The psychology of downsizing

Why is it that the new generation of empty nesters are so reluctant to downsize? Nick Wooldridge of Stacks Property Search says, “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. In the current market, they may be discouraged from moving as they are seeing little on the portals that suits them. But more significant, and a greater hurdle in our experience, is the fear of change, fear of letting go of the past, and the emotional hoops that will have to be jumped through to decide what to replace the family home with.

 “There are of course numerous side-benefits, and we would encourage those empty-nesters who anticipate downsizing to start thinking about it early, not to put it off until the need has become urgent. Emotional decisions are much harder to make when the pressure is on. There is a huge amount of planning and researching to be done, and this can be achieved better where there are minimal time pressures. And we tend to become more inflexible as we become older. Don’t be put off by lack of stock that shows on the internet, if you’re looking seriously and urgent, then opportunities will present themselves.

“My advice would be 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.

“While family are usually part of the process, it makes a lot of sense to establish an array of wise friends who know you well, and who you respect to use as a sounding board. Those who have successfully downsized themselves will be especially helpful – giving you insight into what they found helped, what they think they got right, and what they think they could have done better.

“It’s very easy to focus on the negative, so early on in the exercise 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.

“Promise yourself an indulgence that you’ve always wanted – whether that’s an Aga, a customised walk in wardrobe, a wet room, a sofa that you’ve been lusting after, a top-of-the-range TV / sound system, a dedicated wine fridge, a dog room, something that properly excites you.

“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.”

Stacks Property Search & Acquisition: 01594 842880 /

Ends – 

    • For more information, jpgs and interviews, contact Amanda MacCaw, 01386 700068 / 07977 238175 /

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