Downsizing can be a tough decision for an older person, particularly given the memories associated with any family home, but there are also distinct benefits to be had from such a move.
On this page you can find information about property downsizing, including
1. Benefits of downsizing
2. Changes in health or mobility
3. Loneliness and isolation
4. Downsizing for financial gain
Benefits of downsizing
There are many reasons why people may want or need to move home in later life. It may be that they simply want to live somewhere different or to be closer to family. Or perhaps a recent (and possibly unforeseen) change in circumstance, such as a health issue or bereavement, has caused them to reconsider their living arrangements.
For most people, the three main benefits of property downsizing are:
- an opportunity to move into a property that is easier to manage, making it easier to maintain independent living
- a chance to move to a more favourable location, perhaps nearer to family and friends
- a potential way to raise money by moving to a less expensive property, perhaps also with lower energy bills and maintenance costs.
In most cases, smaller properties are also cheaper to run. Downsizers can generally expect their council tax and energy bills to be lower. Maintenance and repair costs are also likely to be lower, particularly when downsizing into a more newly-built home, which should also bring lower energy bills. A well-insulated modern home with an efficient new boiler and central heating system will cost less to heat than a draughty Victorian pile with unmodernised plumbing, for example.
Of course, it is also a lot easier to keep on top of household tasks in a smaller property, particularly important if you have concerns as to how well your relative is currently managing their home.
Changes in health or mobility
Even the most minor changes in health or mobility can affect day-to-day lives.
Your relative may be finding it less easy to move around or get in and out of their home, particularly if there are one or more flights of stairs or external steps. If this is the case, they might be more comfortable in a bungalow, ground-floor apartment or mobile home.
Anyone who has been used to driving a car, but has recently had to stop, could find it much more difficult to get around their area. This might affect both their social life and their day-to-day needs.
If this is the case, it may be worth thinking about relocation to an area where friends and/or amenities are in walking distance, or are more easily accessible by local public transport.
Loneliness and isolation
Bereavement is a very difficult thing to go through at any stage of life, but for older people it can be especially distressing – particularly if they have lost their partner, who may have been their only regular company. If friends or family used to live nearby but have recently moved, there could be further feelings of loneliness or isolation.
In these circumstances, a new home can feel like a new start, particularly if your relative moves to an area where friends or family are nearby, or where there is the potential to meet and socialise with people of a similar age.
However, if dealing with a very recent bereavement, consider if it would be best to wait a while before suggesting a move of this kind. This may help avoid additional stresses at what is already a very difficult time.
Downsizing for financial gain
Many retired homeowners see themselves as asset-rich but cash-poor: they own a property but live off a small regular income, such as a pension. Downsizing to a less expensive property can be a way to raise money, which could be used to:
- supplement a pension
- pay off a mortgage or other loan
- spend on holidays abroad or a new car.
Property prices vary enormously, based on a wide range of factors (they can even change from week to week) – so carry out your own research thoroughly before deciding to sell a property.
Sometimes the term ‘releasing equity’ is used to describe the process of making money from selling an existing home and buying a new home at a lower price. However, this is misleading. Releasing equity means holding onto the current property and borrowing against its value.
- Sheltered housing, Home care and support services or Your relative moves in with you: there are alternatives to downsizing, and these pages information on all the options.
- Benefits and allowances for the elderly: information about financial assistance if you are concerned about your relative's cost of living.
- Mortgage comparison table: if your relative is considering taking out a new mortgage when downsizing, the Which? Money Compare table can help your relative find the most suitable mortgage for their needs.
Page last reviewed: January 2016
Next review due: February 2018