How to Downsize on a Tight Schedule

Stress - tight schedule
Here are six reasons for having to downsize a home in a hurry along with helpful suggestions on how to proceed.
First, identify the source of the urgency. Is it related to the home, the stuff or a combination of both?

The Home

The list of six reasons related to the home begins with the “three D’s”.

  • Debt. Cash is required from the sale of the home
  • Divorce. There is a sense of urgency to bring closure and move on.
  • Death of a homeowner. There is too much space and work for the surviving spouse.
  • Change in the health of the homeowner. The home is vacant and no longer suitable.
  • Fear of a major market correction and subsequent loss in equity.
  • The home has been sold to a buyer with a very short closing date. The pressure is on.

A variation of the 3rd one above is the death of a single homeowner. In this case, the home is part of the estate and there is a customary delay until the probate process is finished. Letters Probate are issued and the executor wants to wrap up the estate and distribute the proceeds to the beneficiaries.


Avoid major renovation projects. Kitchen and bathroom renos can add significantly to the value of a home. However, when “time is of the essence”, renos are counter-productive. It is better to focus on small, cost-effective updates that can be arranged and executed quickly. A skilled handyman can do wonders for the appearance of a home.

Solve a puzzle with a teamCreate a small, professional team that can act quickly and focus on their specialty in the overall downsizing project. Realtors are in a unique position to help you do so by assembling a team that matches the requirements.

In the case of divorce, engage mediators and specialists who can take a non-adversarial approach and help reach closure quickly and fairly. This will shorten the length of the urgent period.


Audio room. Lots of stuffMost of the six reasons listed above also involve getting rid of the majority or all of the stuff in the home. Unless you have family members who are willing and able to deal with the stuff on short notice, you will likely bring in a crew of professionals who will organize, sort, move, transfer, and sell the contents.

Vacant homes typically sell for less than similar homes which have attractive furnishings. This presents an issue since you have pressure, on one hand, to move everything out of the home, but also want to maximize the selling price.


Two-step downsizing is suggested here – move everything out, except for major furniture and furnishings. If the home will still look good in photographs and for property tours, then proceed. Depending on the level of urgency and your personal situation, it may be necessary to move and store the original furniture and replace it with temporary, staged furniture that can be brought in and out on short notice. Furniture is only necessary up to the date that you have a “firm offer” – i.e. a binding agreement on the sale of the home. After that, the home can be vacant. (Remember to inform the property insurance company that the home is vacant since that is typically a policy requirement.)

Public Storage

Public storage warehousePublic storage can be an effective relief valve from the pressure of dealing with stuff in a short time deadline. This could be because of the amount of stuff to deal with or possibly because your next home is not ready or not found and purchased.

Although public storage units can “save the day”. There are a number of cautions when choosing one for your possessions.

  • The current season and weather have an impact on the type of storage that is suitable. Damp or humid weather is not conducive to storing furniture in a simple storage unit.
  • Check if there is a raised concrete floor in case of inclement weather. This helps prevent water damage.
  • You will probably need an area for sorting your stuff, not just filling it to the rafters. It is best to have a unit that is no more that is 75% full in order for you to select and retrieve particular items as necessary.
  • Most units do not have lighting. They are intended for storage only. If you want to sort items in the unit, you need to supply your own portable light.
  • Most units do not have electrical outlets.
  • Most units do not have “room temperature” control. They may have minimal heat and no air conditioning.
  • Many units share space in the same building with a wall dividing one unit from the next. They may have an open ceiling with shared air between units. This creates the possibility of odour cross-over between units.
  • Watch for accessibility hours. You may need to have access very early or late in the day.
  • Ask about the suitability of the storage unit for the type of items you intend to store.

What about your situation? Do you have questions or suggestions?

Enter your feedback below in the “Leave a reply” text box.

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Quill pen

Unless otherwise credited, all posts are happily authored with a quill pen …
Paul Ferri, Broker, ASA (Accredited Senior Agent)
RE/MAX Unique Inc. Brokerage*, Toronto, Canada
*Each office independently owned and operated

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