Downsizers benefit from the boom in the real estate market
The idea of ”downsizing” isn’t one that many people enjoy, especially when it comes to saying goodbye to a beloved family home. For many, the problem is what it represents: that you don’t need as much and are entering your twilight years.
Add to that a global pandemic — and the attendant health and financial worries — and you’ll see why many retired or near-retirees have stayed put. But recently, things have changed: research by real estate agency Hamptons showed that 181,100 people moved to a smaller or cheaper property in 2021, the highest number since 2016.
In particular, people with large family homes in suburban or rural areas that have become increasingly sought after have found a good time to sell, said Andrew Perratt of real estate agency Savills.
“In previous years, people were afraid to put their pride and joy on the market and it wouldn’t sell,” he said. “Now some owners know it will sell out pretty quickly and they’ll get a good price.”
Increasingly, a property for later does not mean an apartment. Hamptons found that the number of downsizer buyers switching from a house to an apartment has steadily declined over the past decade, from 43.5% in 2012 to 30.4% last year.
The Covid experience has made it even more important to have enough space, said Jennie Hancock of buying agency Property Acquisitions. “The various lockdowns have scared downsizers of being trapped between four walls for an extended period of time.”
Older generations collectively own staggering amounts of real estate wealth — those over 50 hold 75.5% of all homeowner equity in the housing market, according to Savills. So instead of downsizing, many are supposedly “smart”: buying a property with enough room for hobbies and part-time jobs.
Lynne Thomas, 52, took advantage of the strong market in the seaside town of Whitstable, Kent, to sell her four-bedroom house there – it was offered in a day – and buy a four bedroom semi-detached house in Perry Court by David Wilson Homes near Faversham, mortgage free.
Having space was crucial for Ms Thomas as she needed a study for her work as a tutor and a bedroom each for her two sons, Sam, 21, and William, 19.
Some wealthy downsizers are even going against the grain and taking properties with much larger gardens, said James Davies of buying agency The Buying Solution. “A client looking in West Sussex wants at least three acres, so she can put up cricket nets and a tennis court for her grandsons.”
According to Alexis Northam of estate agency Myddelton & Major, memories of travel restrictions, long separations and childcare issues during lockdowns mean a huge downsizing driver over the past year was to get closer to his loved ones. “Just as powerful as the race for space was the race for closeness to grandchildren,” she said.
Joanna Saelensminde has moved from a detached three-bedroom townhouse in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, to a one-bedroom flat in the market town of Midhurst where her son, daughter-in-law and grandsons live.
Ms Saelensminde, 79, can now walk from her flat in the Dundee House development near Lilyford to Sainsbury’s, cafes, antique shops and see family whenever she wants.
Families are even moving en masse to be together. The Patels moved last summer from Cumbria to Warfield, Berkshire. Jeff and Lata Patel, both 68, bought a four-bedroom house in the Orchids Place development near Redrow, one block from their daughter Hazleen, 36, and her daughter, Siya.