When down-siz­ing

High-grade hous­ing for the over-65s is one slice of the mar­ket that isn’t

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - COVERSTORY -

Neil and Rose­mary Bridge are caught like but­ter­flies against the win­dow­pane of the re­ces­sion. Like many older cou­ples they are ready to move out of the fam­ily home they have lived in for the past 20 years — but they can­not sell. They have al­ready found the per­fect re­tire­ment home, but it re­mains tan­ta­lis­ingly out of reach.

Their home, Highcroft Cot­tage, was cre­ated from a pair of charm­ing cot­tages in the vil­lage of Mil­ford, near Go­dalm­ing in Sur­rey. It has four bed­rooms and two stair­cases, which the grand­chil­dren love to tum­ble up and down. “We were a touch op­ti­mistic when we started sell­ing it at £825,000 in May,” says Neil, “but we have dropped the price in two stages.” It is now on at £650,000 with Hamp­tons (01483 417222) which, says Neil, makes it “a bar­gain for some­body”. Their great com­fort is that the de­vel­op­ers of the prop­erty they are buy­ing in Bramshott Place Vil­lage, a se­nior per­son’s idyll set around an exclusive Hamp­shire coun­try club, will wait for as long as it takes them to sell. Neil is looking for­ward to liv­ing some­where “a bit more man­age­able”.

In fact, Bramshott of­fers the kind of lux­u­ri­ous life­style for fit, high-per­form­ing el­derly peo­ple that would have been unimag­in­able even half a cen­tury ago. Fancy a dip in the hy­drother­apy pool, a gin and tonic in the club­house, a visit to the GP on the doorstep, a stroll through the mead­ows and woods? The price of all this is £295,000-£315,000 for an apart­ment, and £430,000£499,000 for a cot­tage (01428 722800).

It is pos­si­bly a sur­prise for us to learn that the over-65s, with Dame Joan Bakewell as their new cham­pion, are among the brave few try­ing to move in this stagnant mar­ket. Beechcroft, de­vel­op­ers of stylish homes for down-siz­ers, says that it has as many ap­pli­cants on its data­base as it did this time last year. But, like the Bridges, th­ese down- siz­ers are find­ing it harder to sell. A stag­ger­ing 90 per cent of them on their lists are wait­ing for a sale.

But down-siz­ers aren’t to be dis­missed. They per­form a hugely im­por­tant role in the mar­ket. They are cash buy­ers, so they don’t need mortgages. They move when they want to rather than be­cause of eco­nomic con­di­tions. And they have all looked a re­ces­sion in the eyes be­fore.

“The over-65s own £1,100 bil­lion of hous­ing eq­uity in this coun­try,” says Richard Don­nell, di­rec­tor of the prop­erty an­a­lysts Home­track. “This means they con­sti­tute 25 per cent of the value of the hous­ing mar­ket.”

“We spend huge amounts of time and ef­fort get­ting peo­ple on to the hous­ing lad­der,” he says, “but very lit­tle help­ing peo­ple down­size at the other end. They are ef­fec­tively block­ing beds in

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