Natalie said: “As temperatures drop and heating and maintenance bills start to rise, older people become more conscious of their homes and the costs and practicalities surrounding them, particularly if they live alone. I work with a lot of older people who are in the process of making difficult downsizing decisions, but also with some savvy singletons in their latter years who are keen to make some money when they find themselves empty nesters. Neither kind of decision is simple, and not every older person is well placed to make difficult planning applications even if they had the capacity to build in their back gardens, so my approach is usually a very bespoke but honest and transparent one, taking into consideration personal situations and what back-up networks the individuals have, should things get complicated.”
“My six-step guideline is something I go through with most older people who approach me about selling their home or downsizing. It seems quite straight forward, but selling a property is one of the top five stresses in life, so I try to make it as easy and smooth a transition as possible for those who are at their most vulnerable and not as dynamic about making decisions.
- Think first about where you would like to move to – the size and cost of the house as well as bathrooms and ground floor facilities should you become unwell or incapacitated for stairs. Think also about things like proximity to public services and amenities, even church or community groups for social outings – and also think about how life might be if you weren’t able to drive all of a sudden due to illness.
- Get a valuation, in fact; get a few if you can. And keep an eye out for properties in your area to see what they are selling for – or if they’re selling at all.
- Consider renting a property. It’s often the case that when you decide to downsize, the house that might tick all your boxes it not available to purchase. A popular option is selling your own and renting until your ideal property comes onto the market. It also means that you are in great position to make an offer as you are not subject to sale.
- What to look out for when purchasing a new house. Use your agent as a sounding board for advice, check out the EPC Rating (Energy Performance Certificate) this will highlight what you need to do to the property to make it more energy-efficient.
- Start to consider what items of furniture you want to take with you and those you are happy to part with. Remember that downsizing a home also means downsizing in belongings. Using an auctioneering service to pick up and sell items for you can be handy.
- Clarify the service that your agent will provide. Ensure you agent will do all the viewings for you. Often an agent will facilitate in the purchase of a new home also, so make the most of him or her should you have a good relationship.
There are other things to consider of course, but these key tips can help focus on what needs to be done and help assess if a move or even a downsize is the right thing to do.
Brenda Kearns, Head of Advice at older people’s charity Age NI said: “Last year we received over 700 calls to our advice service about housing concerns, with many of these taking place in the winter months. Many older people want to stay in their own home, but need it adapted so that it’s easier to get around. Some find that they are able to manage better if they downsize to a smaller property. This can release equity which can supplement your pension if you’re a homeowner, and reduce running costs, housework and maintenance. Many older people see the benefits of moving to a smaller property – from financial to practical. The process can be challenging for someone who is vulnerable or living with ill health. Think about what you might need in the future, as well as what you want now. Talk through the possibilities with family or friends but remember that choosing where and how you live should be your decision.’
Mr Raymond Hunt, a downsizer who is 71 from Malone Road in Belfast said: “It was a tough but really great decision to downsize. Life is easier now that we don’t have a big house to maintain or the bills that go along with it. It was important for us to have an estate agent who would be patient and understanding, because change at our age isn’t easy! Natalie looked after everything for us, she gave us great advice on how to stage the house and get it ready for viewing, and she did all the viewings for us and gave us regular feedback. She found a buyer quickly and we got a great price (£30,000 over the asking price). She guided us through the various surveys and the conveyancing process and she even helped us secure our new home. I think it’s vital to find an estate agent who you can build a strong relationship with and who understands your personal and commercial needs.”
For those seeking personal advice around downsizing or moving home, please contact Natalie Clarke on 028 9031 0500 or visit www.natalieclarke.com