Money Property The dos and don’ts of downsizing in retirement
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The dos and don’ts of downsizing in retirement

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The children have flown the nest, the garden is an increasing burden to maintain and that four-bedroom family home seems just a bit too quiet for the two of you.

Perhaps it’s time to start looking at downsizing to a unit, which will decrease the time you spend maintaining your property and, ideally, free up some more money for retirement.

But downsizing is not for everyone, and it can feel like being wrenched away from your community and the memories contained in a home that probably launched the lives of a couple of children and a handful of pets.

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Here is what you should ask yourselves first.

When are you ready?

garden
When gardening goes from a passion to a burden, it might be time to leave it behind. Photo: Shutterstock

If you’re having trouble maintaining the home or maintaining it causes you stress then that may be a sign you are ready to downsize, according to property expert at Mozo.com.au, Steve Jovcevski.

“Also, if you’re not using the full footprint or amenities of the house but are still paying to maintain them then that is another indication,” he said.

Or it could be as simple as the fact that the children have all gone and you are ready for another phase in your life.

Victorian General Manager of Property Group Satterley, Jack Hoffmann, said he deals with lots of older couples looking for more compact spaces.

“Running a family home isn’t easy at the best of times, especially when you have to spend time and money heating and cleaning empty rooms, redecorating bedrooms that nobody sleeps in, or mowing the lawn that nobody has played on for years,” he said.

“Across Victoria we’re finding parents and grandparents downsizing and moving closer to their children and grandchildren, which is obviously a beautiful reason to downsize.”

Can we fit into a smaller place?

Moving into a smaller home means you must be prepared to leave a few things behind.

boxes moving house
Effective planning keeps savings high. Photo: Shutterstock

Don’t try to fit a lifetime of furniture into your new, smaller space.

“Our tip is to start early and start selling or giving away the unwanted furniture that simply won’t fit in your new home,” Mr Hoffmann said.

Furthermore, before you list the house for sale, it’s important to seek financial advice as downsizing can impact on your finances, Mr Jovcevski said.

“These can range from stamp duty on the new property through to impact of having surplus money,” he said.

“Your ability to receive the pension may be affected.”

Is it cost-effective?

On paper, it would appear that downsizing is a fiscal no-brainer. You sell that capacious Edwardian for a two-bedroom townhouse, and you are bound to have some money left over.

Well, not always.

“If the furniture won’t fit into their new, smaller homes people will have to buy new dining room tables, sofas and televisions, all of which eats into the profit they made by downsizing,” Mr Hoffmann said.

Mr Jovcevski added that downsizers might be competing with a new group of buyers in the apartment market which pushes the sale price up.

“Downsizing to a smaller house or apartment in a similar area may not be as cheap as you’ve planned,” he said.

“You may be better off looking outside the square, especially if you’re not restricted by needing to be close to work and schools.”

Why not upsize?

Some couples are choosing to upsize later in life. Photo: Shutterstock
Some couples are choosing to upsize later in life. Photo: Shutterstock

Traditionally, downsizing occurs after the kids have left home and retirement has either arrived or is around the corner.

But managing director of Sydney’s CPM Realty, Sam Elbanna, has noticed that some retirees are actually choosing to upscale their property.

“Essentially they are of the belief that it makes more sense to downsize when you are frantically leading a busy life, and upsize when you have time to relax and enjoy your home,” he said.

And Mr Elbanna conceded there was some merit to this thought process.

“For me, the best time to downsize is at that time in my life when I am looking to travel regularly and the ability to lock the door on my apartment and return a month or three later, secure in the knowledge that everything is OK,” he said.

“So the best time to downsize is very much dependent on your lifestyle and your aspirations.”

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