Island Sotheby’s International Realty agent Debra Merle R(B) was eating lunch with a client who had recently sold an expansive estate in Kula with two homes on it, to instead replace it with a beautiful, yet significantly smaller home. After lunch, the client turned to Merle and said, “Last night, I was lying in bed with the biggest smile on my face.”
“I am so happy that it almost scares me,” the client continued. “I feel like I’m finally where I belong.”
It meant so much to Merle to hear that. Like many real estate agents across the nation, she’s met with a growing number of clients who are looking to swap their multi-acre estates with significantly smaller - and simpler - places to call home.
From Florida to Arizona to Hawai’i, more and more homeowners are looking toward “luxury downsizing.” It’s become an increasingly popular trend in the real estate industry as homeowners choose to simplify their homes so they can focus on fulfilling other areas of their lives.
“It can be really scary,” said Merle, adding that the fear of packing up and moving away from memories in their current homes can be daunting for some clients. “But to hear my client, who is now on the other side of the move, express how happy and glad she is that she did it was super heartwarming.”
Island Sotheby’s International Realty owner Ryan MacLaughlin R(B) says luxury downsizing is about maximizing quality of life, more than anything else. Whether young or old, people are more active. They want to explore Maui’s natural wonders and travel, not pour time and money into maintaining, cleaning, remodeling a large estate.
“The ‘McMansion’ is dead,” MacLaughlin explained. “No one wants to build a 10,000-square-foot home anymore. What I’ve seen with the very affluent want to build and buy smaller homes that are eco-friendly, ones that they can maintain themselves versus needing a large staff to do it for them.”
That being said, MacLaughlin’s very affluent may own a half-dozen of these smaller homes - for example, a beach house, ski chalet, fishing cabin and an international destination home that they travel to throughout the year. The owners equip them with photovoltaic panels if possible, and “smart” heating, cooling, lighting and security systems so they have control from anywhere across the globe. Without the additional maintenance, the homes are “lock and leave” - the same concept as a condominium.
“Maui is hard to get to. We are isolated,” said MacLaughlin. “So this type of home is perfect for the second homeowner. It’s also good for the full timer, as the cost of construction is expensive, as everything is imported and shipped in. You can control the costs.”
Living with less doesn’t mean sacrificing luxury. In fact, it can mean the exact opposite because building less means you can invest in higher quality. Besides equipping homes with top-of-the-line sustainability features, some homeowners are also styling them out to accommodate for their “toys,” MacLaughlin said. While the home itself might just have one or two bedrooms, the garage could be designed to store a couple cars, boats, jet skis, surfboards and winter snow toys like skis and snowboards.
“Believe me, though these homes are nothing more than 2,500 square feet, the finishes are always custom with imported materials,” said MacLaughlin. “The living feels lavish, just as the lavish mansion feels.”