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What is it like to downsize?

Wendy*

1.“There were now just 2 of us. We took the joint decision to downsize – in my view, it must be a joint discussion as this is not something you can decide on your own. We swapped a 4 bedroomed house in a quiet suburban area for a new “luxury” 2 bedroomed 2nd floor city centre flat in a serviced block. With the equity release we bought a houseboat where my wife and I spend holidays in summer. 

“On the plus side, we like the flat’s layout and reduced maintenance. It has easy access to city shops and restaurants. The boat is great for holidays and everything is brand new. There is lower council tax and lower heating costs. The downsides are the increasing service charges for block. There are also higher on-going costs for the boat than we expected. We really miss somewhere to sit outside at home in nice weather. We hadn’t banked on the problems of shared living - there are always parking problems with people using my allocated space, plus parcels being stolen from our shared delivery point and increased noise from the neighbours!”

Susan

2.“We had grown-up family and our grandchildren were starting school so we saw less of them, and had less need to accommodate all the family together. We also had around 10 acres of land, which required a huge amount of upkeep. We were spending a lot of money on outside maintenance, and started to think ‘what’s this all for?’.

“We looked for 3-4 years. Not many suitable properties come up in our village. When we found the right place, we had around 9 months to finalise the deal, which gave us time to think about decluttering. We had been at the house for 32 years and had a lot of stuff. In retrospect, we should have been more disciplined about this – we paid to move stuff that we eventually took to the tip. We also found that a lot of our furniture didn’t work in our new house, so ended up throwing that out too. We made great friends at the local hospice!

“We released capital, which meant we could go on more holidays. That said, we ended up doing a lot of work to our new house and spent more than we realised. We moved from a lovely house, where everything was ‘just so’ to a lower quality house and it took work to get it how we wanted it. However, we took the decision to look forward. We made a list of pros and cons at the time, so if we felt a tinge of regret, we just looked back at that. It is a huge emotional upheaval, but it is also liberating. It is an opportunity to start afresh.”

Grant

3.“The time came for me to seriously rethink my finances. I was unable to save and shell out for the major jobs that I felt needed doing to my house. I’d moved there over a decade previously with the intention of doing the work, but never had the cash. I carried out some jobs on a monthly budget, but couldn’t get the bigger things done and it was starting to be very frustrating.

I felt like I was always ‘Just About Managing’! I didn’t want more financial anxieties if they could possibly be avoided. I don’t have a particularly extravagant lifestyle but I’d started to feel guilty about even the smallest luxury – owning a car, for example.

“I started talking to a financial adviser about what would work to improve my situation, make me feel secure and give me the ability to do the necessary works to my house and enable me to feel more comfortable. I also think that this should add value in the longer-term.

“Equity release was a way to take money out of my house, to put back into my house and help keep me afloat for the rest of my days. I might even have some fun into the bargain induced by not having money worries! I believe it will be much better to improve the property and remain here which has always been my wish and remains so at the moment.”

Michael

4.“The downturn in house prices (especially in London and the South East), the lack of suitable houses coming onto the market, and the uncertainties created by Brexit have dampened down our enthusiasm to sell up and downsize.

“With two young grandchildren and their parents to accommodate when they come to visit for a few days, it's likely our next house move could be to something larger not smaller, although the stamp duty cost is a real concern. The present family home is free of debt, but moving to a larger property would mean our savings would take a big hit. Shifting my money out of long term investment vehicles (bonds, stocks and shares ISAs etc) into a property market which is volatile and with prices perhaps near their peak, if not on a downward trend, is not an attractive proposition.

The recent inheritance tax changes which will permit a £1 million property to be passed down to family members free of inheritance tax has also served to reduce one of the perceived benefits of downsizing.

“Moving house is stressful at any time, and perhaps more so for older people. We risk losing a strong support network of friends and neighbours, and we may struggle to find a suitable property in the area we have (perhaps) spent a large part of our lives in. We have decided against it.”

For a straightforward list of things to think about if you’re considering downsizing, have a look at our Guide here.

*All names have been changed.

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