For most of us, our first home was probably a small house, in a suburb we could afford. Or a small flat or apartment, that we could manage on our budget at that time.
As the years go by, most families grow and change. Sometimes this requires a larger home or in a different location. Often it can feel like your home isn’t big enough for everyone and everything you own. Then just as quickly the children have grown and moved out and you have all this ‘space’.
This time of transition can be both exciting—you now have more time to concentrate on you—and emotional, as you adjust to your new family dynamic and a house that is too big.
You may begin to question - do you really want to keep living in a large house, that requires hours of cleaning, gardening, mowing and maintenance. Other priorities could become more important. Like spending time with the grandchildren, travelling or doing things you love. The great news is, there are plenty of choices for couples, and singles, who are considering downsizing the living arrangements.
Reasons for downsizing
There are many reasons why people consider downsizing. Their home may be too big for 1 or 2 people. Or they want to travel and enjoy life more, now they’ve finished raising children. Other reasons may be financial. These could be either difficulties or a desire to pay off the mortgage, along with wanting to reduce expenses. There may be health considerations. The current property’s design may not be suitable as you age or you want the support or security of a lifestyle village or assisted living. Maybe the current location isn’t ideal - you want to be closer to grandchildren, public transport, medical centres, shopping centres. Perhaps you simply want a change and now is as good a time as any.
Downsizing can come with many benefits, including potentially freeing up time and money, creating new experiences and friends. However, often people don’t talk about the other side to downsizing - fears and emotion.
While some people embrace change and run at it head first, others resist it. We’re all different and we will all have our own experiences and feelings about downsizing when the time comes. Some people will choose to stay in the family home, where happy memories were created while raising a family. Others will be open to moving to a smaller home or lifestyle village, believing the memories will remain in their hearts, no matter where they live.
It’s perfectly natural to experience some fear and anxiety when considering moving into a new home—this can happen no matter what your age, gender or circumstances.
If you’re moving from a home where you raised children, it may feel overwhelming to leave behind rooms and backyards that trigger wonderful memories. Other fears can include; leaving an area and neighbours you are familiar with, not being able to find a place you ‘love’. These fears are perfectly normal and many people experience them.
If you’re downsizing from a home to a lifestyle village or assisted living facility, you may be concerned about losing your independence. It’s important to assess the pros and cons of moving anywhere, including to a facility where some of the decisions may no longer be your own. Put down what you want in these facilities into your Anticipate Life account so that you and your family know if or when the time comes.
Sometimes, your family may be resistant to the family home being sold. Some children can feel you’re ‘getting rid of the place’ they had a happy childhood in. Have an open and honest conversation with them, as they may be experiencing difficulty in accepting their parent/s are ageing. Let them know how you feel and what your needs are and invite them to work through the process with you.
We know memories won’t suddenly be erased when you move but you can work with your family to help keep those memories for future generations. Take plenty of photos of your family home before you move out. Or better yet, make your own home video with your family and talk about their memories and what they loved about living there. Store your memories in your Anticipate Life account.
For some, downsizing can mean having to give up their prized possessions because they simply won’t fit into their new home. This alone can result in some people staying put in a house that’s too big to manage as they age.
If you feel parting with possessions might hold you back, start with the small stuff—tackle a cupboard or drawer (or even a room) per week and decide what can be thrown out or donated. Are large items of furniture your sticking point? Consider taking photos and making a memory scrapbook. With any items that have a family significance, family heirlooms, ask your children and other family members if they’re interested in ‘adopting’ them. You can record this type of information into your Anticipate Life account.
Peter Walsh is an Australian working internationally to help people declutter their lives and homes. Peter has plenty of valuable advice for tackling downsizing and parting with possessions that have emotional significance. His book ‘Let it Go – Downsizing your way to a Richer, Happier Life’ has useful tips and practical takeaways, including how to establish a hierarchy of mementos and collectibles and creating strategies for dividing heirlooms among family members without drama.
I’m ready to downsize—what’s next? Here are a few aspects to consider.
Where you will live will be one of the first things on your mind and may dictate what kind of housing is available to purchase. You may want to remain in the same area because you’re familiar with everything and it’s a great location.
On the other hand, you might have children who have moved away and you may want to move to be closer to the grandchildren. Or you feel it’s finally time to follow your dream and pursue that ‘sea-change’ or ‘tree-change’ you’ve dreamed about.
Whatever your preference, it’s a good idea to research the area and honestly assess its suitability as you age. If you had to give up driving due to health reasons, can you access public transport? Are medical centres easily accessible? Will you have access to seniors groups and centres or other social activities?
How many bedrooms you need? Will you have guests/grandchildren stay? Is one bathroom enough? Storage is also another thing to consider—how much will you need? The answers to these questions may dictate what type of dwelling you choose as your next home.
Type of dwelling
After deciding on an area, you will need to consider the type of dwelling or living arrangement that appeals to you most and what will suit your current and future needs. Some of the options are:
- house with less bedrooms and living space, than you currently have
- lifestyle village
- aged care facility
To help with your decision, start jotting down the choices that appeal to you most and include a list of pros and cons for each. For example, you might like the idea of living in a townhouse but the stairs might be a hassle as you get older. Then again, they might keep you fit!
Downsizing and moving to a smaller property will likely mean less property maintenance. This could be a result of a smaller or newer building. If you’re moving to a dwelling that is part of a group, it’s important to find out if there will be limitations on what you can and can’t do to your property. Is there a body corporate? If so, what are the rules? What is covered in your monthly fees? Which things will you have to take care of yourself?
Choosing to live in a lifestyle village will likely free you up from most forms of maintenance and you can get on with enjoying this part of your life.
It’s important to seek professional advice to ensure your finances are in order and you’re equipped with knowledge about the current value of your property along with what you can afford. You may need to talk to the following people -
- a Solicitor who can advise you or prepare any contracts regarding your move
- an Accountant who can assess your current and future living costs including any expenses associated with aged care facilities or lifestyle villages
- a Real Estate Agent who can appraise your home and advise on property styles that are available in the area you’re moving to
- a Financial Planner who can advise your future financial situation
- a relative or friend who can help you with any paperwork or personal concerns
OK, so decisions have been made on location and type of home...what now?
If you’re downsizing to a smaller home, then it’s time to consult with a real estate agent. Even if you’re not ready for an immediate move, it can be beneficial to obtain advice to assist you with planning and timing. A professional real estate agent will take the time to listen to your story, understand how you’ve chosen to live in the past and what your hopes and needs are for the future. He or she will not only discuss your current home—how you can maximise your chances at getting a decent sale price and what its current value is—but also talk about options for your next home.
Once you’ve met with an agent, they can keep you informed regarding properties that come on the market that may suit your needs.
Lifestyle and independent living
The key difference between a lifestyle village and a retirement village, is that at a lifestyle village you manage your life and your activities yourselves. Many independent living villages are more like luxury resorts, with swimming pools and spas, bowling greens and tennis courts, on-site cafés and a host of entertainment options.
Lifestyle villages and resorts can offer attractive, quality finished homes, filled with light and featuring low-maintenance gardens and courtyards. Homes can range from one-bedroom cottages to spacious four-bedroom houses with plenty of space for when family and friends come to stay. There are often playgrounds to keep grandchildren amused and men’s sheds to continue hobbies and pick up new ones. In many, you’ll also find gyms and libraries, billiard tables, hairdressing salons, art classes, movie nights, bush walks, choirs, card groups, regular day trips and even group holidays. They are a great place to make new friends.
Questions to ask
Most people who choose independent living do so as a lifestyle choice and not as an investment for creating wealth. Therefore, it’s vital that you understand the contract agreement and get relevant legal and financial advice before proceeding.
To begin, you should find out if the village under an ownership or lease structure. Ownership structures offer the security of a strata title, but usually attract higher stamp duty. Lifelong leases are a more common option and as a leaseholder, your rights are protected by the Retirement Villages Act.
Make sure you fully understand the terms of the contract including deposits, cooling off period and settlement period. Also check that your settlement period gives you plenty of time to sell your current home if necessary.
Service and maintenance fees are normally paid monthly and vary between properties. They are usually adjusted annually based on CPI increases and are designed to cover general seasonal maintenance, management costs and long-term capital improvements to the village.
Exit fees may be charged when you leave a retirement or lifestyle village. These include work required to your home, selling costs by the village management and any amounts due to the operator at the time of sale.
Often you will be presented with options regarding financial arrangements, so it’s important to ask the village’s salesperson to fully explain how these work and also get your own independent legal and/or financial advice.
Downsizing and the decisions around where to live can be challenging, in many more ways than you think. But starting to think about planning for your retirement, or when you age is a great first step. Why don’t you plan some of the other aspects of retirement too and use your Anticipate Life account to organise all your information in one secure location.
Join Anticipate Life today, for a stress free future tomorrow.