Empty-nesters get inventive

There is a bitter-sweetness to the realisation that the last of your children have left home – for good, says Christopher Bartlett of Stacks Property Search in Devon.

It can take years before the remaining residents (generally the financiers) of a family home realise that there is no longer any need for the multitude of bedrooms, nor a requirement to be living within the expensive catchment area of a good school.

But there’s a growing trend for empty-nesters to reassess their property needs earlier – while they are still young enough to enjoy the rewards of new pastures and/or easier finances.

The most obvious option is to downsize, freeing up spare cash, either to help children buy, or to allow yourselves to take some pressure off the earning pedal.

But increasingly property owners at this stage of their lives are looking to more inventive moves and buying for fun. The upside of an empty nest is that you can choose a property and a location that suits your own lifestyle needs rather than those of your offspring.

Our nod to the kids would be to strongly advise buyers to invest in property of a class that will appreciate well, so when you do reach the stage of moving into something suited to the elderly, your investment will have been nicely protected and the maturing children will forgive you for your self-indulgence.

In the meantime, choose wisely, basing your location on places that you love, where you know people, and where you can pursue pastimes that will occupy you in your new leisure time. If you’re inclined to travel, choose property that you can leave without worry rather than tying yourself down.

If you’re struggling to choose between town or country, consider joining the ‘do we need parmesan for both houses?’ set, and replacing one large property with two smaller ones. There are huge advantages to this arrangement. Many keep a property in the area they have lived in for years, allowing themselves to spread their wings to a new location without cutting all ties.

Others choose to swap a comfortable family home for a ruin, paying homage to their inner self-builder and designer, something that family life and full time earning has never permitted before.

So when your children announce that they are off, cut loose your straight-laced thinking; the property world’s your oyster. Enjoy your new found freedom.

If you would like the Stacks Team to help you with your property search, please call on 01594 842880 or email at enquiries@stacks.co.uk


The ins and outs of outside space

What makes a perfect London garden? Sara Ransom of Stacks Property Search’s London office explains.

In prime London, a flat, square, well-screened garden facing west or south west, with the width of the house opening directly onto it, makes the perfect arrangement.

In Notting Hill, the best arrangement is a small patch of private garden opening onto communal square gardens. The advantage is your own perfectly small patch, and wonderful views of green space maintained by somebody else!

In prime central London, some quality outside space can be a good substitute for a proper garden. A south west facing balcony that’s big enough for a table and chairs, or a roof terrace that offers great views, or both, can be more appealing than a garden that may struggle to get much light if it’s surrounded by tall buildings. The cream of outside space in central London is a wrap-around terrace on an upper floor.

Some areas of central London aren’t about outside space at all. Mayfair properties rarely have much more than a small Juliet balcony; and Knightsbridge properties may have a little more. Lack of external square footage in either of these areas isn’t seen as a compromise if buying, or a disadvantage if selling.

Further out, into the prime London suburbs, outside space becomes vital as areas such as Fulham, Wandsworth and Battersea are family-oriented places to live. A standard five bedroom house in Balham, with a value of around £1.4m, generally has a 20’ x 20’ garden. You can add £150,000 to the price tag if the garden measures 50’ x 20’. I would value outside space in Balham at around £250 / sq. ft, a significant price when you consider that internal space is around £700 / sq. ft.”

Top tips for garden buyers in London:

  • If you’re buying a new-build property in London, the outside space could be the differentiating factor that sets your property apart from the many other identical units.
  • Check the rules and regulations relating to communal gardens. Many don’t allow dogs, barbecues, music, and all the other things that most people want to do in gardens!
  • A north-facing London garden surrounded by tall buildings will never get any light.
  • When basing your out-of-London buying decisions on your young children’s requirement for large quantities of outside space, remember that they will soon be teenagers and will prefer to spend their leisure time a little further from home, returning only to be fed or driven to a sports fixture, skate park or distant party.


If you would like the Stacks Team to help you with your property search, please call on 01594 842880 or email at enquiries@stacks.co.uk


Top tips for a weekend retreat from the city

Your mantra when selecting weekend property should be ‘make it easy on yourself’, says David Brooke-Smith of Stacks Property Search in Dorset.

Short breaks should be all about relaxation and doing things you want to do rather than have to do. Be sure from the start – deep countryside or seaside – and then don’t compromise. If you have young children they will grow older liking what you like, and what they’re used to. If you have older children, try and get buy-in on your choices as you will (presumably!) want them to want to come.

Try and factor in family members’ hobbies, selecting a location that caters well and locally for riding, walking, tennis, golf, surfing, or whatever the passions are.

Whether you opt for beach, sailing, surfing, or roaming around the moors, make sure it’s there in spades, and preferably on the doorstep.

The last thing you want to do is to paint, garden or fix things, so find a property that isn’t going to require constant maintenance, and that has outside space that will look good even if you neglect it. Gardens can be selected using different criteria to a family home. You will have the extended playground of your chosen location, so as long as the garden is big enough for barbecues, long summer lunches, or a cold glass of something as the sun sinks, you’ll be happy. Acres of lawn means acres of mowing….

Location-wise, you should aim for as close to your home as possible; an hour is good, two is OK; three starts to become tedious on a regular basis.

Plenty of bathrooms is a good plan. If you have guests, and additional young, on a regular basis, sharing too few bathrooms between too many people will become stressful. And plenty of small bedrooms instead of a few large ones is preferable for similar reasons.

Once you’re safely ensconced, be kind to the neighbours, shop locally, say hello to people in the village, and leave your hassles and worries in the city!

If you would like the Stacks Team to help you with your property search, please call on 01594 842880 or email at enquiries@stacks.co.uk


Success story

Mr. and Mrs. Mackenzie were looking to move from Scotland to be nearer their grandchildren in the West Country.  It was a an agonising decision as they have lived in their stunning period Victorian townhouse for nearly 40 years.

We travelled to Perth to see them at home, and talked round the decision to move – and couldn’t find fault; it is an increasing trend for grandparents to follow the grandchildren.  We helped the Mackenzie’s find the right estate agent to sell their property and returned to the West Country to start their search.

Liaising with our local contacts in the property market, we put together a short list of properties to view, and without once having needed to go on the internet or speak to an estate agent, the Mackenzie’s were being driven round, looking at the crème of the market.

After their first day out, we tweaked the brief (a smaller garden was going to be ideal).  Back into the market we went, finding another raft of properties for another accompanied viewing day.

They liked two house we showed them – very much.  The properties were very different and we helped them with the excruciating decision of which to go for.

Negotiations were relatively straight-forward and the good news was that they could release some capital – for university expenses for 2 grandchildren and a deposit for a London flat for a 3rd (lucky girl!).

It was a wrench leaving Scotland but the Mackenzie’s are now safely and comfortable settled into Somerset.

We are also in the process of buying the flat in London for their grand-daughter!


If you would like the Stacks Team to help you with your property search, please call on 01594 842880 or email at enquiries@stacks.co.uk


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