Whether your relative is a homeowner, a private tenant or a tenant living in council or housing association accommodation, it is likely they will have a number of downsizing options.
On this page you can find information on
1. Staying on the property ladder
2. Park homes (mobile homes)
3. Accessible homes
4. Renting a property
5. Council/housing association tenants
Staying on the property ladder
Owning your own home brings a sense of security, which is why most downsizers choose to remain on the property ladder. Of course, buying is a long-term commitment. For this reason, if there are uncertainties about any aspects of the move – for example, the area is unfamiliar – it may be an advantage to rent in that area first, to get a feeling for it. For more information about renting a property, see the Which? guide to Renting a home.
If staying on the property ladder is definitely the right option - and this can apply to buying a home in sheltered accommodation or a retirement village just as well as a more traditional purchase - then all of the usual steps and processes of buying a home will apply. For more information about buying and selling a home, see Buying a house: buying and selling on the main Which? website.
It’s very important to factor in all of the costs associated with buying, selling and setting up a new home: these include agents’ fees, legal fees, stamp duty, removal costs.
A number of companies now offer ‘cost of moving calculators’ on their websites. These can be useful even in the very early stages of considering a house move, as they provide a checklist of the costs you will need to consider.
Park homes (mobile homes)
Park homes (sometimes referred to as mobile homes) are single-storey residential homes built on dedicated sites in rural or semi-rural settings. They are a popular choice for older age groups; in fact, almost half of the park homes in the UK are for retired households.
Compared to bricks and mortar properties, park homes can be purchased relatively cheaply. Be aware, though, that only the home itself is being purchased, and not the land on which it is situated. The land belongs to the site owner to whom residents pay a pitch fee. These fees start from around £80 per month and may be charged weekly, monthly or annually.
Although many park home sites have a very good reputation, there have been news stories in recent years concerning unscrupulous site owners. Be sure to do your research in advance – there will be no substitute for visiting the site and talking to existing tenants – and ask to be given a written statement of the terms of occupation.
You can find further information on our Useful organisations and websites page.
These are residential properties that meet a number of easy-access criteria, such as step-free access from street to property and ground-level access to a toilet or bathroom. The Accessible Property Register gives plenty of additional information about accessible homes, and also lists a wide range of homes that meet the criteria and are available to buy or rent.
Renting a property
Renting has the advantage of allowing your relative to try out a new location or a different size or style of home before making any longer-term commitments.
New rental agreements are usually fixed for an initial term of six or 12 months. After this time, your relative may decide to leave or to stay on in the rented accommodation for a longer period of time (provided the landlord had not made other plans for the property). For more information about renting, see the Which? guide to Renting a home.
If your relative is a council/housing association tenant
If you relative lives in council or housing association property, there may be one or more schemes available to help (and encourage) downsizing. These might include:
- Cash incentives for downsizing, which are sometimes offered by councils and housing associations to encourage tenants to downsize into smaller homes to free up larger properties for families. Each council has different policies and demand for properties varies in each area, but if an offer is made, payments are usually based on each ‘released’ bedroom. There is no set ‘per bedroom’ rate: the amount differs for each council and housing association.
- Housing exchange schemes, which allow council or housing association tenants to swap their homes. Exchange is by mutual agreement, so both tenants must agree in advance to the move. Some councils and housing associations have waiting lists of people wishing to exchange their home. Alternatively, there are websites such as www.houseexchange.org.uk that may be particularly useful if your relative is looking to move to a different area of the country.
- Seaside and Country Homes: a scheme offered to council or housing association tenants over 60 who are currently living in London and wish to relocate away from the capital. As its name suggests, there are a variety of properties and locations available, some by the coast and some in rural places such as Shropshire. For more information, see Housing Moves.
- Housing options: practical advice on making the home easier to use and get around in.
- Dealing with poor mobility: guidance and information if your relative is finding it difficult to get around.
- Domiciliary care: find out more about the options available to help your relative live independently at home for longer.
Page last reviewed: January 2016
Next review due: February 2018