Thinking about downsizing?
Stephen Murray from Morisons Solicitors offers advice for those who are thinking of moving to a smaller home.
We are frequently reminded that we live in an ageing population. It is projected that the number of people aged over 65 in Scotland will increase by 59% from 0.93million to 1.47million by 2037. We are also frequently reminded of the under-provision of pension saving. With annuity rates anticipated to continue to decline, increasingly equity in homes is often considered as a fund for retirement living. By all reports that equity is considerable due to the price appreciation that has been seen over the last 45 years. The average house price in Scotland is stated to be £4,500 in 1969 and now in Edinburgh to be £225,000 and family houses in prime Edinburgh areas which 15 years ago sold for £500,000, now sell for over £1,000,000.
Such figures do not disclose considerable differences between specific areas and types of property but do illustrate the general astronomical increase that has been seen in property values. It is therefore natural to consider releasing funds from that ‘Bank’ to provide for future living costs, whether in retirement or at a younger age. Whilst equity release schemes are available for consideration, the option of downsizing to an alternative property also provides the additional benefit of reducing costs relative to heating, maintenance, insurance, council tax and other running costs . Downsizing may also allow for a more secure lifestyle, greater flexibility to take holidays and less stress in respect of worries about property maintenance and general running costs.
What to consider when downsizing
We all have a great deal of emotional attachment to our homes and connections with the neighbourhood etc. I would suggest that the following points should be carefully considered:-
- Location – we are all aware of the importance of location, location and location. When downsizing, however, it can be often tempting to move to a different area that has the attraction of being less expensive. It is, however, important to consider the amenities that that area provides and also access to medical facilities, social activities, leisure interests and distance from friends and family.
- Size of property – less space will be cheaper and easier to run. It is very much a matter of personal lifestyle as to what the minimum required space is.
- Type of property, layout and security – it is important to select a property that is not only convenient now but also likely to be practical in another 15 or 20 years in terms of access and maintenance. Older period properties have many architectural attractions but can be more expensive to heat and maintain as well as possibly not being as suitable to people who may suffer from mobility issues. We sadly live in an age of crime; some properties are easier than others to secure.
- There may well be merit in selling first and then renting a property for a period of time to allow an opportunity to reflect on lifestyle and preference as to type of property. That is often easier to contemplate once in a different property to that of a long term family home. While such a rental may involve more expense and the inconvenience of two moves in the short term, it may in the longer term prove prudent.
Downsizing inevitably involves a large number of emotional decisions which need to be balanced against economic considerations. Seeking advice from an ESPC solicitor at the outset is therefore recommended to allow clear and comprehensive consideration of all relevant issues. It may never be an easy decision as to when to downsize but the start of a New Year must be an appropriate time to at least consider this option!
For more information, you can contact Stephen Murray and Morisons here