It’s not just the economy — there are lots of reasons people choose to downsize. It could be retirement, a recently emptied nest or just plain “maintenance fatigue.” Whatever the reason, plan your new lifestyle carefully and with intent.

When you search for a smaller home, don’t forget that location is still the key ingredient.

Even if you don’t have kids or they’ve flown the coop, a good school district, not a busy street, and proximity to public transportation and recreation are still the best bets for retaining value.

If this will be a retirement move, think about the future and seek out homes on one level, or at the very least, with the master bedroom on the ground floor. Often times the number of bedrooms and baths may not be a priority at this stage in life, but for resale, a minimum of three bedrooms is safest.

If downsizing to you means less maintenance, you may be tempted by townhome or condominium living. But be aware of “hidden costs,” such as annual or monthly homeowners association fees. Check recent association meeting reports to see if there is a building renovation planned, as you could be hit with an assessment fee in the future, too. Remember that living in a condo complex means you’ll have many “close” neighbors!

There are many things to consider in advance of your move, so make a list and ask your Realtor for input and more advice. Most of all, enjoy your new lifestyle!

Paul Suding, a real estate agent with Cool Santa Barbara Homes and Village Properties, is president of the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. He can be contacted at or 805.455.8055.