Thursday 22 August 2019
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Changing the focus from first-time buyers will make downsizing work better

By Nick Freeth, Managing Director, Retirement Homesearch

Recent analysis by leading property agents, Savills, found that the value of UK housing stock has hit a record high (increased by 2.7% to £7.29 trillion in 2018), but remains in older hands with more than £77 in every £100 of housing equity being held by the over 50s.

There’s much to be said by the Government and housing-market commentators on the significance and importance of first-time buyers, but perhaps Savills’ latest research should act as a reminder that the focus needs to shift to last-time buyers? This would involve a combination of emotional support, in order to encourage older people to view downsizing as a realistic and beneficial option; but also practical support, ensuring there’s enough retirement stock to meet the demands.

From an emotional perspective, we need to present downsizing as the positive and exciting opportunity it is – the beginning to an exciting new phase of life. In our experience, downsizing is driven by retirees who want security, safety, convenience and companionship in their later years, but they are often disillusioned by the thought of leaving their family home and making a significant lifestyle change later in life. Not enough is made of the positives, such as the fact that moving to a smaller, easier to maintain property will not only free up retirees’ time, but also have a fruitful financial impact.

Whilst there is more choice in the type of retirement accommodation available now more than ever, there is still a real need to boost supply. Currently retirement properties account for just 2% of UK private housing stock, and few homes in the UK are designed with ageing in mind. It’s vital we keep the discussion alive in order to make downsizing work better.

If you’re thinking about downsizing, here are some practical tips to help smooth the move:

  • Plan, plan and then plan again. One aspect of downsizing is deciding what to take. Don’t leave this to the last minute. It’s a great opportunity to pass cherished but too large or no longer needed items on to friends and family (but don’t be offended if they say “no thanks”).
  • If you’re not sure whether something is for keeping, consider renting/borrowing some short term storage. Then you can move and better assess if something is “indispensable” and retrieve it.
  • Sort out utilities etc. well in advance. New phone lines, broadband etc. can sometimes take weeks to sort out.
  • Check that any furniture you’re planning to take with you will fit in your new home.
  • It’s good to get to know your new home and neighbours before you move. If you’re moving to a retirement development, visit the development a few times and if there’s an onsite manager (sometimes called a Development Manager) get to know them and ask if they could make a few introductions for you.

Downsizing is a practical endeavour with huge emotional impact and heaps of potential benefits. Get it right and you could give yourself a new lease of life. Many residents of retirement homes that I speak with say they wish they had made the move sooner, so make the most of it. Don’t leave it until circumstances force you to act.

Nick Freeth is Managing Director of Retirement Homesearch, Britain’s number one retirement property specialist.

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