Residential Blog

Handling an empty nest

Q3 2016

A family’s housing needs change over time. If you have grown-up children who have left for university, your family home could be left feeling a little bit large.

Or you may be wishing to travel more and looking for a ‘lock up and leave’ which is easier to maintain.

Find the right home for you

A large family home was perfect when it was full with your children and you had the time, energy and income to maintain it. But as you get older, and the kids move on, the reasons to keep it start to dwindle. And a more manageable sized home starts to look much more appealing.

Downsizing is a popular option among so-called ‘empty nesters’. A survey by Lloyds Bank found the main reason (53%) to downsize was a change in circumstances, such as family moving out, while Strutt & Parker's Housing Futures report says the top reasons anyone moves home are finances and lifestyle.

There are plenty of options when you’re downsizing, from moving further into the countryside to a small cottage or farmhouse, heading to the coast for some fresh sea air, or apartment living in the centre of town. Housing Futures found that 1 in 5 people who are moving home wanted to live in a village.

But you don’t have to give up your current lifestyle to downsize – moving postcodes or from a house to a flat could provide you with a more fittingly sized home for less money.

Tim Ash from Strutt & Parker Chichester says: “An ideal downsizing home would be low maintenance with the ability to lock up and leave and would have ancillary accommodation for a future carer or dependant relative, or for visiting guests at the drop of a hat.

“The living space would be adaptable to allow the installation of things like a stair lift, and the property would be within a 10 minute walk of public transport and local shops or a post office for the essentials.”

And for those not wanting to take their foot off the housing ladder, or who are worried about the costs associated with buying and selling a home, renting out the family home and taking a tenancy out on a smaller property, or one in a different location, could be an option.

Renting not only helps avoid stamp duty costs but also gives you the option of moving back into the family home at a later date or if you don’t take to the downsized lifestyle.

Moving to the city

As our families grow, we tend to move further away from city centres, preferring open green spaces for the little ones to run free. But once they’ve flown the nest, it could be time to turn once again to city living. And there are a number of benefits to going back to urban centres…especially as so many of them have adopted a unique village feel.

Retiring to the countryside is practically a British pastime. But in recent times, there’s been a sea change. People no longer want to slow down after their kids leave home – they want to start living again.

"Our findings point towards a new trend in people wishing to right-size, or what we refer to as ‘My-sizing’," says Stephanie McMahon, Head of Research at Strutt & Parker.

“My-sizers are those who are moving so that they can find a home that better suits their evolving needs - both in terms of space and finances. These ‘my-sizers’ are often giving up acreage and square footage to be situated closer to amenities.”

This had led to some heading back to city centres when their children head off to university. And who could blame them – great restaurants and bars along with readily available culture are just a short walk from your doorstep, instead of an hour long car journey away.

For some, the move itself provides a new lease of life. With no gardening to worry about, and an apartment that practically looks after itself, these empty nesters become time rich and want to use it wisely, whether that’s learning a new skill or taking time to travel more. There’s also the communal aspect to living in a block of flats providing much-needed company in old age.

Tim Ash adds: “You don’t have to cut ties the family home as soon as the kids have gone to uni, or move to the deepest darkest depths of countryside. Relocating to a geographically sensible location is the most important consideration to avoid losing touch with family and friends.”

There’s another aspect to being in the city. You’re closer to vital amenities. Be these banks, dentists or doctors, it’s nice to be able to reach these without a considerable journey – especially as you get older. In fact, Lloyds found that 1 in 5 downsizers made the move because of health reasons and to be closer to better local amenities.

How to make it happen

Downsizing - whether to the city or countryside - can be a daunting prospect for many, especially if you’re leaving behind your family home. And there are plenty of things to consider when making this lifestyle change.

Practically speaking, the best place to start is with the figures – does the move make financial sense? Find out how much your property is worth and make a budget for what you want to spend on your next home. Feel free to give us a call to get a valuation or advice on the housing market in your preferred location.

When it comes to organising a mortgage, remember that things may well have changed since you last spoke to a mortgage broker – especially if you’ve not moved home in the past 20 years. Many lenders now require a far more detailed breakdown of your spending habits.

Once the finances are sorted, you’ve also got to consider the emotional aspects. It’s always hard when moving home, but if it’s your family home that you’ve brought your children up in it can be a heart-wrenching decision, that you consult your whole family about.

If you’ve made the decision to go ahead with the move, try and be positive. See it as a new and exciting chapter in your life. Many successful downsizers often feel liberated from the tyranny of household chores, upkeep, big heating bills and large gardens.

And remember, once you’ve made the move, it doesn’t stop there. Many downsizers will free up large sums of equity during the move. This cash has to go somewhere. With historically low interest rates, your standard cash savings won’t provide you with much additional income. It might be worth looking at other options like the stock market, corporate bonds, equity income funds or Isas – but speak with a financial advisor before moving your money anywhere. Or you could simply use it to fund your new lifestyle.