Ten questions to ask yourself before downsizing

Downsizing is the term used to refer to moving to a smaller home but, in reality, it means much more than that – it means a complete lifestyle change

Written by

Sheila Frampton

Downsizing means less stress, more financial security, lower maintenance bills and more energy efficiency. There’s no doubt that downsizing can be challenging – both emotionally and physically but it can bring massive benefits that leave you wondering why you didn’t make the move sooner. You could find yourself living in a home that is energy-efficient and requires less maintenance. Less stress, more financial security, a whole new social life and more time to enjoy it are just some of the other advantages. If you’re to make the most of the new opportunities that downsizing can bring, it’s important to make a considered decision.

Here are the top ten questions you should be asking yourself before downsizing: 

1) Why downsize and when is the best time? 

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, are:

  • Moving to be closer to family or friends.
  • The maintenance of a large home and garden is too onerous
  • Heating a large home with unused rooms is too expensive
  • To raise capital – for your retirement or some other purpose
  • Health reasons
  • To have more time to enjoy your retirement – travelling or taking long holidays

So many people leave it too late to downsize – it’s best to downsize when you’re fit and able to do so – and when you can make the most of your retirement. Delaying downsizing by even a few years can make a big difference to your independence and health. There are a few signs that it’s time to downsize and these are:

  • When your monthly household expenses are rising rapidly – this includes the cost of heating, electricity and water, council tax, maintenance bills,
  • 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 are too far from family or friends.
A man wearing a shirt working in his study.
A lady lying in her bed with a cup of tea

2) Is downsizing to a 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 friendly Beechcroft Estate Manager
A friendly Beechcroft Estate Manager

3) Where do I really want to live? 

This is one of the most important questions you need to ask yourself. Would you prefer to stay in the local area, move to somewhere you’ve always enjoyed visiting or live closer to family and friends?

Throughout our lives we often have to choose to live in locations because of our lifestyles – near schools or work places. Retirement offers the perfect opportunity to live in a beautiful location with a real sense of community and local shops and services on hand. If you’re considering a new area, spend some time there, speak to the local people and the sales teams on any new developments to find out what the area offers in terms of your interests – be that sport, clubs, groups, classes or activities. It’s important that your new home will provide the retirement you’re hoping for. The location should inspire you and make you look forward to life after the move.

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

4) What type of home do I want to live in? 

Think carefully about the type of home you want to live in and take your time to look at what’s on offer in the area you’ve chosen. It’s worth writing a list of ‘must haves’ – which could include anything from a beautiful bathroom or en-suite to a private garden.

A new home is ideal because it will be energy efficient, with little maintenance and you’ll be the first person to use any of the appliances.

Just because you’re downsizing in retirement doesn’t mean you have to move to a small apartment or that you have to live in anything that’s ‘boxy.’  Look for elegant retirement properties like those created by Beechcroft – both houses and apartments – that provide an abundance of living space but fewer bedrooms than you’d have in a normal family home. In many of Beechcroft’s houses, the drawing room, dining room and sun room are linked by glazed internal doors that may be opened up to create larger, light and airy spaces for entertaining.

Apartments are equally well-designed; many with a dining/hall which can be used for formal dining or as an additional reception room. Most new homes come with either a terrace, balcony, roof terrace, private garden or combination of these and private gardens, as well as the beautifully-landscaped communal grounds are maintained by an estate manager – leaving you free to enjoy the outdoors without the work that a garden can involve. 

When looking round show homes or new developments, look at the quality of the fixtures and fittings and check what is included. If your new home comes with carpets and flooring throughout, fitted wardrobes in at least one of the bedrooms, vanity units and mirrors in the bathroom and a full range of integrated appliances in the kitchen, moving in will be so much easier. Choosing a new home can be a very pleasurable experience

5) What will my family and friends think? 

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 grandmother and granddaughter baking in the kitchen
A grandfather and granddaughter in the garden

6) If I downsize to a retirement development will I be able to keep my pet? 

This is another really important question – and we’d say don’t downsize to a new home where you’re 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.

7) How much does living at a retirement development cost? 

Finances are important, particularly in retirement and it’s important to work out the cost of retirement when you decide. You may choose to buy a freehold home but some homes are sold with a 999-year lease which has been designed to protect the quality of the development in years to come. Leaseholds allow certain covenants to be put in place to ensure the landscaped setting and communal areas are maintained to the highest standards.

If you choose a leasehold property, you’ll be required to pay ground rent. On a new development, the sales consultant will let you know how much this will be.

You’ll need to pay service charges. When you reserve your new home, you’ll be provided with a full breakdown of these charges and an explanation of each element. The service charges, in summary, cover:

  • The cost of the estate management including cleaning the communal areas, maintenance work, upkeep of the landscaped setting, lighting, heating and water charges associated with the communal areas and the cost of any maintenance agreements – for example, for the lists.
  • Buildings insurance
  • Upkeep of private gardens
  • External window cleaning
  • Reserve fund to cover any future works

As you’ll see, some of the costs including gardening, window cleaning and buildings insurance are covered – and these are costs you would have had to cover in your previous home. In addition, once you have moved in, you’ll pay:

  • Council tax (as you would in your family home)
  • Heating, lighting and water associated with your new home – but as new homes are more energy efficient, these are likely to be significantly lower than in a large, older property.
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.

8) How will I cope with downsizing my belongings & the actual move?

It can be very difficult to sort through the belongings you’ve accumulated over a number of years, particularly when they hold special memories. You’ll need to be ready to make some difficult decisions about what to keep and what to do with the rest. Don’t be in too much of rush – go through your home, room by room, make an inventory and think about what you’d like to take with you. It’s never too soon to declutter – you don’t have to wait until you are actually on the move.

At Beechcroft, working with a team of removal specialists, we’ve designed a ‘Manage Your Move’ package to make moving easier. If you use one of our recommended solicitors or independent estate agents, we’ll contribute to your estate agency and legal fees and arrange for your furniture and possessions to be packed and transported to your new Beechcroft home. You’ll also have the services of a handyman for a morning or afternoon to help with those small jobs such as putting up shelves, picture or curtain rails or simply help arranging the furniture.

A man with a small closed suitcase on a bed.

9) How will I cope with the emotional upheaval of moving? 

If you’ve spent years living in a family home and have made many memories there, moving home will undoubtedly be an emotional challenge. It’s important to think positively, weighing up the benefits of moving and if you find a place you really want to live in, making the move is much easier. If you’re an independent person remaining in your family home as you age may mean you’ll have to adapt your home and rely on the help of others – and this has its own financial and emotional costs.

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

10) Will moving to a new area make me feel isolated? 

For many of us, making friends in later life can be challenging. Friendships are often forged at work, at the school gates or at a club or class. Moving to a new retirement development means putting yourself at the heart of a new community and, if you enjoy being sociable, many of your neighbours will become friends. Owners often get together for weekly walks, to play golf, tennis or bowls or just to chat over coffee. You’ll find that, if your development has a communal lounge, there’ll be planning activities from bridge and cinema nights to fitness classes. Many home owners meet in the communal gardens in the summer months.

Friends socialising on a terrace.
Friends drinking red wine in a sitting room

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