It is an emotional decision to make, but at some point in our lives, we are all likely to have to consider downsizing. This may be because we have a house that is too big, but just as often the decision is driven by other factors such as a garden that is now unmanageable or a home that has become impractical to live in.
The decision to downsize should not be viewed negatively, but as a positive step forward for the future. A new property can be a new beginning, freeing yourself from the burden of looking after a large house that is too time-consuming or costly to maintain, or is simply preventing you from having a good quality of life.
Before starting the search for your new home, there are a number of things that you should consider:
- Selling - do you need to sell first before you can buy your new home? If so, most agents will want to see that your property is at least on the market and preferably that you have a buyer, before they will see you as a credible purchaser. If you have already sold your property or you are a cash buyer, this puts you in a strong position, not only in terms of being taken seriously by the estate agents, but also in terms of negotiation.
- Location - you may want to stay local to where you currently live, or move to be nearer to family and friends. Consideration should also be given to what will be important to you in the future. Are there accessible shops, good public transport links, medical and GP facilities? Give thought to your social and leisure needs too.
- Type of property - what do you really need? Is it just a smaller house and garden, or are you looking for a flat or apartment? Both have their advantages and disadvantages. A freehold house gives you more freedom to use it as you wish, carry out improvements etc. However, you will still have the responsibility for all repairs and maintenance.
If you are looking to buy a flat or apartment, bear in mind that the lease will contain restrictions on what you can or cannot do at the property. It is important to be aware of these before you commit to a move. Leases can prevent you carrying out improvements and alterations, or perhaps keeping pets etc.
A lease will also be for a fixed period of time (anything from 99-999 years from when the lease was first granted). It is important to make sure that the remaining length of the lease is satisfactory. In most cases, a lease can be extended, but there are rigid procedures that have to be followed and the landlord is entitled to charge a premium for this. Flats and apartments also have service charges that are payable to the landlord (and/or their agent). These charges cover the costs of managing, repairing, insuring and maintaining the building, as well as the administrative costs of doing so.
Also, give consideration as to what facilities are important to you. For example, do you want a private garden or outdoor space? Some flats and apartments have communal garden areas that the residents can use, but this is not the same as having your own garden to plant and tend to as you wish.
If you need more assistance, would a retirement flat be better for you? This type of property allows you to continue living independently, but can also offer additional facilities such as 24-hour emergency call out systems and on-site managers. These are a benefit to some residents, but they do increase the costs of the service charges payable to the landlords and their agents.
- Decluttering - you are unlikely to have the same amount of space as you do now. Start sorting through your belongings and have a good clear out. Do you really need everything that you have kept hold of over the years? As for your furniture, think about what items of furniture you really could not do without. Don’t discount a property just because your existing furniture won’t fit!
My last piece of advice is to make the move before you have to. Moving can be a stressful experience and it is far better to be in control of the move and to do it on your own terms. If you have any queries on the above article or want further advice, please contact a member of our residential property team.