Downsize to Live Big

Today’s housing trends are a far cry from the late 90’s- where bigger was better and new was best.  Back in the early 2000’s folks were moving out of the center of the valley to new subdivisions, gated communities, big homes on big lots.  Now, with the valley’s food and arts scene booming and housing trends focusing on smaller more luxurious “jewel box” living, the trend seems to be all about downsizing.  Downsizing is an appealing lifestyle, less stuff and less maintenance means more travel, savings and ultimately life.  I have met so many people wanting to make the move to something smaller, but they stop short of making the move because it can be daunting and they aren’t quite sure if they are ready.  In this feature story, we meet a couple determined to downsize.  They share their journey from 2300 square feet to 1600; what they lost, gained and accomplished.

When I met Josephine and Bob, they had picked a condo they wanted to purchase, renovate and downsize into; purchasing the condo was a breeze- the couple closed escrow quickly and began renovations immediately.    Downsizing was something they had considered for quite some time; Josephine’s commute was taking longer and longer each month, the yard was a lot of upkeep and they found their space wasn’t being utilized as it once was.

When the renovation neared completion, they reached back out for help with the sale of their home in Tempe.  We made plans to meet at the couples Tempe home, to take a tour and talk about preparing the home for sale.  Up until this point, I had only heard about their home, I was excited to finally see the space. The house was really amazing- saturated colors on every wall, Mexican art adorned hallways, Spanish tiled steps, fabulous windows and light, a den filled with books and music, gorgeous antiques, mosaic tiled bathrooms, a phenomenal backyard- the house was special, thoughtful and rich. You could tell the couple had spent a lifetime in their space and it became clear to me how difficult downsizing can really be.  Although Josephine and Bob had considered this move for some time and were renovating their new space, it was still quite an undertaking. (The couples Tempe house listing photos below)

After a small amount of preparation, we listed their Tempe house and within a short time received a contract and sold- the couple held an Estate Sale, packed up what they wanted to keep and moved into their newly renovated condo in North Central Phoenix.  After the couple had sufficiently settled into their new space, we sat down to re-visit their downsize story in hopes that it might help others facing the same decision.

N: What made you decide to downsize?

J: While we loved the home we had, careers had changed and we no longer worked near where we lived. We knew that moving would be a challenge, but we liked the idea of trying something new, and downsizing allowed us to focus on what really mattered to us in terms of possessions and surroundings.

N: Had you been considering it for a while? What made you take action?

B: While we had lived in the Valley for many years (Josephine is an AZ native) we had never lived in Central Phoenix itself. After accepting a job at Beatitudes Campus in North Central Phoenix, Josephine found the commute from south Tempe to be too time consuming.

J: As well, Bob volunteers as a docent for the Phoenix Art Museum, which was also far from our Tempe home. The move made both commutes a thing of the past, and I now ride my bike to work most days.

N: What were your downsize goals?

B: We are not formal “goal” people, but we knew that we did not want to have a space where we could just dump stuff and forget about it forever. We wanted an active space that housed what we love and what we use, and nothing else-hello one car garage!

N: What was on your list of criteria for a new home?

J: We didn’t have a specific checklist, but rather were looking for a space that just felt good, and that gave us a change of scenery from our present home.

N: Did you compromise on anything you wanted? What were those items?

B: We had never lived together in a place that had an HOA, and our new community has one. Josephine had to accept the fact that she could not paint the entire exterior of the building to her liking (more color, please!), or direct which plants would be planted on the premises. Accepting this before the move happened made it easier, and she has no regrets.

N: Before moving in, you did a major renovation- what did your renovation entail?

J: We gutted the entire space, which was a mid 1980s condo. It was in good condition but still 1986 inside. We removed a wet bar, changed out flooring, reconfigured the bathrooms, raised ceilings, removed soffits and put in a completely new kitchen. We re-plastered all of the walls and ceilings with American Clay, which is a product we love. It took over six months, but was done before we moved so it was not too bad.

N: How did you find contractors, designers, etc?  Who did you work with?

B: We worked with Kristen Ross of Keen Eclectic, who brought contractors who could tear out ceilings and floors and put them back together again. While we don’t need help knowing what we like, it was helpful to have someone who understood the “big picture” of renovating an entire space, which we had never done before.

N: What are you most proud of in the space?

B: We love the warmth, the light, and the feeling of spaciousness, even though we downsized to just over 1600 sf. from 2300sf.

J: We discovered that we love glass block!

N: What is your favorite room? Spot? Item?

J: We visited Manhattan during the renovation, and stayed at a hotel that had bookcases lined with LED lights. We brought that back to our space and are so happy to have done so. We also saw a Timothy Oulton sofa there that ended up as our new destination to crash at the end of the day. We love most how our art looks in the new space. We see it again.

N: What are your new favorite local places to eat, drink, shop, etc.

J: We are typically homebodies but we like Pubblico, Ladera, Rito’s, and Veggie Village. We love Framed Ewe and have way too many pairs of glasses.

N: When did you decide to buy a second home in Santa Fe?

B: Josephine has had a library of Santa Fe house books for many years. She wanted to act before prices got completely crazy, and bought an 800 sf. 100-year-old adobe house in a historic district within walking distance of Santa Fe Plaza in January of this year. Our hope is to escape the worst of Phoenix summers in years to come, and to enjoy a small sanctuary that also feels like home.

N: Advice to others looking to downsize? Purchase a second home?

B: Purchasing a second home for us was done out of love for a place, not strictly as an investment. We’ll see how that turns out! Only do it if you can afford it without undue financial stress—we are finally at a place in our lives when that is possible.

We are cautious people who love the comfort and energy to be found in surroundings of home. There is a difference, however, between staying put because you love your space and being afraid to move. We recognized the loss of downsizing and saying “goodbye” to neighbors and to a place we had created for fifteen years, but also know that life keeps moving, whether or not you go along with it. It helps to know that new experiences are in store and that it’s ok to move forward. In order to experience the new, you have to be able to say goodbye to the old. That’s life.

Downsizing can seem a daunting task (and at times it is) but with the right team- lender, Realtor, title company and vendors like estate sale companies, movers and contractors- it can become a reality.  Take it one step at a time, find out what your property is worth by speaking with a Realtor, this can set you off on the right path when searching for a new home.  Next discuss your financing options with a trusted lender or broker, there are ways to purchase your new home before selling your old one (as this tends to be the biggest stress area….timing!).

The move to downsize made purchasing a vacation home in Santa Fe, NM, a reality for Bob and Josephine- what are your goals?  If you’re thinking about a downsize and want to find out more, please contact us at, we have trusted agents that can help you start the process.



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