What's Stopping Our Elderly Generation From Downsizing?

From a lack of suitable housing to the costs involved, downsizing is anything but easy...

It's no secret that there is a housing crisis in the UK. We all know that the current situation leaves many young people unable to get their footing on the property ladder.

However this isn't the only problem facing our housing market.

It's more than likely you'll have come across in the news the 'issue' of older couples and individuals living in large homes and taking up vital family space. However older people love their homes just as much as the next person. They hold a lifetime of memories, offer a familiar and comfortable environment and a place for their children and grandchildren to visit when they like and for as long as they like. Many critics argue that trying to guilt trip the elderly out of their homes is not a long term solution to the poor housing policy that exists currently in the UK. Those who want to move and who want to downsize should do so only because they've decided that they want to.

And in fact, many couples and individuals do in fact want to downsize. They recognise better than anyone that they simply do not need to live in a home with four bedrooms when it's just the two of them or if they live alone. Others worry about the cost of heating and running a home that's too big for them, whilst others acknowledge the difficulties that come with maintaining a larger property and want to move to something that they can more easily manage.

Many people over 65 years of age have considered downsizing - only to find that it's just not that simple. One of the main issues is that there is a distinct lack of smaller and more manageable properties available, which as a consequence leaves our older generation stuck in homes that are no longer suitable for them, but with nowhere better to go. Many would prefer to trade their property in for a bungalow, as living on one level appeals to many in the elderly population. However bungalows only account for less than 7% of the homes which are available. As a result, these types of properties are in great demand, which means they sell for a premium. The consequence of this is that downsizing then becomes less appealing because of how expensive the properties are and the associated stamp duty that goes along with buying them. 

Which brings us nicely onto the point that it's not just a lack of stock that's the problem. Moving costs and stamp duty in particular put plenty of would be downsizers off. Those who choose to downsize must write a cheque to HMRC when they buy their new home, which many resent doing. They can't buy something that costs the same as their original home without spending money on the tax, but they can stay where they are for nothing. Which is what many ultimately end up doing.

It's clear therefore that the cost of moving is a big problem. Financial incentives could help - such as grants for those willing to downsize, help with removal costs and tax breaks for those willing to downsize their property. Any one of these measures might help to make downsizing a more attractive option for our elderly generation. Practical help such as connecting older people with services who will help them to clear out some of their possessions, sell items that are no longer needed and pack their possessions ready for the move could also help.

Building homes that the older generation would aspire to live in is also key. Many developers have focused their building efforts with the young first time buyer in mind. Whilst some elderly couples and individuals would be happy to move into a small home that's designed for the first time buyer, not all would and good quality housing needs to be available for elderly buyers that has taken into account the needs of our older population from a social care and health perspective. This is something that ultimately needs to be acknowledged and filtered into the building plans of new build homes . 

Retirement living could also help with the issue of downsizing if only attitudes towards retirement villages would change, which is easier said than done. Whilst living in retirement villages is not cheap, this is not the only, or even the main, problem facing retirement villages. Currently they're just not as popular in the UK as they are in countries such as the USA and Australia, and this is largely to do with how they are perceived. Whereas in the US and Australia retirement homes emphasise socialising, activity and community, these things just don't seem to come across in the same way here in the UK. Instead they're largely viewed as places for old people and are associated with a lack of independence - which does not appeal to the vast majority and therefore few really consider them as a viable option when it comes to downsizing.

Until some of the problems that surround the elderly and downsizing are addressed, it's likely that we will continue to lock our elderly population in homes that they would rather sell. 

Publish date: 28/08/2018

Publisher: New Home Finder

Url: https://www.newhomefinder.co.uk/new-home-info/moving/what-s-stopping-our-elderly-generation-from-downsi