Dwell Well > Moving > To Downsize Or Not To Downsize When The Kids Have Flown The Nest

To Downsize Or Not To Downsize When The Kids Have Flown The Nest

Family homes are wonderful places when they’re full of life. From the pitter-patter of tiny feet all the way through to teenage door slamming, from mum’s Sunday roast to every milestone family celebration, it’s an odd feeling when the once little darlings have suddenly grown up and flown the nest. Is the house now too big for you? Is it time to move to a smaller one?

Downsizing to a smaller property may sound appealing. There’s the promise of lower outgoings, less maintenance and a cash saving that could come in handy as you’re heading towards retirement. Maybe you have health or mobility issues that would make a different type of property more suitable. Or perhaps now seems like a good time to scale down for an easier life with a smaller home and fewer possessions. A recent survey carried out by the Nationwide found that over a third of over-55s are thinking of downsizing.

Whatever your reasons may be for considering a move to a smaller home, here are some important questions you should be asking yourself before you take action.

Is your home really an empty nest?

The children may have moved out, but is there a chance they could move back in? High house prices and rental costs have pushed up the age of first-time buyers, meaning record numbers of young adults aged 20-34 are now living with their parents - that’s nearly a 50% increase in 20 years according to ONS data. If you did move to a smaller place, would there be enough space for everyone?

A long-term family home will hold many happy memories for everyone, and it could be a big emotional wrench to let go that shouldn’t be underestimated. It should be a decision that involves the whole family. What’s more, if you decided to stay, your home would be the obvious venue for family reunions, Christmas celebrations and so forth. Fast forward a few years and there might be grandchildren coming to visit. What could be nicer than having plenty of space to stay at Gran and Grandad’s? Never underestimate the value of having a spare room.

What are your options for not moving out?

Downsizing may sound like a sensible move, but what about the alternative? Is it really necessary for you to leave your beloved home, or are there ways you could make it work for you so you wouldn’t have to up sticks and start all over again somewhere else?

If mobility is an issue, there are plenty of home adaptations available to make living more comfortable. Here’s some useful advice from Age Concern including the use of technology, installing stair lifts and government help to pay for them.

If money is an issue, it might be worth speaking to a wealth planner to get clarity on your financial situation, both now and further into retirement. For instance, did you know that you can earn up to £7,500 a year tax-free through the government’s Rent A Room scheme? Why not put the spare room to good use by getting a lodger or renting it out on Airbnb?

Another option is to release some of the cash value tied up in your home by taking out a Lifetime Mortgage. Again, specialist advice is essential to guide you through what may well be a complex process. If you’re curious, here’s a handy calculator to help you find out how much you might be able to release.

Where would you move to?

Moving house gives you the opportunity to change location. If you’ve always wanted to move to a cottage in the countryside, or be closer to all the amenities of a town, or be in the vicinity of families or close friends, now is your chance to actually make this happen. It could also be the case that you have to relocate to a cheaper area if you’re hoping for a net financial gain. On the other hand, if you are happy with your current location and have everything and everyone you need close by, a relocation may not be what you’re after. It’s important to take a longer term perspective when considering the desired location of your next home and to do plenty of research.

Also think about what sort of property that would be appropriate. Will a smaller house be the right place or would a bungalow or flat suit your future lifestyle better? And does your preferred location have enough choice of this type of housing at a price that makes sense for you? Retirement properties aimed at the over-55s may be an option if you’re thinking longer term and you don’t have close family members living nearby. Some offer ‘assisted living’ and ‘extra care’ accommodation, often with amenities such as cleaners, on-site cafes and optional carers.

Are you ready to downsize your possessions?

Moving to a smaller property is all very well, but with less space at your disposal what will you do with all your belongings? If you’re going to downsize your home, it follows that you have to declutter your possessions and let go of a lot of ‘stuff’. Of course, if you’ve lived in your family home for many decades, this is easier said than done. Some people really struggle with the mammoth task of sorting through years of personal possessions in their home. If you’re not mentally ready for a big sort out, perhaps downsizing is not the right solution for you just now.

Then again, if you are keen to ‘shed’ some of the weight of the past and are looking forward to a new chapter in your life relatively unencumbered, now is the time to release your inner Marie Kondo. From furniture and furnishings to boxes in the loft and garage, slim down your possessions in plenty of time for your move to your next smaller home.

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