IS IT TIME TO LET GO OF THE FAMILY HOME?
When you’ve spent decades in one house, it’s a huge investment of love and money that can be painful to give up. GH investigates why the idea of a forever family home is falling out of favour, with more people downsizing to fund retirement, support their
Exactly when it happened, she couldn’t quite say. But while Jane Jones’s family home had once buzzed with the comings and goings of her two children, with just her and her husband living there, it was much quieter. There were rooms they didn’t even go into any more.
How things had changed from when they found the five-bedroom house when their children were little. ‘We said we’d live there for ever,’ remembers Jane, a former teacher who now works for the National Trust. But, 18 years on, with their son and daughter living elsewhere, it no longer seemed such a perfect fit. Slowly, the idea of moving to something easier to run slowly began to take hold.
‘It was a big old house that needed lots of maintenance, and there were parts we didn’t use. We started talking vaguely about whether it might be time to move,’ Jane recalls. They considered relocating to their holiday home
in Cornwall but decided it would be too far from their children and Jane’s elderly father, so agreed to stay in the same area.
‘The conversation didn’t go much further than that,’ says Jane. ‘I needed more time to get used to the idea than my husband did. The thought of packing was overwhelming and I didn’t know how I’d feel about another family living in our house. Steve didn’t want to push me, but then he spotted a house in an estate agent’s window and I found myself agreeing to see it.’
The newly built townhouse overlooking the racecourse in Newbury, Berkshire, ticked all their boxes – spacious, with big rooms but fewer of them, and totally different from where they’d previously lived, as they didn’t want to move into a smaller version of the home they were leaving.
‘I loved our old house. But once we moved all our things into our new home, it felt like ours right away,’ says Jane. ‘Leaving our garden could have been a wrench, but it’s lovely to sit on one of our balconies and not fret that the hedge needs cutting. We have more free time
‘It felt right to be handing our keys over to a new young family’
here and it’s more of a lock-up-and-leave property so we can travel without worrying about home.’
Jane’s experience is becoming ever more familiar, with the idea of the forever family home shifting. Nearly half of all homeowners aged 55 and above have already moved to a smaller property or would consider doing so, according to one study – while in the three years up to 2016, the number of people moving aged between 50-70 went up 20%.
‘Traditionally, the majority of those reaching 50 tended to be done with moving altogether and chose to stay put,’ says David Fell of Hamptons International. ‘But the status quo is changing, with people in their 60s and 70s more likely to move today than at any point in the last 20 years.’
Like Jane, top of the list is finding a property that is easier to manage, with lower running costs. Many people want to move closer to family, or simply have more time and money to enjoy life.
Property expert Kate Faulkner explains: ‘People have a better house-life balance. Instead of trying to make as much money out of a house as possible, they want to release money and enjoy themselves or help their children. More people are choosing a great lifestyle over a forever family home that costs a lot to maintain.’