Downsizing Makes Perfect Sense, Says Sharon Dale

Sharon reckons it could bring her a £70,000 windfall and 78 hours “me time” a year.

It’s very easy to see why people don’t want to move to a smaller property when they get older.

The thought of packing up all those belongings, saying goodbye to neighbours and leaving memories behind compels them to stay.

This reluctance to downsize has led to a new label: “Generation Stuck” for what is an age-old situation.

One or two retired people rattling round in a house that is too big for them is nothing new, it’s just that society now sees it differently.

The housing crisis means that members of “Generation Stuck” are hogging much-needed family-size homes.
A recent report written by the International Longevity Centre UK and commissioned by retirement housebuilder McCarthy & Stone reveals that only one in three over 55s is considering downsizing, which means that the majority of homeowners are not entertaining the thought. Yet, in many cases, downsizing really does make sense.

Here are some of the reasons why it is worth considering, along with suggestions on how to make what seems like the hardest move:

Don’t assume that you have to be retired and over 70 to downsize.

It can make sense at a much earlier stage in your life. Look at your home and think about how you use the space. If you have a four-bedroom property but only use one bedroom, a sitting room and the kitchen then you would probably be quite happy in a two-bedroom home, which can still accommodate a study/guest bedroom.

Consider the financial implications of downsizing. 

Although you will have estate agent and solicitor’s fees, you should release a significant amount of capital. A YouGov survey for the McCarthy & Stone report found that 29 per cent of those who have already downsized or are considering it expect to release in excess of £100,000. Most of them say they will put it away for a rainy day, which is sensible, of course.

However, other downsizers get great pleasure out of helping children and grandchildren on to the property ladder and travelling to places they have always wanted to see. A friend of mine downsized and used the proceeds to buy a static caravan on the coast, making sure she had enough for the annual site fees. She, her children and grandchildren love it and have created lots of happy memories there.

Look at the options.

Downsizing to a newly-built property is becoming very popular and for good reason. For a start, these homes are chain free. Best of all, they are maintenance free and they are exceptionally energy efficient, which is a boon if you are on a fixed income i.e. a pension. While it is no longer cost-effective to build bungalows thanks to the price of land, brand new two-bedroom townhouses and apartments are plentiful.

Apartments in specialist developments that are for over 55s are a good option. They come with an in-built community and there will always be a strong resale market thanks to our ageing population. Another benefit is that you can safely “lock up and leave” when you travel.  Visit show homes on a number of developments to give you an idea of what is available and whether you could see yourself living there. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

·        Trading down in size can make dream locations affordable.

If you sell your three-bedroom semi-detached home for £220,000, the proceeds could buy you a two-bedroom terraced cottage in the country.

One of the main excuses for not downsizing is having nowhere to put all your stuff and no space for visitors.

The fact is, most people find it liberating to recycle or throw out belongings. If you are struggling with this concept, try having a good clear out now and see how it makes you feel. If you need a little extra help, there is a great book on the subject: “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying” by Marie Kondo.  As for visitors, sofa beds and the brilliant, pack up and blow up Aerobeds are good solutions. Plus, one spare bedroom is usually enough.  

Making new friends.

One of the greatest issues when you get older is loneliness. The purpose-built over-55 developments are great place to find friends as they often have shared lounge, activities and like-minded people.  

Less housework, more fun.

I’m not a big fan of housework so, for me, this is a big incentive to trade down in size. It’s obvious that it will take half as long to clean a property half the size. I’ve just done a rough calculation and reckon I would gain 78 hours a year. If I swap my family-size home for a two-bedroom cottage I’d probably net £70,000. Just think of the things I could do with all that time and money.

Publish date: 21/09/2017