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Downsizing options and considerations

Whether you’re a homeowner, a private tenant or living in council or housing association accommodation, there are a number of downsizing options available.
4 min read
In this article
Staying on the property ladder Consider the costs of moving  Park homes
Accessible homes Renting a property 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.

 

If staying on the property ladder is definitely the right option – and this can apply to buying a home in sheltered housing 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. The Which? Money how to buy a house guide has more information about all aspects of buying and selling a home.

Consider the costs of moving 

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, and are covered in the Which? Money’s guide to the cost of buying a house.

 

A number of companies offer calculators to help you budget the cost of moving house, such as Nationwide’s Cost of Moving Calculator. These can be useful even in the very early stages of considering a house move, as they provide a checklist of the costs you’ll need to consider. 

Park 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’re a popular choice for older age groups. In fact, almost half of the park homes in the UK are for retired households.

 

Compared with 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’s situated. The land belongs to the site owner to whom residents pay a pitch fee, which 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.

Accessible homes

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 you 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, you 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). Which? Money offers more information about renting in its guide to renting a home.

Renting has the advantage of allowing you to try out a new location or a different size or style of home before making any longer-term commitments. 

Council/housing association tenants

If you live in council or housing association property, there may be one or more schemes available to help (and encourage) downsizing.

  • Cash incentives for downsizing: 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: these 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 House Exchange that may be useful if you’re looking to move to a different area of the country.
  • Seaside & Country Homes: a scheme offered to council or housing association tenants over 60 years of age 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. Find more information on the Housing Moves website.

Further reading

Why should you downsize?

We look at the pros and cons of downsizing to a smaller home, or to a different type of home such as sheltered ...

Downsizing checklists

Our checklists give you practical advice on downsizing, including travel and transport, quality of life, safety ...

Last updated: 18 Sep 2018