A Guide to Downsizing

Downsizing is a decision that many people consider as they get older. Whether it’s because of an empty nest, retirement, or a desire for a simpler lifestyle, downsizing can be a beneficial choice for many!

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Why You Should Downsize

Transitioning into a new chapter can seem daunting, but the rewards are significant.  Here are some of the top reasons to downsize:

Easier to Manage
Downsizing can help reduce the time and energy spent on maintaining the space you don’t use and items you don’t need. It is an excellent opportunity to declutter and prioritize what is truly important to you.

Better Fit for Your Needs
Our priorities often change as we age, and so do our housing preferences. Many people find themselves in a situation where their current living space no longer suits their needs.

Financial Benefits
Moving to a smaller home can offer several financial benefits. A smaller home often means lower property taxes and utility bills, which can result in significant savings. Downsizing can also free up money to invest in other ways, such as retirement savings or travel.

Considering Your Next Steps

When planning to downsize, it’s essential to explore all of your options to find the best fit for your lifestyle and needs. There are many great choices in and around Madison to consider.

House for Sale

Smaller Home

This is a common option for those looking to downsize. Not only are smaller houses easier to manage, but they typically lead to lower property taxes and utility bills, resulting in substantial savings over time.


Condo or Townhouse

Buying a condo can be a great choice for those who want a maintenance-free lifestyle. You will no longer have to worry about maintaining a yard, snow removal, or repairing common building elements such as the roof, furnace, and other mechanical systems. Additionally, many condos offer added amenities such as pools, gyms, community areas, and security.

Senior Living

Retirement or Senior Living Community

Senior Living and 55+ communities offer a range of housing options for seniors looking to downsize. Many have tailored amenities to meet individual needs, like transportation, housekeeping, dining services, and easier access to healthcare. But the best part is the sense of community. There are often many opportunities to participate in group activities and events to meet new people and build friendships.


Relocating Out of State

Folks who are transitioning into a new chapter may consider moving out of state. Let's face it: winters are hard, and you may be dreaming of warmer climates. Downsizing can also be a great opportunity to move closer to family.

Creating a Buying Wishlist

When searching for a new place to call home, it’s important to consider whether it can grow with your future needs. Think about what features and qualities you’d like and start creating a buying wishlist. When buying a home, a Realtor can help you decide on a search criteria and offer suggestions you may have yet to consider.

Some common home features to think about are:

We all know that our mobility can change as we age, and having areas like the primary bedroom and laundry room on the main level is ideal. Instead of multiple floors, you may opt for a single story ranch-style home with less stairs. If you plan on purchasing a condo, choose one that has an elevator or find a unit that is on the ground floor. It can also be a good idea to check if your new home is wheelchair accessible with ramps.

Walkability & Proximity
Is the driveway steep, or does it have a gentle slope? What is the neighborhood like? If you were to start driving less, it’s important to think about the proximity to local places like grocery stores, community centers, cafes, and clinics. You may want to live nearby parks or nature trails to take in the fresh air. Many seniors also prefer living in close proximity to family.

Do you dream of having a pool or are you an avid gardener? Maybe you want to get a dog companion someday. Making sure you have underground heated parking or a garage would be ideal for winter months. Think about what sort of amenities are important for your quality of life.

When looking at homes, pay attention to what maintenance is required. Does it have an extra long driveway or a lot of sidewalks to shovel? What will it take to maintain the yard? You may prefer a maintenance-free option like a condo or senior living community to avoid these tasks.

Sense of Community
What kind of community would you like to live in? Many seniors enjoy the company of others and being around like-minded people. If you choose a home on the outskirts of town, you may end up feeling isolated and lonely.

Maximizing Your Profit

Your home is your most significant investment, and chances are you’ve been building a lot of equity over the years. Since 2016, the average home price in Madison, WI increased about 7% per year.

Here is a look at how the median sales price has changed in the last decade.

Median Sale Prices in Madison Graph

Consider Small Projects to Update Your Home

Many projects can increase your home’s ROI. It’s recommended that you have a Realtor tour your home. They can advise you on what projects you should do and what projects you can skip that will increase value and attract more buyers.

Some things to think about are:

Before you start replacing appliances or making any updates, ask your Realtor about recent trends. They can tell you what buyers are looking for. Some buyers can be hyper-focused on the smaller details, like wanting white cabinets or stainless steel appliances.

Painting walls, trim, and cabinets is the easiest way to freshen up your home! Neutral colors are always in style and provide a great starting palate for buyers to move into.

Buyers often notice the quality of carpets when viewing homes. If your carpet is looking old or has stains, try to revive them with a professional carpet cleaning or consider replacing them entirely if they are in poor condition.

Homes always looks better in brighter conditions! Wash your windows and open your curtains or blinds before showings. Don’t forget to turn on the lights. You can replace all of your old lightbulbs and increase the wattage to brighten up your home.

Small Repairs
Every home has it’s tiny quirks, like that door that doesn’t close all the way or that damaged baseboard trim. If buyers start to notice a lot of these, it can sometimes deter them from making an offer. But if you hire a local handyman for just a few hours, they can inspect your home and get many of these small projects fixed!

Curb Appeal
Your exterior is the first thing buyers see when attending a showing or driving by your home, so you want to make it inviting! Exterior projects often earn the highest ROI compared to other updates. Some easy landscaping projects are – adding mulch to the base of trees and around garden beds, adding more plants and flowers, making sure your shrubs are pruned and weeds are pulled. You can even spruce up your backyard with some new landscape lighting, patio furniture, and an outdoor fire pit!

Choose the Right Professionals

Choosing a good Realtor is crucial for maximizing your profit. Meeting with a Realtor is recommended even if you are a long way from moving. By starting the conversation early, a Realtor with the proper knowledge and experience can help you navigate the downsizing process.

Here are some ways a Realtor can get you the most at closing:

Agent Advice

Advice & Planning

Realtors often suggest minor updates you can do to maximize the value of your home when it comes time to list. They can tell you the best time to sell your home when the market is at its peak.

Calculating Price

Listing at the Right Price

You want to choose an experienced Realtor with extensive market knowledge and an understanding of different neighborhood values. They will be able to accurately calculate the current value of your home so you aren't cutting yourself short.

Listing Media

Listing Media & Marketing

A good Realtor knows the best ways to showcase your home to attract more buyers and has many strategies for getting the word out. Having more competition for your home often results in better offers!



This is where the real magic happens. Accepting the highest offer doesn't always mean it's the best deal. Offers with contingencies like inspections and appraisals can often result in requests for price reductions later on. An experienced Realtor with negotiation skills will advocate for you so you aren't leaving money at the closing table.

House for Sale

Finding the Right Place to Move

A Realtor can help you set realistic expectations. While moving into a smaller home can offer financial benefits - choosing a newer home with all the modern features will leave you with less money in your pocket.

Realtors will be with you on this journey from beginning to end and can often connect you with some other great professionals located in and around the Madison area.

Other common services for downsizing are:

  • Lenders – if you need to apply for a home buying loan.
  • Contractors – to help you with any cleaning, maintenance, or updates that are needed before selling.
  • Financial Advisors – to help you invest your sale proceeds for retirement savings.
  • Estate Planners – for will planning and to update your assets.
  • Senior Living Directors – to take you on tours and provide more information about their community.
  • Out-of-State Realtors – if you plan on relocating to another location.

Strategizing a Timeline

Buying and selling a home while also planning a move sounds difficult and confusing. But a Realtor can help you strategize a timeline for a seamless process. They can also guide you on what the local market is doing in the Greater Madison area so you know the best time to sell.

Market Seasonality

How does competitive bidding change throughout the year in Madison, WI? Here is a snapshot showing the average percentage that homes sold for above or below list price in the last few years.

A Closer Look Into Each Season

No matter the season, there are always buyers looking in the Madison area. Madison has a consistent demand for homes thanks to its strong job market and all that this vibrant city has to offer.

Here are some pros and cons of selling in each season:

The weather is warming up, and so is the market! More buyers are stepping outside to look at houses. The market hits its peak as we move into summer and the offer competition gets stronger.

  • Pros: Increase in the number of buyers and offer competition. Plus, you don’t have to move in the cold or snow!
  • Cons: There are more homes on the market for buyers to choose from, and this can sometimes lead to popularity contests between houses.

The pace of the market is feeling steadier, but sellers are still raking in great offers! Buyers who lost out over the summer are eager and ready to act fast. Plus, it’s a great time to take advantage of the beautiful fall colors in your listing photos.

  • Pros: Buyers are still in high demand for a home, and there are fewer listings on the market to choose from.
  • Cons: Many buyers start to get distracted with the start of the school year which can result in less showings.

The market is cooling, but there are still some buyers who need to move and want to buy. Things slow way down as we head into the holidays. But by February the market will start to ramp up again.

  • Pros: There aren’t a lot of other listings on the market, making yours stand out!
  • Cons: With less buyers, houses tend to stay on the market longer. Navigating showings around the holidays can be hard if you have visiting family, and keeping your home in showing condition during this time can be difficult.

Home Stats by Season

Now that you know the pros and cons of selling in each season, here’s a closer look at the local home sale stats in Madison, WI.

Preparing to Move

Those considering downsizing often move out of homes they have been living in for many years. Sometimes it can feel impossible when thinking about everything that needs to be done. That’s why Spencer Real Estate Group, a local brokerage serving the Greater Madison area, offers a special downsizing program called Service Beyond the Sale that goes above and beyond to help seniors transition into new chapters.

Here are some of their tips for getting ready – whether you want to do it yourself or hire professionals for help!

Organize & Declutter

  • Make a list of everything you own and decide what you want to keep, sell, or donate.
  • Consider hosting a garage sale or using an estate liquidation service to help you organize, sell, and donate your items.
  • Be realistic. Don’t hold onto items you know you won’t use or have sentimental value. Be honest with yourself about what you need and what you can live without.
  • If you have items you want to keep but don’t have room for in your new space, consider renting a storage unit.

Deep Cleaning

Once your home is organized, it’s time to make it sparkling clean before listing it on the market and showing it to potential buyers! Consider hiring professional cleaners to help you.

Walls & Floors
Clean any stains and marks found on walls. Vacuum all carpets. Sweep and mop all floors. Wash all windows.

All blinds, ceiling fans, vents, baseboards, trim, and interior windowsills.

Clean microwave, stovetop, oven, fridge, dishwasher, and kitchen sink. Wipe down counters, drawers, cabinets, and pantry shelves.

Clean shower, tub, toilet, and sink. Wipe down mirror, cabinets, drawers, vanity, and closet shelves.

Empty and clean all wastebaskets.

Repairs & Maintenance

You should inspect your home for minor maintenance and repairs before listing it for sale. Consider hiring a handyman for a few hours to fix all those little quirks in your home!

Check for any damage and holes on all walls.

Light Bulbs & Switches
Check that all switches for lights, ceiling & exhaust fans, garage openers (etc) are in working order. Replace any burnt-out bulbs.

Smoke & CO Detectors
Check for smoke detectors. There should be one per level of the home and in every bedroom. Check for CO detectors; there should be one on every level of the home.

Doors & Windows
Ensure all doors (interior, exterior, cabinets) and windows open and close properly. Check for any damaged blinds.

Plumbing Fixtures
Check that all plumbing fixtures are functioning: toilet, tub, shower, sinks, fridge water/ice dispenser.

Make sure that all appliances and mechanical systems are in working condition.

Ensure the lawn is presentable, plants are trimmed and dead-headed, gutters are clean, and windows and siding are washed.

Small Updates
As mentioned earlier, now is a great time for doing small projects to increase your home’s value. Painting and improving your curb appeal are the easiest ways to increase ROI. Ask a Realtor for advice on trends and what projects or upgrades they recommend for your home.

Moving Day Checklist

Once your home is listed and you’re ready to begin your new adventure, there are only a few more steps left to prepare for moving day!

  • Consider hiring a service to help you with packing, moving, and any remaining junk removal you may need.
  • Switch all utility services (gas, electricity, cable, and internet).
  • Be sure to notify your insurance agent about transferring or canceling your homeowner insurance policy.
  • Remember to update your address with USPS and any online shippers like Amazon.
  • And the final step – enjoy your new home!

Need a Realtor?

Are you or a family member in the process of downsizing? Spencer Real Estate Group can lift some of that burden and help make it a seamless, turn-key process with their Service Beyond the Sale program.

Top 10 Things to Do to Sell

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