Professional property finder David Lewis discusses some of the questions that need to be addressed when considering downsizing from a family home to something more manageable
After many years of living in a family home surrounded by memories and a familiar structure, the decision to move to a more manageable property can be a tough one and something that many choose to put off until life forces a decision. Many retirees continue to battle-on maintaining a large garden and caring for an oversized house, whilst knowing in their hearts that they ought to move to a smaller and easier abode.
So, what are the questions one should ask when toying with the idea of downsizing?
When is the right time to downsize?
The answer to this is uniquely personal. Obvious catalysts are when a partner dies, health fails or family settles far away. However, there are more subtle clues that when spotted can provide a good indication that it is time to consider moving to easier premises. These might include when you realise that you spend all your time in one or two rooms leaving the rest empty for most of the year, or when a previously well-manicured garden becomes overgrown because the maintenance is too onerous. Others realise it is time to move when they catch themselves turning down offers of holidays or family visits because they can’t spare the time away from home. Or maybe you spend all winter in three jumpers and a hat because heating your home is so expensive?
It is hugely admirable to ‘bat-on’ and if your love for your home outweighs the negatives then leave this article and move onto the next page. However, if you really should be considering downsizing and fear of the unknown or a reluctance to face the challenge of selling and buying is putting you off then please be reassured that help is at hand.
What options are available for sellers?
Once the decision to move has been made, one of the initial questions to consider is what to do with the existing home.
After living in the same home for maybe decades, the idea of entering the housing market, having photos of your personal spaces plastered on the internet and buyers crawling round can be particularly unappetising for many.
One option is to sell ‘off-market’ where a select few targeted, fully proceedable buyers are introduced to the property on a discreet basis and the resulting sale can be transacted in a low key and calm manner - and normally at a pace that suits your needs. A good local estate agent should be able to advise on this approach. Choose a firm with a good reputation, ideally with a national reach (to attract buyers from outside the area) and correct accreditations with The Property Ombudsman.
Common buying challenges to think about
When choosing the type of house suitable for your next move, the challenge for many of the older generation is to find somewhere that is smaller and easier to maintain (fit to lock up and go) but still big enough to accommodate the furniture that has filled a larger house and, perhaps visiting family and grandchildren. Many still want a garden, but without a huge maintenance load and a peaceful location within easy reach, possibly walking distance, of shops, restaurants and social groups. Thinking longer term, many also like to consider if they can no longer drive or need more regular access to medical facilities. No doubt about it, there is a lot to consider.
There is a growing trend for developers to offer over 55’s apartment blocks, purpose built to accommodate the needs of older residents with some offering on-call care services, social events, maintained gardens, communal areas etc. The appeal of these are clear but buyers need to be careful when assessing the pricing of these homes as many will have (sometimes hefty) annual service charges, additional charges for parking and cleverly worded legal clauses. Indeed, buyers need to be fully aware of what is and is not included in the asking price.
Other buying options include townhouses and village homes. Once again, buyers need to give careful thought to whether these are suitable long term options as your needs and mobility changes.
The property market, no matter which location or property type you are considering, is forever changing for even the most weathered of property buyers and sellers the complexities can be overwhelming; having a trusted advisor acting on your behalf and able to offer objective advice can lift the pressure at a time of great change.
David Lewis GARRINGTON