Meet the ‘in-betweeners’: Downsizing when you’re too young for a retirement village
Less is more is the maxim of a growing number of Australians, who are leaving behind sprawling long-time homes in search of something smaller.
And they’re not all retirees. More and more couples in their late 40s and 50s are choosing to make the move to a more manageably sized home.
Karen Lynch, 57, and John Baille, 60, recently decided it was time to move on from their five-bedroom family home in Maitland, near Newcastle in NSW.
The couple had upsized to the three-level house seven years ago, when Ms Lynch’s father was living with them. It has multiple separate living quarters, a theatre room, lush garden, and an enormous resort-style swimming pool.
The property has been more than a home for the couple – in 2012, they were married in the garden.
“We bought it for dual living purposes, so that he (her father) could have his own privacy and we could have a section to ourselves,” Ms Lynch said.
Like many modern blended families, Ms Lynch and Mr Baille share grown children – six in their case. That meant they needed plenty of spare rooms.
“At the time it was a great idea to have a large home to accommodate everyone who visits,” Ms Lynch said.
Then her 87-year-old father met a new partner and moved into her home in an over-55s community. And Ms Lynch and her husband realised it was time to downsize.
“We decided to start looking for something more manageable, to free up our time and be able to entertain more,” she said.
The couple consider themselves “in-betweeners” — they’re ready to downsize, but too young to consider a retirement village.
However, finding the perfect property proved a challenge.
“When you start downsizing [the number of] bedrooms, they start to scale down living areas, but we like to have that space,” Ms Lynch said.
“We’ve got awfully large furniture because we’ve got a big home, and we still wanted to be able to seat around eight people at the dinner table.”
Eventually the couple found a 115-year-old single-level house in East Maitland. It has “beautiful big living spaces” and a large kitchen that Ms Lynch intends to renovate.
“We still want to entertain and have family stay, but downsized on the yard,” she said.
James Rodrick, from Maitland real estate agency Starr Partners, handled the sale.
“For them it’s ideal because they’ve been looking for a Federation-style home with some character and a bit of history to it,” he said.
Downsizers, including tree-changers and sea-changers fleeing the big cities, are increasingly common in the area, Mr Rodrick said.
“There’s a lot of people coming from the central coast and Sydney markets who have done well from that capital growth of properties in those markets and are now looking to head to an area like Maitland to take advantage of the lifestyle,” he said.
“It’s the best of both worlds, close to the vineyards and the beaches of Newcastle.”
Mr Rodrick’s advice to downsizers is to find a property that “ticks all the boxes”.
“It’s got to suit your lifestyle. Whatever you’re looking for is out there – so find the one that fits what you’re looking to achieve,” he said.