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Is Downsizing a Good Idea?

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Is Downsizing a Good Idea?

A family home is fast-moving, vibrant, dynamic, even chaotic with a multitude of different characters thrust together under one roof. An eclectic mix of props compete for space with golf clubs, ballet shoes, football boots, hurling helmets and much more besides all comingled. The home is busy with various comings and goings; parents going to work, kids to school, friends calling over, coming home from football training, going to birthday parties all create an energetic hub of activity. But then one day, it all stops. Kids ultimately fly the nest and what once seemed a cramped, noisy space now becomes a cavernous house devoid of the activity that characterised it for so many years – the so-called empty nest. Rooms that once bulged with clothes and various belongings are now empty with doors unopened for weeks at a time.

“Downsizing” from the “empty nest” is now on the agenda as the owners of the property agree that it no longer fits their needs. The prospect of releasing often substantial equity and purchasing a more compact property becomes an attractive proposition. But selling one property to buy another can be a daunting prospect. Below is the experience of Mairead Robinson, an Auctioneera client, who successful completed a downsizing & has not looked back since.
A family home is fast-moving, vibrant, dynamic, even chaotic with a multitude of different characters thrust together under one roof. An eclectic mix of props compete for space with golf clubs, ballet shoes, football boots, hurling helmets and much more besides all comingled. The home is busy with various comings and goings; parents going to work, kids to school, friends calling over, coming home from football training, going to birthday parties all create an energetic hub of activity. But then one day, it all stops. Kids ultimately fly the nest and what once seemed a cramped, noisy space now becomes a cavernous house devoid of the activity that characterised it for so many years – the so-called empty nest. Rooms that once bulged with clothes and various belongings are now empty with doors unopened for weeks at a time.

“Downsizing” from the “empty nest” is now on the agenda as the owners of the property agree that it no longer fits their needs. The prospect of releasing often substantial equity and purchasing a more compact property becomes an attractive proposition. But selling one property to buy another can be a daunting prospect. Below is the experience of Mairead Robinson, an Auctioneera client, who successful completed a downsizing & has not looked back since.

Author: Mairead Robinson, Auctioneera Client & Successful Downsizer

So you get to a stage in your life when you have an ‘empty nest’ and you find that not only have your children moved away, but they have suddenly become the parents and you the child! It amazed me when my daughter first suggested I that I sell our large house and buy somewhere nearer to public transport and make provisions for when I would be less mobile and independent! Indeed I was quite taken aback at the notion that I might be an ‘old lady’ although she insisted that it was opportune to move while I was still active and mobile and able to forge a new life for myself. And so after mulling around the idea for a year, I decided to put the house on the market.

Now my house was very large, nearly 3,000 sq. ft. and included three bathrooms and six bedrooms, plus over an acre of a garden and was full of character and charm; however it was in a very rural location, situated just off the Ring of Kerry. So it was not going to be for everybody, but it was going to be perfect for a family who wanted to relocate from city living to a beautiful place and avail of a scenic quality of life together with most mod cons including super-fast broadband.

So that is what happened – a young family from Dublin came to view it and appreciated all we had done with the renovation of the Old Schoolhouse thirty years ago, and saw the potential to bring it forward for the next thirty years. And that left me with the quandary of what to buy, where to move to, and how to secure my finances for the future.

Like most of us when we become grandparents, I liked the idea of being closer to the little ones, but while they can be scattered in various locations between different families, we also want to maintain our independence and quality of life. Having lived in a more rural location previously, I wanted a smaller house, close to public transport and services. I also wanted to be closer to both my children and their families. For myself I wanted to have a warm, cosy house together with a small garden that was both light-filled and modern.
House prices are an ever changing nightmare, and it seemed to me that during the year that my house was on the market, prices locally were going down (they blamed Brexit), while prices closer to the city were on the rise (housing and rental crisis). But the whole idea of downsizing is to release equity, so it was important to find the right house in the right area and at the right price.

Is Downsizing a Good Move?

This can prove easier said than done, as the old saying: location, location, location is key to how quickly and easily you will sell your house. If you are out in a rural area, as I was, it is certainly going to be a longer wait for the right person/people to come along. And then looking for a house in a more urban area will also mean that the price can be substantially higher. It is best to register for property alerts, for example on Daft, MyHome & Auctioneera so that you will be the first to see properties as they come on the market. I also advise going to view as many as you can, make notes on what you like and don’t like, and also take note of how you feel. You need to get the “I can be at home here” feeling! Of course, it is impossible to tick all the boxes, but try to make sure that the important ones are covered. These might be the garden, downstairs bedroom/bathroom, proximity to public transport and family etc. Also take note of the BER, and checkout the heating system, to ensure you are comfortable with that.

It can be helpful to use the same solicitor for both the selling and the purchase of your home. Get him/her to keep you informed of the conveyance progress and of course agree a fee for both transactions. Remember that in addition to the legal fee, there will be other charges; the largest of these is the 1% stamp duty you will need to pay on the purchase of your new home. Also make sure you are aware of what is included in the sale and what is not, as you may end up spending a lot of money on renovation.

If releasing equity is not the most important factor in your move, you may be able to enjoy spending some money, refurbishing and redecorating your new home and even modernizing it to add a sun-room for example, as I did. Get a good engineer, architect and builder and ensure that you agree prices before you start. I found the renovation the most exciting part of the process, as like many of us, I had been living in a house barely changed for decades. Seeking out contemporary style and comfort was a real joy!

Forging a new life for yourself in your 60s can be challenging, but also full of fun and adventure. You can keep your costs down by using a fixed price estate agent such as www.auctioneera.ie. I used Auctioneera and saved thousands in estate agency fees.

Another important tip is to think carefully before you put your furniture and ‘bits and pieces’ in storage. If you are paying for this, it can be a substantial charge, or if like me you have a good friend with a large empty garage, it will only cost you the transporting to your new home. But here is the real warning – you may well find, as I did, that most of your ‘old stuff’ will neither suit nor fit in your new house. And you might like to go for a completely different style of décor, so try to be a little ruthless when it comes to de-cluttering and keep only what you absolutely cannot bear to be without. A final piece of advice is that the amount of paperwork now necessary for selling and buying a new home can be daunting. So, you may find that the whole process takes weeks or months longer than anticipated. Start getting the paperwork in order as soon as you decide to sell, so that when the deal is to be done, it can be done more swiftly.

Since the ‘lockdown’ and the impact that Covid-19 has had on every aspect of our lives, the housing market is more buoyant than ever. It is vital that you get a good estate agent who will ensure that your house will be viewed by the maximum amount of people. It is a major move, and you want to ensure that you get it right. So you may decide to move to an apartment (remember there will be annual service charges), or to move abroad where the climate might suit you better, but be sure you won’t miss family and friends too much.

Or like me you might want a smaller house in an urban location closer to family. So, six months into my new address, and am I pleased with the move? The answer is a resounding yes. I love my new house and the decorating and renovations are exciting and fun. While it is a major move to downsize, it can be the start of the next chapter of your life. Perhaps the best move you ever made!

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