Downsizing is, at its most simple, moving to a smaller property. People often associate downsizing with retirement, although it can appeal equally to active empty-nesters attracted looking to release some of their equity.
Emma Sidney, a Conveyancer in the Residential Property team with Geoffrey Leaver Solicitors in Milton Keynes agrees. ‘Whatever your age, there are advantages and disadvantages to downsizing. It is a big decision, with lots to consider. So, it is important to plan well ahead and get the right professional advice from the start.’
The pros and cons of downsizing
If you are uncertain whether downsizing is for you, it can help to make a list of advantages and disadvantages, which you could then discuss with friends and family. For example:
- Downsizing could help you stay independent longer, and many older people choose to buy a bungalow or an apartment with this in mind.
- It could provide surplus sale proceeds, which you can use to boost your pension, fund a holiday home or help your children onto the property ladder.
- A smaller home will benefit from lower utility bills and other outgoings, and a more modern property will require less maintenance.
- Being closer to other family members or living in an area you love can provide that all important feel-good factor.
On the other hand, it is also important to think about what you might miss, and ask yourself how well you would cope with fewer rooms or less storage space.
Identifying what you want to get out of the move is key to determining where and for what type of property you need to search.
Getting your home ready for sale
Dealing with surplus possessions is the most common reason people give for not downsizing sooner. This may come as no surprise, as many of us would struggle to fit our furniture into a smaller space or know what to do with all the things we have accumulated over the years.
Starting the process of decluttering early on can help, as can a systematic approach. Experts recommend working through a house room by room, deciding which items to keep, which to give away, and which to bin. At the same time, you may want to think about improving the appearance of your property and completing any outstanding jobs, like fixing broken guttering or finishing off a painting project.
It may sound like a daunting task, but a well-maintained, decluttered home will be much more attractive to buyers.
Ideally, your preparation should also involve checking there are no legal issues which could affect a sale. These could reveal things of which you are unaware. For example, a strip of land you have used as garden for many years but which falls outside your legal title, or an extension which required a consent which has been overlooked.
Discussing your plans with an experienced conveyancing solicitor at the outset can help identify any issues. Acting early on issues can pre-empt problems, which could otherwise threaten your sale. For example, your solicitor may recommend applying to the Land Registry to regularise the position or title insurance to alleviate any buyer’s potential concerns.
Managing a chain of transactions
Naturally, you will want the best price possible for your home and for the sale and purchase to complete smoothly and without unplanned delay.
When downsizing, you may be vulnerable on two counts:
- First, you may find yourself competing against first time buyers, who sellers may prefer because they are chain free.
- Second, you will be selling a larger more expensive property and so you are more likely to find yourself at the top of a chain of connected transactions which introduces extra risk. Any one of the linked transactions could collapse, leaving your buyer, and you, unable to proceed.
Although there is no simple solution, there are ways of reducing this risk. For example, selling to a cash buyer significantly lowers the chance of your sale falling through, and you may be prepared to accept a lower price to reflect this. If you go down this route, it is important your agent conducts the correct due diligence and checks the buyer’s ability to proceed independently of a mortgage or any related sale.
Wherever you are in a chain, it is also important your conveyancer is both experienced and an excellent communicator. Regularly monitoring progress and giving your transactions their close personal attention means they will spot any issues early on. Dealing with potential delays before they become problems, offering solutions, and keeping everyone well informed will help to keep your transaction on track.
Part exchange schemes
Part exchange schemes tend to focus on buyers trading up. However, there are some schemes which target downsizers.
In these schemes, a developer takes your home in part payment for a new one. This can reduce the stress of moving as you do not have to worry about selling your current property. It is important to understand exactly what is on offer, and all the costs involved. You will almost certainly pay a premium for a new home. Sometimes those aimed at retirees also come with additional services and expense, which could increase rather than reduce your ongoing living costs.
Buying with cash
If you can afford to buy with cash, you may decide to downsize without selling your existing home. This can put you in a strong position negotiating your purchase, while renting out your old home could create a useful additional income stream. Doing this could affect the amount of tax you, or your estate, pay. So, it is important to discuss your plans with a solicitor experienced in both property and tax matters. They can then advise you how best to achieve your goals while minimising your liability.
How we can help
Moving house can be both exciting and stressful, especially when you are leaving the home you have lived in for many years. As well as being legal experts, we understand this and will do everything we can to ensure this important transition is as smooth as possible for you.
For further information, please contact Emma Sidney in the Residential Property team on 01908 689351 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Geoffrey Leaver Solicitors has offices in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.