Home & Garden

3 tips for trading up. Or down.

After turning 60, a senior-level engineer and his teacher wife sat down to map their next decade.

They knew for sure they wanted to sell the dated-looking property where they’d raised their kids. But the tougher decision was about their next house. Should they downsize like so many of their 60-something friends? Or upsize to buy the trophy home they’d always wanted?

“This couple had extremely mixed feelings. They worried that upkeep on a big house would be expensive,” yet they also wanted the luxuries and space of a large house, says Sid Davis, the real estate broker who represented the couple.

Ultimately, they decided to buy a larger house and soon found the perfect place – a sprawling, one-level property with 4,500 square feet of living space and lots of extras.

Just as the market for large SUVs is again increasing, so are more people revisiting the idea of owning a larger living space.

Here are a few pointers for buyers:

“Ranking your priorities is an absolute key. Ultimately, your best living style is determined by your personal preferences,” said Davis.

Though Mark Nash, author of “1001 Tips for Buying & Selling a Home,” is single, he faced his own set of trade-offs a few years back when he decided to sell his 3,200-square-foot house in an upscale city neighborhood in favor of a 1,000-square-foot condo in a middle-income suburb. He could have moved to a larger home, but his higher priority was to save enough money to also buy a modest, lakeside getaway.

While he did save money, his move to the condo came with sacrifices. Though he liked his neighbors in the complex, he missed the leafy area where his city house was located. He also missed the privacy of a single-family property. As a result, he did a U-turn, selling the condo and buying another detached house.

Davis says some homebuyers like big houses because they place a premium on storage space. Assuming you can afford it, Davis says buying a large house for extra storage space could be a reasonable plan if it saves you the expense of long-term use of a rented storage unit. But he warns against the notion that you can keep accumulating possessions just because you have a big house.

“Remember that no matter the size of your house, storage space is always finite,” he says.

Obviously, the trend in property values varies widely from one locale to another. In some areas, prices are flat or still drifting downward. But in most neighborhoods, values are rising in tandem with the economic recovery.

If you plan to buy a big house in a popular area with ascending home values, Davis urges you to avoid postponing for long.

“The rates on jumbo mortgages are especially reasonable now. So if you’re determined to move into a larger house, try not to dally,” he says.