An extensive guide to downsizing your home

"Downsizing" is when you buy a house or apartment that is smaller than the one you currently live in. Today, moving to a home that’s a more suitable size is often referred to as ‘rightsizing.’

Written by

Sheila Frampton

What does it mean to downsize your home?

A misconception is that downsizing means moving into a small space – but this isn’t the case. You can downsize without compromising on usable space. Beechcroft, for example, creates homes that provide an abundance of generously proportioned living space regardless of the number of bedrooms. You might buy a two-bedroom apartment that has more living space than a new, three-bedroom ‘mainstream’ home. What’s more, the living space will be more flexible – some Beechcroft homes even provide a large central hallway that could be used as a dining room, a study, library or reading room.

Downsizing doesn’t only mean reducing the number of bedrooms, it means having a more relaxed lifestyle with lower energy bills, less cleaning and less maintenance.


In this blog we will consider the three stages you should consider in your downsizing journey:

  1. Why do people choose to downsize in retirement?
  2. How to decide whether downsizing is right for you
  3. Tips to help you start your downsizing journey


Two ladies shopping on Burford high street
Two ladies leaving their house.
Neighbours chatting over a garden fence

Why downsize in retirement?

In our experience downsizers in retirement do not regret making the move. Once they have settled into their new homes, the benefits of downsizing become clear. The following are some of the reasons that our customers have downsized:

A man wearing a shirt working in his study.
A lady lying in her bed with a cup of tea

Downsizing - the questions you need to ask yourself

If you’ve spent years climbing the property ladder, buying a smaller home may be something you’ve not considered, but it really can bring benefits and make your life much easier. Of course, downsizing is all about choosing the right home for you – somewhere you really want to live, and this is a very personal decision and you need to ask yourself a few questions.

Q: Why should I feel the need to downsize?

A: Of all the questions that you should ask yourself when considering downsizing, the most basic is 'why?'.

Knowing exactly why you want to downsize will help you make other decisions such as the location and the type of property.

The most common reasons for downsizing, particularly in retirement, include the below options, however these may differ based on your individual circumstances:

  • Relocating to be close to family and friends.
  • It’s becoming too difficult to maintain your current home and garden.
  • It’s too expensive to heat your large home which may have unused rooms.
  • To raise capital for your retirement or some other purpose.
  • For health reasons or following bereavement.
  • Because you want a change – and to live in a lovely area.
  • To have more time to spend travelling or taking long holidays.
A lady lying on her bed with a cup of coffee
A couple walking thorough a wildflower meadow

Q: When’s the best time to downsize?

A:  The best time to downsize is when you’re fit and able to do so.

When you downsize can make a big difference to your retirement.  So many people leave it too late, and delaying downsizing by even a few years can make a big difference to your independence and health. There are a few signs that it is time to downsize:

  • When your monthly household expenses are rising rapidly – this includes the cost of heating, electricity and water, council tax, maintenance bills. You can read more onhow Beechcroft homes can help you save on your energy bills here.
  • You’re finding it a struggle to maintain your home and garden. Not tackling important DIY jobs may devalue your property and the upkeep can cause you stress and anxiety.
  • Your home no longer suits your lifestyle – if you have too many bedrooms that need cleaning and heating for example, or if you have mobility problems and too many flights of stairs.
  • You’re feeling isolated – perhaps young families have moved into the neighbourhood and your old neighbours have moved away. On downsizing to a retirement development, one man commented that he’d spoken to more people in the week after moving into his new home than he had in the previous nine years in his old home.
  • You’re no longer living in an area that you want/need to be in. Perhaps the area has become noisier or the traffic is busier, local shops may have closed – or you may have been tied to the area because of schooling or work.
  • You have to drive to the shops and you are becoming increasingly reluctant to drive.
  • You feel you are too far from family or friends.

Q: Which area do I want to live in? 

A:  Think carefully about the area and what it has to offer.

Once you’ve decided why then ‘where’ becomes clearer if you’re downsizing to be near family or friends, then you will be aware of the location you’re moving to – but you may choose to move to a new area within easy reach.

After years of living in a town, you may want to live in a village or small market town with lots of walks on the doorstep. If you’re living in a home in a rural area far from shops, services and other people, you may decide to downsize to a house or apartment in the heart of the village or town.

At Beechcroft, we select development sites in some of the most attractive developments – lovely villages and towns in Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire, Berkshire and the Cotswolds: delightful towns like Tunbridge Wells, Wallingford, Watlington, Burford as well as Ascot, Windsor, Binfield, Reigate and Godalming. Do look at some of our reasons for moving to different counties and see what each offers retiree.

Four people sat in a cafe in Burford
Three people with white wine in a kitchen

Q: What type of home do I want to live in?

A: Think carefully about the type of home you would ideally like.

It’s worth writing a list of the ‘must haves’ which could include anything such as an en-suite bathroom or a private garden.

Just because you’re downsizing doesn’t mean you have to move to anything that you consider too small or too ‘boxy.’ 

Look for elegant retirement developments, such as those created by Beechcroft with fewer bedrooms rather than less living space.

You might prefer a converted period property with a wealth of architectural features or a lovely new build home – Beechcroft offers both. Both new and converted Beechcroft homes are energy-efficient, requiring little maintenance and featuring high quality fixtures and fittings.

There’s something special about being the first person to use the kitchen and bathroom. When looking around show homes or new developments, always look at the quality of the specification and check what’s included. If your new home comes with carpets and flooring, fitted wardrobes in at least one of the bedrooms, fitted vanity units and mirrors and the bathroom and a full range of integrated kitchen appliances, moving in will be so much easier.

Q: How much does living at a retirement development cost?

A:  Work out how much you can afford to spend on your new home and get a rough guide of the running costs.

Finances are particularly important in retirement, and you need to work out the potential costs before you decide where to move to. Living on a retirement development, you’ll need to pay service charges. If you speak to the sales consultant on the development, you’ll be able to gain an idea of the breakdown of the charges and an explanation of each element.

In summary, the services charges will include:

  • The cost of the estate management including cleaning communal areas, maintenance of the development, gardening of both private and communal grounds, lighting, heating and water charges associated with the communal areas and any maintenance agreements of lifts, for example. The Estate Manager’s salary will be included in the service charges as will the external window cleaning and buildings insurance as well as a reserve fund to cover any future works. At first glance, the service charges may seem high, but consider how much an older home and large garden costs – both financial and in terms of time, energy and the toll on your health. In fact, we have calculated that the costs associated to Estate Management could provide a saving of over £2,000 per year, versus having the same level of maintenance in another home. In addition, once you move in, you’ll need to pay:
    • Council tax as you do in your current home.
    • Heating, lighting and water associated with your new home, but your brand-new home will be more energy-efficient and costs are likely to be up to 60% lower than in an older, larger, property.
    • Your telephone bills and TV licence.
A lady speaking to an estate agent about a property
A couple looking at an iPad together

Q: What if I need to move again – can I sell my home on the open market?

A:  At Beechcroft, you can sell your home on the open market to someone who is eligible in terms of age (generally over 55) and we do not charge ‘exit fees’ or ‘deferred management fees.’

These fees, which are a feature of some retirement developments and retirement villages, mean you have to pay a percentage of the proceeds of the sale of your home to the developers.

This is because the service charges are less than they would normally be – they are subsidised – during the time you live at the development but when you leave – or if your family inherits your property – you must pay for the services that were subsidised.

This can be an expensive cost and may depend on how long you have lived at the development. Beechcroft does not charge this – you pay your service charges whilst you are living at the development and if you move, there are no additional exit fees to pay.

Q: My partner/spouse is under the age of 55, can I still buy at a Beechcroft development? 

A:  Yes, as long as the lead purchaser is over the age of 55, a partner/spouse is able to live at a Beechcroft development.

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Q: Can I take my pet with me if I downsize to a retirement development?

A:  We would say don’t downsize to a retirement development where you are not allowed to keep a well-behaved pet.

Pets are important members of the family – and you may have waited until your retirement to acquire a pet. If you already have a pet or are thinking about a new pet, make sure the property you choose is suitable – with a terrace, balcony or private garden and that the location is within easy reach of parks, green spaces and open countryside.

Not only will your pet provide companionship, reduce your stress levels, improve your mood and provide a source of amusement, it will mean you’ll meet other pet owners – either chatting about your pet or getting together with another dog owner for walks.

Mrs Brooks and her cat
A young girl chasing a small dog with a tennis ball in its mouth
A young boy chasing after a black dog in lush gardens.

Q: What are the advantages of downsizing?

A: There is no doubt that downsizing can be challenging, emotionally and physically, but there are massive benefits that will leave you wondering why you didn’t move earlier.

The following are just a few of these:

  • Less stress and lower maintenance bills – more time and money to spend on doing things you enjoy
  • Increased energy efficiency – lower heating bills and a warmer house in winter
  • More security – which is particularly important if you want to ‘lock up and leave.’
  • You may release equity and make life – and your retirement – more comfortable
  • A smaller home in a prime location means less driving, easier access to shops, services and transport links
  • A healthier living environment if you choose a Beechcroft Healthihouse.
A lady being greeted by her Estate Manager
A grandmother and her granddaughter playing with blocks

Q: Why aren’t we all downsizing if there are so many advantages?

A:  The simple answer is that we do not even think about it until later life – even though downsizing, can be beneficial at any time of life.

Homeowners spend years upsizing. Young families and couples who enjoy entertaining focus on buying a succession of larger houses with gardens. It’s difficult to change this mindset once the children have grown up and left home or when you no longer entertain as much.

Have you ever decided against a property that won’t ‘fit’ your current furniture – the large dining table that you only use on special occasions? Have you ever said you want a four-bedroom house in case people visit – but the only time anyone stays is at Christmas? 

In our experience, once people change their mindset, they find that downsizing is a life-changing experience which allows them to enjoy their leisure time.

Of course, leaving a place where you’ve lived for years is not easy. Our family homes hold happy memories and we are comfortable in areas we know well but moving to a new community can mean living alongside like-minded people who become friends – so downsizing can mean a whole new social life.

Downsizing doesn’t necessarily mean compromising on space – inside or out - though. You don’t have to downsize from a house to an apartment or downsize to a tiny house from a large family home. You can find homes that provide plenty of living space but with fewer bedrooms than your large family house. 

Q: Is downsizing to a Beechcroft retirement development for me? 

  • Retirement living, Beechcroft style, means owning an elegant home in a beautifully landscaped and fully maintained setting.
  • You’ll have local shops and services on hand and your neighbours are likely to be of a similar age and similar interests.
  • You will be completely independent and able to maintain your privacy but you’ll have an Estate Manager on hand to offer help and advice, if and when you need it, and to keep an eye on your home whilst you’re away. The Estate Manager will handle the upkeep of the development, as well as communal and private gardens.
  • Your home will provide plenty of living space but fewer bedrooms than a similar sized family home and it is likely to have either a terrace, balcony, roof terrace, private garden or a combination of these.
  • The home you choose will be energy-efficient, easy to maintain and a pleasure to live in, leaving you free to enjoy a more relaxed retirement.
A man reading a newspaper in the garden
Four people sat on benches in a beautiful garden

Q: What will my family and friends think?

A:  Our in-house research revealed that over 70% of customers buying a home move or downsize to be near family or friends – and the majority comment that younger relatives urged them to do so.

Some family members are so keen to help their relatives move closer that they make a financial contribution to the move which can transform all their lives.

Many members of the older generation lend a hand with the younger members of the family, providing occasional or regular childcare or just spending time with the children.

When parents or grandparents move to a new retirement community, their younger relatives get the peace of mind that comes from being on hand – they’re able to visit more regularly without having to face long car journeys and they’re able to help with shopping, household tasks and DIY.

Moving closer to family can be a rewarding experience – family visits create a positive and optimistic environment for older relatives and can even improve life expectancy by several years.

A friendly Beechcroft Estate Manager
A friendly Beechcroft Estate Manager

Taking action: Beechcroft's downsizing checklist

Now you’ve decided to downsize your house or apartment, just do a final check using the following list:

  1. Does your new home suit your current and future needs? Will you be able to cope with the access and/or stairs in 20 years’ time?
  2. Does the property have the parking you need?
  3. Is it close to shops and services?
  4. What is the public transport like in the area?
  5. Are there places where you can go for walks?
  6. Will you be able to keep your pet?
  7. Measure your new living spaces. Are you buying new furniture when you move or do you own antiques or valuable family pieces). Many downsizers miss out on suitable homes because they have decided that their old sofa won’t fit – when they’d be better buying a new sofa.
  8. Have you explored all the opportunities in the local area before you move – where is the nearest church and what does it offer in terms of community classes and events? What local clubs are there? 
  9. Have you enlisted friends and family to help on the day of the actual move?
  10. Have you started decluttering in preparation for your move? 

Top tips for downsizing to a new apartment or house

If you’re looking to downsize but are concerned about the stresses that come with selling and moving house, look no further. We’ve put together our top tips to help you downsize easily, letting you start fresh and avoid the complications that others tend to fall into!

1. Make a plan

Planning is key to staying organised and avoiding stress, and this is especially true when you move house. Moving home is one of the most stressful things that we experience in our lifetimes, so taking steps to reduce this is really important.

While you can’t control every aspect of selling and moving, you can do certain things to keep you on top of the process and help you feel calm and collected. Make sure that you know the ins and outs of the entire selling journey so you’re not caught out by any surprises – hidden costs and timeframes are the two that can be the most disruptive. To make things easier for you, the Beechcroft sales team are always on hand to offer help and support to keep you on track throughout your experience.

What are the hidden costs of moving house?

Whether you’re buying, selling, or both, there are hidden costs that you should take into account, such as –

  • Stamp duty
  • Legal fees
  • Survey costs
  • Estate agent fees
  • Conveyancing fees
  • Moving costs

The average homeowner spends up to £9,000 when they move to a new house, which is a huge cost if you’re not expecting it – especially if you’re downsizing to save money for retirement. Knowing these costs is key to having the best move possible and avoiding struggling financially during the moving period.

2. Measure your furniture

Downsizing generally means that you’re moving to a smaller house, and with this, you’ll most likely need to get rid of some of your furniture. If you’re moving to a house with less bedrooms especially, you’ll probably have quite a lot of items that won’t fit in your new home which you’ll need to dispose of.

There are several ways you can get rid of furniture you no longer need –

  • Give to family or friends (there’s almost always someone moving house that is in need of things)
  • Sell or give away online on sites such as Gumtree
  • Donate to charity

If the furniture is not in a good condition, it can be taken to the tip. If you’re not able to take it, you may be able to arrange for your council to pick it up to dispose of it for you.

Another top tip is to measure the furniture that you want to take with you, to make sure that everything will fit when you get to your new home. Moving day is stressful enough as it is, and nothing will make that worse than finding out that your items won’t fit comfortably in the rooms.

A man and wife relaxing in the sunroom doing the crossword and reading a book on a sunny day.
Two men having a gin in a honesty bar.

3. Decluttering

Decluttering is a key part of downsizing to avoid filling your house and having it cramped with things you don’t really need or want. It can be a big step to take, especially if you’ve lived in your home for a long time and have been collecting for years.

The best way to start with decluttering is to allow plenty of time before your moving day – too much pressure on yourself or too little time and the job won’t get done. Setting yourself a target to do half an hour a day or get rid of a certain number of items each day is a good way to keep motivated without pushing too hard and ending up burning out.

Decluttering can be a difficult thing for a lot of people, especially if you know that you like to collect and keep things but remind yourself that you simply won’t have the space to keep everything and try to be as strict as you can.

You can then decide what you want to do with the items you’re getting rid of –

  • Give away to friends or family
  • Sell online
  • Donate to charity
  • Throw away

The added bonus of decluttering is that you can align it with your packing – getting two jobs done at the same time and reducing the amount that you’ll need to pack. It also helps you organise the house better and get it looking its best which is exactly what you want when selling, so if you’ve been asking yourself “how can I sell my house quickly?” decluttering is an excellent option!

Downsizing can a very exciting time in a homeowner’s life, so you want to be able to make the most of it. These tips should help you have the best moving process possible, letting you start fresh and enjoy your time in a new home!

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Two women speaking on a bench
A couple talking in the kitchen
A woman on her phone

Downsizing your home: FAQs

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