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