For many older homeowners, their property is their most valuable asset, leading to increasing numbers looking to downsize.
Not only does moving to a less expensive property enable you to unlock money tied up in your home to enjoy during retirement, it also means you can choose a property that fits your lifestyle, has lower running costs and requires less maintenance.
Mark Hayward, chief executive of National Association of Estate Agents at Propertymark, says: “The ‘forever home’ is quickly becoming a thing of the past, as more and more homeowners choose to ‘right-size’ later in life and move into a smaller property.
“There are plenty of benefits in doing so, such as freeing up a bit of extra cash, having a more manageable sized home, better access to local amenities and ultimately improving your quality of life.”
We take a look at some of the steps you can take to make downsizing a success.
1. Plan ahead
The more planning you do in advance, the easier your downsizing is likely to be.
Think about how long the process is likely to take from start to finish and be realistic about the amount of time needed for each stage.
If you have any big events on the horizon, such as a child’s wedding or significant birthday, you may want to make sure your move does not clash with these.The most important part of the process will be finding your new home, so give yourself plenty of time to familiarise yourself with your target location and the types of property available there.
It’s also a good idea to start looking for your new home before you have listed your current one.
2. Consider your priorities
Making a list of the features you want your new home to have can help you identify your priorities.
For example, do you want to be within walking distance of shops and public transport connections? Are you looking for a low maintenance property that you can lock up and leave while you go travelling, or one with a nice garden to potter about in during your retirement?
Once you are clear on what your priorities are, you can use our advanced search tool, which enables you to search for specific keywords, such as thatched cottage or inglenook fireplace, to find a property that ticks all of your boxes.
3. Do your sums
While many people downsize because they want a smaller home that is easier to maintain, some also want to unlock money tied up in their current property.
As such, it is important to do your sums so that you know exactly how much cash you are likely to free up. Use our My Home tool to find out the current value of your property, it provides an instant online estimate based on powerful market data.
Remember to factor in the costs associated with moving, such as estate agents’ and solicitors’ fees, stamp duty and moving expenses, as these will all eat into the lump sum you end up with.
You should also think about the running costs of your new home, looking at factors such as what council tax band it is in and how energy efficient it is.
4. Get organised
Get together all of the documents you are likely to need early on, so that you have them to hand when they are required.
Make a list of the jobs you will need to do to prepare for your move and create a timeline for when you will start tackling them to avoid a last-minute rush.
5. Have a good clear out
Downsizing to a smaller home is likely to mean you need to get rid of some of your furniture and other possessions.
While you may dread the idea of having to sort through years’ worth of accumulated stuff, many people actually find decluttering liberating.
To help the process go smoothly, ensure you give yourself enough time, and do not try to cram this task into the final month before you move.
Think in terms of the space you will have in your new home. For example, if it doesn’t have a dining room or spare bedroom, you won’t need to keep the furniture from these rooms.
Take the opportunity to give the heirlooms you think you won’t have space for to your children or other relatives. And donate unwanted items that are in good condition to charity.Consider selling some items and putting the money towards things you will need in your new home, as this can be very motivating.
If you find getting rid of things difficult, try starting the process with items which you have very little emotional attachment for. You’ll probably find it easier to clear out your linen cupboard than downsize your book collection.
6. Go digital
See downsizing as an opportunity to go digital. You can save a significant amount of storage space in your new home by scanning all of your important documents and photographs and storing them online.
Start this task well ahead of your move, as it is likely to take longer than you think.
You should also make sure you have time to enjoy it. Sorting through old photographs and thinking about the memories they spark is often a joyful experience.
7. Enjoy the process
Finally, try to enjoy the whole process. Do not see it as a chore but rather the start of an exciting new chapter of your life.
It’s your chance to move to a property that is perfect for your current lifestyle, and free up some cash in the process.