Many families have spent much of the last year living with grown up children who, under normal circumstances, would have been home for the occasional weekend, looking for a great Sunday roast and a little family time.
Nick Wooldridge of Stacks Property Search says, “We hear numerous tales of happy families, multi-generational living for the various Lockdowns we’ve all lived through. Not all have been totally harmonious, but many have been. Rather like recalling the summer holidays as being end-to-end sunshine, our recollections of Lockdown may focus on the heady days of spring and summer ’21, when the sun shone, everyone wanted to cook up marvellous meals, and numerous vegetable gardens were dug and tended. ‘Doing Lockdown together’ will go down for many as a life-enhancing experience, despite the fear and uncertainty for the future.
“But a word of warning. This unexpected time with grown up children was a nice bonus, but not something that should be encouraged in a post-pandemic world. Delaying a downsizing move in the expectation that grown-up children will want to spend extensive time with their parents is an error, and even if they do, they should be encouraged to spread their wings – a gentle push out of the nest may be required!
“Property owners continue to hang on to the family home much longer than is necessary – even when the financial and lifestyle benefits of downsizing are crystal clear. There are obviously very real reasons why people swerve downsizing – the cost of moving, stamp duty, the practical issues surrounding finding something suitable, and actually making the move. But the biggest hurdles in our experience are emotional rather than practical – the fear of change, reluctance to let go of the past, and the emotional hoops that will have to be jumped through to decide what to replace the family home with.
“We sometimes have clients who clearly should have downsized ten or even twenty years before; the longer they’ve waited, the harder it’s become to make the move.
“An excellent early downsizing exercise is to draw up a list of every benefit you can possibly think of. Finances are likely to feature strongly on the list, and the advantages of a lower maintenance property, but be really clear about the good things that will come out of the move. Be specific, not just more holidays, but a particular adventure that you’ve always wanted to go on; the idea of walking to shops, bars and cafes if you’ve been remote; the prospect of a property that faces the right way if you’ve been suffering a north facing home for decades.
“It really helps to think about the kind of property that will work well for an empty nest – your square metres will be all about you, not sucked up by all the bedrooms you needed to accommodate the family. It’s a mistake to try to recreate exactly what you had on a smaller scale. Think of it as a new start and an opportunity to live in a different way. For instance, you can have a bathroom each, a quiet extra sitting room, or a studio, or whatever it is that will give you joy. And rather than insisting on squeezing all your old furniture into the new space, take the opportunity to re-think and redesign.
“Choosing the correct location at this stage is vital. The pandemic has made many people much more aware of the importance of being close to family – if not actually co-habiting! The idea of the extended family living within range to offer support to each other has become a clear trend. Being within a fifteen-minute drive is a great aspiration, close enough to ‘pop’, but not so close as to cramp each other’s style.
“Our advice is always to consult the family at an early stage – there may be issues that affect your decisions that you are unaware of, and if all relevant parties are aware of your intentions it prevents problems arising at a later date. But try to be resolute and put your own needs first. Advantages to downsizing are often only fully appreciated after the move has taken place. The improved lifestyle, proximity to family, amenities and transport, decreased maintenance issues, and improved or specialist ergonomics can be incredibly liberating.
“One of the best things about downsizing is that once you’ve done it you shouldn’t have to do it again! So don’t just consider your needs as they are at the moment, make sure it will suit you, or can be adapted, when you become less active and possibly less mobile. But psychologically, think of this as a new step forward, not the last property step – a feeling that can often deter downsizers.”
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