Tips on Changing From Homeowner to Apartment Dweller

Family moving into apartment


Buying a home is a big moment in anyone’s life, a box to check on the list of becoming a responsible adult. It has long been the goal of many families to have a place of their own, no people living above you and maybe a little (or big!) yard where a puppy and some kids could play. But not everyone finds that dream appealing once it becomes reality. 

Homes take a lot of work, both inside and out, including landscaping and other general upkeep. That alone can change an owner’s tune on ownership. In recent years, many people have pulled up stakes and moved to another location, either a new town, a new state or a different type of dwelling. Part of that trend is homeowners selling and returning to the world of apartment rentals. 

The reasons behind such a move are as varied as the people making them. For Shannon Cheng, her move from a home in suburban Minneapolis to an apartment in Jersey City, N.J., followed the end of her marriage and her children’s moves to their own spaces. For Codie Smith and family, going from home to apartment is a stop on their eventual journey to a home with solar panels for a more secure energy future. And like just about everything in life, going back to apartment living has had its lessons.

Give It All Away

Living in an apartment is a big change, especially if your home was a large one. But as Smith discovered, you can downsize in a hurry with a little creativity. “We did enjoy purging all the accumulated junk when we moved. When you go from 3,300 square feet down to 1,100 square feet, there’s very little you can take with you.” Smith says. “We sold items of value, but we also had two 'free' garage sales during the move. Just filled our driveway with stuff and invited people to come take what they wanted. On both of those Saturdays, we started at 6:30 a.m., and our driveway was completely empty by 8 a.m.”

The Market Can Change Quickly

Homes have been selling in days, even hours in some cases, and for far above the asking price in many locations nationwide. When Smith and family decided to get their home on the market, homes in the Austin, Texas, area were bringing in tens of thousands of dollars over asking. This crazy ride slowed substantially as the season changed to fall and kids were heading back to school. “Our house sold 10 days after we put it on the market, but there was no bidding war, no 'love letters; from potential buyers, or any of that,” Smith says. “We got what we were asking, which was roughly double what we paid for it in 2011 — and we’ve since learned that the value has continued to increase so, good for our buyers!”

Refresh Within Reason

When homeowners are prepping their house for market, getting everything to look great can seem high on the list of priorities. Small updates might make sense, but depending on the buyer, they also might be a waste of time and money. “In terms of our house sale, it turns out it was more of a flipping candidate than a home to go to a new family,” says Cheng. “I wish I would’ve known that and not spent so much time and money on things like fresh paint and new landscaping to help with the curb appeal.”

Less Maintenance Required

Whether temporary or a complete lifestyle change, going from a family home to a smaller space is a shift in mindset as well as location. Despite the downsizing, there are definite positives. ‘It’s been so lovely to not have to worry about home repairs or yard work,” says Cheng. “Owning a home is a lot of work and of course it has great benefits, but the time I don’t have to spend at home maintenance is a wonderful gift.”