Fiona Dogan’s Complete Guide to Downsizing Your Home (2023)

Downsizing your home is a significant life decision, filled with both excitement and challenges. Whether you’re an empty nester, newly single, or simply seeking a simpler lifestyle, downsizing requires careful advance planning and expert guidance.

I’m a highly successful, seasoned real estate agent with Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty in Rye, New York. My 17+ year history of working with other clients in similar situations helps me understand the unique needs of homeowners looking to downsize their homes.

With my extensive real-estate knowledge and hands-on experience, I will help you seamlessly transition to your next home while easing your concerns and maximizing your financial benefits. My comprehensive guide will help you gain some valuable insights and make your downsizing journey a success.

The Financial Sense of Downsizing

Downsizing your home isn’t just about simplifying your life—it can also make excellent financial sense. Larger family homes often come with higher carrying costs. Energy inefficiencies, higher taxes, and significant maintenance and landscaping expenses can quickly add up.

By downsizing to a smaller home or apartment, you can lower utility bills, lower taxes, and eliminate multiple expensive running costs freeing up your liquid resources for other important priorities. Furthermore, taking advantage of today’s dynamic seller’s market can enable you to cash out at favorable prices and maximize your financial gains.

The Benefits of Downsizing Your Home

Maximize Your Returns: Downsizing allows you to take advantage of the current seller’s market, giving you the chance to cash out at a significant profit and maximize your returns.

Sell Your Property Quickly: Today’s real estate market is extremely efficient, providing you with an opportunity to go into contract within a few days and enabling you to move quickly to your next steps

Secure Long-Term Savings: Downsizing can often ensure immediate savings by reducing property taxes, maintenance expenses, and the overall management burden associated with a larger home.

Enjoy a Simpler Life: A smaller home means less space to maintain and fewer possessions to manage, offering a simpler and more streamlined lifestyle for you.

A Chance to Declutter: Downsizing encourages you to embark on the valuable process of decluttering, allowing you to let go of unnecessary possessions and create a more organized living space.

Align with Your Life Changes: Downsizing often accompanies significant life changes such as becoming empty nesters or entering retirement, enabling you to open a new chapter in your life.

Preparing to Downsize Your Home

Planning for a downsize move requires careful consideration and preparation, but the effort invested will pay off both on moving day and in the months that follow as you settle into your new home. Here’s my step-by-step guide on how to effectively plan for a downsizing transition.

Figure Out Your Budget

Create a detailed budget that lays out your current financial situation. Make sure to include all your monthly expenses, as well as annual costs like property taxes and insurance. Then, create a future budget “downsize” to compare it to. Analyzing the changes in expenses will help you understand exactly how your finances will be impacted by downsizing.

Make a To-Do List

Downsizing can be chaotic. To navigate this period more smoothly, it’s essential to have a meticulous to-do list that covers every aspect. Once you have secured your new home, be sure not to overlook crucial transitional steps, including setting up a clear timeline, strategizing storage solutions, decluttering effectively, planning the move-out/move-in days carefully, coordinating setting up new home utilities, and setting up repairs and interior decorating for your new home.

Understand the Current Housing Market

The most important step is to work with your trusted realtor to fully understand your current local housing market conditions. This knowledge will empower you to make informed choices about when and how to proceed with your downsizing plans.

With my successful track record as one of America’s best real estate professionals, I will partner with you to carefully explain the intricate details of the current housing market. With my expert guidance, we will navigate all the complexities of your real estate needs and set a course for a successful transition to your new, downsized home.

Prepare Your Home for Sale

Your agent will consider the condition and location of your home, as well as current comparable sales when determining the appropriate pricing strategy. Extensive preparation including inspecting, refreshing, and staging your home will dramatically improve your chances of selling at an over-asking price with possible multiple bids.

With my proven sales success, my strong business acumen, and my 24/7 focused client commitment, I will advise you carefully in determining the accurate listing price for your property, leading to a swift and successful sale.

Read more about my process here — How to Prep and Price Your Home for a Fast Sale

Find Your Perfect Downsized Home

Finding your perfect downsized home involves defining priorities, establishing a budget, and working with a trusted realtor. I will help you explore current listings, tour homes, view open houses, and help you define your most important priorities.  When we find your dream downsized home, I will handle the sales and closing process for you, including determining the correct offering price and terms, scheduling appropriate engineering inspections, and hiring an expert real estate attorney to guide you through the contract and closing.

Choose Fiona Dogan for Your Downsizing Journey

I have had the privilege of working with many wonderful downsizing clients in recent years, guiding them as they embark on their next real estate journey and transition into a new chapter in their lives. One recent client, Shari, shared her thoughts on our collaboration:

“What truly sets Fiona apart is her comprehensive knowledge of the real estate market. Her strategic approach to pricing and marketing my property showcased her expertise, resulting in a quick and lucrative sale. I wholeheartedly recommend Fiona to anyone seeking a broker who brings not only expertise but also a genuine sense of care and friendship to the table.”

It is indeed an honor and a pleasure to be by the side of individuals like Shari as they make these significant life transitions. If you’re looking for a dedicated broker who combines market expertise with a personal touch, I’m here to assist you every step of the way.

From their First Rye Home to a Relocation: Fiona Led the Way

Chris and Irene happily lived in Rye for the past ten years. After starting their family, they purchased their four-bedroom Colonial on Elmwood Avenue with Fiona in 2012. At the time, understanding Rye’s neighborhoods and all they had to offer to a growing family was vitally important.

“We were new parents,” recalls Chris. “That knowledge was very important. We wanted to know about the amenities of each area before settling in. Fiona helped us to a great area and a wonderful home.”

They kept in touch with her over the years. When they considered renovations or additions, they consulted with Fiona, who helped them determine the projects that would deliver the best return for their investment. When they decided to relocate to South Carolina, they turned to Fiona to help them manage the sale of their home. Not only did they have a good relationship and a loyalty to her, they felt she would best prepare them for what lay ahead.

Preparation, knowledge, and relationships

Fiona recommended and handled a pre-listing inspection. She made recommendations of what needed to be fixed, cleaned, or renovated prior to listing their home. To help them get the work done, Fiona put her network of contacts to work. Says Chris, “It was much easier with Fiona’s help. It was the difference between consulting the yellow pages and working with Fiona’s trusted contacts, with whom she has worked for a very long time. They were honest and thorough.”

Having a hands-on realtor stage their house was critical in making it buyer-ready, explains Chris. “We moved our furniture out, and Fiona moved furniture in that had the vibe buyers were looking for. She personally styled our shelves. At one point she helped to change out our window screens! She jumped in to help wherever it was needed.”

Buyers were out in droves during the Covid pandemic and the market was fast-paced. A lot had changed in the real estate market since Chris and Irene had bought their home. But with Fiona by their side, they felt prepared, relaxed, and confident about finding the right buyer.

When the time came to navigate the offer process, Chris and Irene were again glad to be working with Fiona. She helped them manage the entire process and negotiate a deal they were happy with.

“Fiona has been in 90% of the homes in Rye, and her knowledge about the local market was a huge advantage. She’s a great negotiator. I highly recommend working with Fiona.”

Fiona Dogan Recognized in ‘Best Real Estate Agents 2021’

Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or ready to downsize and sell your family home, working with successful real estate professional who’s ahead of the curve really matters. Look no further than Fiona Dogan, who was just recognized as a Westchester Magazine Best Real Estate Agent in 2021.

This recognition is the latest in a series of accolades received by Dogan, who was ranked among the top 3% of all William Pitt Julia B. Fee agents and ranked among the top 1.5% of all real estate brokers nationwide.

“It’s wonderful to be recognized for doing what I love to do,” says Dogan. “Of course, the real reward is getting to know my clients and helping them to achieve their goals — whether it’s finding the perfect buyer or a home that’s just right for their family.”

To select agents for the list, Westchester Magazine partnered with DataJoe Research, which conducted research and administered peer and consumer surveys campaign to identify agents. As a primary benchmark, agents had to generate a minimum of $12.9 million in sales revenue during the period of October 2019 through October 2020.

In the peer survey, real estate agents were asked to provide sales volume ranges, and also to nominate their peers; consumers and recent homebuyers were asked to nominate agents who exemplified excellence. Finally, DataJoe analyzed performance data for agents in their respective firms.

As real estate decisions are among the most important financial and lifestyle decisions people make, it’s vitally important to work with a cutting-edge professional who stays on top of the latest real estate trends and technology and who understands the marketplace.

Fiona takes the time to get to know her clients in order to understand their needs and customize the experience. “That means every single client is getting a personalized approach,” she explains. “I’m very hands-on, and will guide you through every aspect of the process which includes research, pricing, preparation for listing, marketing, negotiations, inspections, and more.”

Fiona’s Client reviews

VIDEO: Meet Fiona 

Talk to Fiona about your real estate needs.

Do You Need to See a House Before You Buy It? Maybe Not.

In 2020, I helped a Rye family sell their home to a couple moving to the area from California. They toured the home virtually and the purchase was completed with the couple never having had to set foot in the house. 

Purchasing a home sight unseen is a trend on the rise nationally. Nearly two-thirds of people who purchased a home last year made an offer on a property they hadn’t seen in person, according to recent research by Redfin. That figure is up 32 percent from the previous year. 

What I’m seeing in Westchester and Rye is that purchasing a home sight-unseen is happening out of necessity. This trend is on the rise among all buyers because of several factors: low inventory of homes, which promotes bidding wars; COVID travel restrictions or pandemic-induced health concerns; and people are becoming more comfortable with technology enabling virtual walk-throughs. Not seeing a home prior to purchase used to be more common among international buyers, investors, or the ultra-wealthy, when an agent might handle the purchase to preserve the anonymity of the buyer.

Is buying a home sight unseen a good idea for you? It might be  — but the key is to be working with a seasoned real estate professional to guide you every step of the way.

How it works 

Traditionally, prospective home buyers will tour a house, get a feel for space, measure rooms, assess appliances, fixtures, and the neighborhood. Sight-unseen means that the buyer has looked at photos and videos online. Additionally, they may have had a live video walk through with their agent.

Working with a professional real estate agent is critical. An experienced local agent will be someone the buyer has engaged through the process, starting with the video tour. The agent will serve as the objective “eyes,” look for areas of concern, and identify any issues upfront. She will also help with due diligence, including researching the property, facilitating the offer process, and securing and reviewing the home inspection. If you have the help of an experienced real estate agent, the process can go off without a hitch.

Pros and cons of buying a home sight-unseen

The pros? As a buyer, you won’t sweat the small stuff. Loose door handles or peeling paint won’t become deal breakers because you tend to focus is on the bigger picture. But, buyers should work with their agent to ensure there are no big-ticket “surprises” not revealed on the virtual tour. A possible con is a lack of understanding the neighborhood vibe: the external noise, style of the other homes, and other intangibles. 

Purchasing a home is likely the biggest financial transaction you’ll ever make. If you are a nervous first-time homebuyer, sight unseen may not be a good idea. However, if you’re a buyer in this hot, competitive market who has lost out on other homes; you are comfortable doing online research; and you are working with an experienced, local agent who can help you feel confident about the home’s location and value, sight unseen may work well for you. 

Whether buying in person or sight-unseen, purchasing a home can be a long, draining, and emotional process.  Your agent will be there to guide you, support you and manage every detail — big and small — throughout the process. 

From the Upper West Side to Rye: Fiona Led the Way

Pregnant with her second child, Bettina was looking for more space for her growing family. But she was in no rush. The Upper West Side two-bedroom apartment she shared with her husband and first child was convenient for their jobs and social life. Then Covid hit and her husband’s and her offices closed. The apartment became confining.

“Our five-year plan became our ‘now’ plan,” says Bettina. 

A family friend who knew the area referred Bettina to Fiona Dogan, whom she knew for real estate and Rye expertise. When Bettina met Fiona, she felt an instant connection. “Fiona was thoughtful and she made an effort to understand what mattered to us and what would inform our real estate decisions. I felt like she would lead us down the right path.”

Not knowing the area, Bettina’s challenge was to learn all she could about Rye — the community, the landscape, and the housing stock. Fiona organized several tours for Bettina and her husband, designed to showcase varying styles within an array of budgets. “I trusted Fiona because she’s walked in my shoes. It was the most thoughtful way for us to get to know the area,” Bettina notes. 

Throughout the process, Bettina gained a thorough understanding of the both the rental and buyer’s markets, while looking at new construction, contemporary, and older homes within their price range. Fiona also educated the couple on the art of home pricing and what Rye offered to young families. 

“Fiona educated us on all that Rye has to offer, she gave us a great sense of the neighborhoods and helped us to feel comfortable here. Rye has so much family-oriented activity, from the beaches and nature centers, to golf, Playland, and parks. It felt like a really great place to raise a family. It checked off all the boxes,” she explains.

Contacts and connections 

When Bettina and her husband first walked into the home in Rye’s Midland neighborhood, it “felt like it was home,” says Bettina of the stately stone Colonial that was built in 1925. After their offer was accepted, the contract and closing phases were seamless, even with Covid restrictions. Fiona understood the health guidelines and helped them to navigate the whole process remotely.  

Then it was time to do some work on the house. Fiona’s experience and network of contacts served as an excellent resource for the new homeowners. She referred them to painters, electricians, and contractors to assist. 

“Fiona is such a great contact to have because she stays in touch. She is helpful on everything and helped us to settle into our new community. We are so grateful for what she is doing to help.” 

Thinking of Moving to Westchester?

If you’re considering a move north of New York City, please check out my recent interview with Brownstoner, an informative real estate magazine and website in Brooklyn.

In the webinar, “Making the Move to Westchester,” I put in the spotlight Westchester’s beautiful Sound Shore, and answered an array of questions for homebuyers, including:

Why should Brooklynites consider Rye and other towns on Westchester’s Sound Shore?

  • What’s the market like right now in lower Westchester?
  • How do buyers and renters find a community that’s a good fit for their family?

 

A key point that I discussed with moderator Elizabeth Aloni is that the Covid pandemic has caused home buyers to sharpen their focus on leaving the city for the suburbs, at an earlier stage of family rearing than they have in the past. While this fall has seen a bit of a holding pattern — many people bought or rented in the suburbs when the pandemic hit, but, for now are staying put—by the spring many more will be seeking homes to buy or rent in the suburbs.

My colleague, Chase Senior Home Lending Advisor Michael DeRosa, was on hand to discuss various financial products available for buyers. He also had some good advice: “Buyers need to be prequalified or pre-approved if you’re making the move in the next four months,” he said. “But if you’re thinking of making a move in the next year — at least know your credit score now. You’d be surprised at how many flags come up without you knowing it.”

Watch the full webinar below. As always, I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have, and help you get started on your next move. Feel free to give me a call at 914-414-5147 or email me at Fiona.Dogan@juliabfee.com.

Let Fiona help you sell or find your dream home. Contact Fiona at 914-414-5147 or email her directly.