Older homeowners need more help to tackle downsizing barriers

Older homeowners need more help to tackle downsizing barriers

www.downsizingdirect.com supports ‘last-time home buyers’ to be in ‘the right home at the right time’

A growing number of older homeowners are planning to downsize their home as house prices rise but many are put off by the lack of housing options for older people and the difficulties of moving, according to research published yesterday.

Almost three-quarters of enquirers aged 55-79 to www.downsizingdirect.com want help selling their home and buying/moving to a smaller property.

But 24% say they are put off downsizing by the lack of housing options, 19% by the hassle and cost of moving, 14% by having to declutter their possessions and 14% by family reasons such as staying close to children and grandchildren.

These barriers to downsizing may explain why in the UK it’s estimated that only one in ten older people downsize while more do so in other countries. One in five pensioner households in the USA downsize, for example. But recent figures published by Prudential showed that 38% of homeowners aged 55 and over in the UK are planning to downsize – some 2.3 million homeowners.

71% of enquirers to www.downsizingdirect.com said they wanted help selling their current home and buying/moving somewhere smaller. 15% said they wanted help to declutter while 14% were planning ahead.

Of the reasons given for wanting to downsize, 43% want to move to a smaller property; 38% give family reasons (such as death of a partner, moving closer to family); 33% say they have care, health or mobility needs; 24% want to reduce their running costs/maintenance bills because their property is too big; 19% want to release capital; and 10% are planning in advance of retirement.

The latest figures are published as www.downsizingdirect.com aims to encourage downsizing and provide advice and support to older people and their families to help them move to ‘the right home at the right time’. With rising house prices the website estimates that older homeowners could release on average £100,000 capital and could save £2,000 a year by reducing their energy bills and other household running costs if they downsize their home.

More downsizing would also help tackle the housing crisis by enabling ‘last-time buyers’ to release thousands of family-sized homes, according to the www.downsizingdirect.com website.

Of owner occupied homes, 49% are ‘under-occupied’ (at least two bedrooms more than needed, according to the recently published English Housing Survey).  7.2 million of the 14.3 million homeowners own their home outright and 85% of these outright owners are aged 55 plus.

Stephen Burke, director of United for All Ages and founder of downsizingdirect.com, said: “More and more older homeowners are thinking about downsizing, particularly while housing prices are rising. But clearly there are barriers preventing many older people from pursuing downsizing. Government needs to encourage better alternatives to be developed for older homeowners, as can be seen elsewhere in Europe. Good advice and support for older people moving are also critical.

“Downsizing has multiple benefits for older homeowners and their families. It can liberate older people by freeing up cash in retirement and making their home easier to manage. In some cases it can help older people pay for care and get the support and company they need. Grandparents and great-grandparents can use the cash to help their younger relatives.

“That’s why we launched www.downsizingdirect.com. The website aims to make older people more aware of the benefits of downsizing and provide practical advice and support to make downsizing happen. Often the idea of downsizing seems attractive but the prospect of selling and buying together with the upheaval puts some older people off. Our advice and support service can make moving or staying put a lot easier.”

www.downsizingdirect.com went live in February 2014 and was created by the social enterprise, United for All Ages. Its director Stephen Burke also founded the pioneering Good Care Guide site where families can rate and review childcare and eldercare providers.

www.downsizingdirect.com sets out reasons why older people may wish to downsize. These include:

  • their current home and garden may be too big and difficult to manage
  • they may have trouble with stairs and getting out and about
  • they want to reduce their bills like rising energy costs and day to day expenses
  • they face large bills for repair and refurbishment of their home
  • they want to free up some money for themselves or for their children or grandchildren
  • they want to move somewhere that offers care, support and company
  • they want to move closer to children and grandchildren

As well encouraging older people to look at downsizing, the www.downsizingdirect.com website offers free advice and practical support by email and telephone. The support service can advise older people and their families on their options staying put or moving; selling and buying a property or renting; maintaining a property and decluttering; and making the most of their assets to pay for care. The service is provided by Eldercare Property Partners who have long-standing experience advising and supporting older homeowners.