It is important to value both perspectives. That is how great deals are made.”

The willingness to do work on the existing property will increase sale value and, more importantly, the properties mobility once it is on the market. Although it might be difficult to make a change to the family homestead, many times these changes are the defining touch that cements a sale. A qualified realtor can help choose which improvements to make.

Moving Day

Tony Fox, President of MVM Moving and Storage, has been helping people move for over 15 years. “I love being outside and helping people,” says Fox. “Moving is a huge event in our lives, especially if you are moving from a place you have lived in for a long time. Our goal has always been to make that as easy as possible so that you land in your new home ready to unpack and start living.”

The right moving company can make the difference between a smooth transition and utter frustration

The disruption, especially when moving from a residence of long-standing, is always at the top of everyone’s’ mind. “One of the biggest mistakes we see people make is moving things they don’t want to their new place,” says Fox. “It is best to only move what you want to your move location. Everything else is just clutter that costs money to both move and store.” Decluttering is the watchword of the day. No matter if you have the moving company do it or work the problem yourself, utilize resale companies like ReStore, junk removal companies like JDog of Toledo, and even bring in a roll-off dumpster. “Basically, only move what you are keeping,” says Fox earnestly.

Above all, Fox recommends getting help and making sure your movers are professional. A moving company should come with padding, shrink wrap, tools (when something needs to be quickly disassembled, and straps. “We also have moving guides right on our website,” says Fox, “that will guide you through the process. The more organized and prepared you are on moving day the more relaxed and ready you will be to begin life in your new home

Legal, Tax, and Insurance

“There are many things to consider when downsizing,” says Matt Weisenburger, a local attorney who focuses on realty and estate planning. “If you are going to involve legal counsel, you want to involve them in the transaction prior to signing the purchase agreement. It is never a bad investment to have counsel look over the details.

Likewise, Weisenburger recommends seeking some advice about taxes and insurance.  

“If selling a family home or possibly transferring it to your family now, you want to examine the strategies that you could use to make the transfer a gift rather than a taxable transaction. If there are funds left over from downsizing and we want to protect those assets, we must first examine the tax consequences, but we want to know if a trust or possibly another protection vehicle would be applicable to the situation.”

It is also wise to check with your insurance agent. Contents change, needs are adjusted, even the structure of the new house will be different. Using a trusted source for insurance needs will add to the ease of moving.

Take All the Time You Need

Most importantly, don’t rush the process. “If you are downsizing you are leaving a big part of your life in someone else’s care,” says Gerig knowingly. “Value the experience, ask for help, and stay involved with everyone who is affected, including kids and grandkids. With some planning and assistance, you can land in a new home ready to make a whole new set of memories. Helping people with that process is the most satisfying thing I do.”

A home, like Rome, wasn’t built in a day. It doesn’t have to be sold in one either.

RSL Directory Moving Resources

Arlene Gerig, RE/MAX Preferred

Dunright Building Services

MVM Moving and Storage

Yetter's Complete Roofing

BCA Insurance Group

Jdog Junk Removal, Toledo

Before/After Pictures of a Successful Downsize