Property: the Muddy guide to downsizing
Low maintenance living: check. Big cash bonus: check. What's not to love about the joys of downsizing? Here's our no-fuss guide to making it as simple and pain free as possible.
As property prices soar, many homeowners, especially those nudging middle age, are starting to consider the potential benefits of downsizing, from the joys of easy maintenance to releasing a bit of equity to pay for a few luxuries in retirement. If you’re over 55 you’re in good company, with around two million planning a move to a smaller or more manageable property. But, whilst it may make financial sense to move from a sprawling country pile to something more bijou, it can be a bit of an emotional quagmire.
So how to downsize and make sure it works for you? We’ve nobbled Rachel Johnston of Stacks Property Search in Northants for her insider tips, so read on for our easy three-step guide – don’t forget to invite us round when you’re settled in.
Step one: Make a tick list
Rachel’s advice to anyone looking to downsize is to envisage what that next stage of life might look like. How can you make it a success? What’s nearby? How much future proofing can you factor in? Think about the positive changes you might be able to make.
“When people are thinking of downsizing it can be viewed in a rather negative light,” says Rachel. “A young family are stepping towards the memories they’re going to make, but downsizing can be difficult because you’re leaving those memories behind and it’s a real wrench. However, sometimes people lower their expectations too far and can actually get much more than they might anticipate in terms of optimising their financial clout, and improving their quality of life.”
So what are the biggest things to factor in? Rachel’s advice is to choose on the basis that this might be your last house move. “It has to be future-proofed as much as possible and that’s mostly about ease of living, which means that certain aspects of downsizing that may have seemed like a compromise can actually be a huge relief.
“Think about level access, weatherproofing and if the property is warm and well insulated. For people moving from a big family home, proximity to neighbours can be quite a challenge. Properties around a shared courtyard, for example, will really appeal to some, whilst others will be put off.
“It’s most often a re-size rather than a downsize, unless you’ve got an absolutely massive house, it’s generally about making it easier to move around in it and to exist in it. If you haven’t been to the top floor of your home for 5 years because of your knees, for example, then you’re going to gain a huge amount through making the right move.”
Step two: Jump the hurdles
Homes are like boxes full of memories, so the emotional attachments can be the most difficult to get over, but this can often stand in the way of practicality and living a more fulfilled life. There’s also the issue of moving away from social networks and clubs and having to start again but, with the right research, you can factor this in to any big move and actually end up with new opportunities for expanding, rather than limiting, your social life. Lack of suitable properties is a real issue in the current market, but downsizers are often in the best position to move swiftly, especially with the right support.
Time is also a significant factor. “It’s always better if the decision to downsize is taken freely at the right time, rather than being forced and last minute,” Rachel advises. “Make the move whilst you can still get out to the clubs you enjoy and re-establish yourself organically. If people feel forced into a move like this then it’s more likely to be painful.”
Step three: Get the help you need
Kids not on board with the move? Or maybe you’re still uncertain about whether it’s the right thing to do? Sometimes some objective advice is the order of the day. “I can say things that a family member might not want to,” Rachel explains. “I’m a bit like a niece or relative who hasn’t got skin in the game, so I can be honest and don’t have to tiptoe around certain issues. Sometimes clients are trying to please their children in the decisions they make. And there’s often a pride factor that comes into play, they don’t want to admit that they feel daunted. Perhaps they haven’t moved for 30 years and don’t feel they’ve quite got the savvy they had last time around.
“With the right support, they can still feel dignified and competent whilst a search agent can take some of the emotional and practical burden off their shoulders, find the property, negotiate on their behalf and take away the stress. Estate agents like the fact that I’m there to support them as they know we’re serious.”
Step four: Relax into it
“Pretty much every single person who is downsizing in the latter part of life is glad they’ve decided to take the leap, or even wishes they’d done it sooner,” says Rachel Johnston. “The key is to approach the move as a step forward into the next phase rather than a step down.” Make the move, breathe deep, pop the cork – and enjoy the new view!
Need some help with your next move? Get in touch with Rachel at Stacks Northants or by calling 07502 406688.