If you’re among Australia’s 5.5 million baby boomers1, or you’re an empty nester hoping to spend less of your spare time maintaining the home and garden, downsizing can be a very appealing option.
There’s a whole range of downsizer properties to choose from, and no, downsizing certainly doesn’t have to mean fronting up to the local aged care village. New apartment developments, a villa or townhouse, or even just a smaller, lower maintenance house, can all be very appealing.
The key to whittling down the choice is to think about what’s right for you – and this will vary in line with your life stage. A 50-something for instance, is likely to have quite different needs in a home from a septuagenarian.
Features to weigh up
As a guide to what downsizers should look for, the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute2 (AHURI) conducted research into the home features that matter most to empty nesters, boomers and retirees.
It turns out one of the main drivers for downsizing is less time spent on maintenance. If that sounds like you, an apartment can be an ideal solution. Even if you’re a keen gardener, an apartment balcony can offer space to grow plants, or join the growing ‘community garden’ movement to satisfy your green thumb and make new friends.
Location and lifestyle
AHURI found location and lifestyle features are important too. Downsizers are keen to be close to friends and family but they also want the convenience of nearby shops, cafes and restaurants.
Access to quality medical facilities is another factor worth adding to your wish list. Even if you’re in great health today, it makes sense to be within reasonable reach of specialist clinics and hospitals as you age.
Transport facilities are also worth having on your wish list. Public transport can be a more convenient option for getting around as we get older, and even if a downsized home is within an easy walk to retail precincts, think ahead to consider if an easy stroll today will still be do-able in the years to come.
The ‘S’ factor – single level with storage and security
In terms of the type of home, the AHURI study found downsizers, not surprisingly, place a high priority on a single level home with no stairs. However, downsizers still want room for guests, or to entertain, and 2- and 3-bedroom homes are far more popular among empty nesters than single bedroom dwellings. This is an important consideration, as opting for a reasonable amount of floor space can help to boost your home’s resale value further down the track.
Internal layout matters too. Look for floorplans that allow for ease of movement, with lots of natural lighting and ventilation, and don’t scrimp on storage space. It’s easy to underestimate the volume of personal belongings we own, and downsizing shouldn’t have to mean shoe-horning possessions or personal documents into every available corner.
One other factor that AHURI’s respondents were keen on is good security. This can range from window locks and well-lit pathways in a freestanding house, to an intercom system or concierge service in a high-end apartment. Whatever the case, security can be the lynchpin that makes you feel safe and comfortable in your new place, and it’s definitely something to look for as we age and spend more time at home.
Taking the plunge to downsize is exciting – the start of a new beginning, and an opportunity to spend less time on chores, and more time on you.
Give your local Mortgage Broker a call today to understand what you can comfortably afford to spend on your next home.
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1ABS Cat 3235.0 - Population by Age and Sex, Regions of Australia, 2014
2Downsizing amongst older Australians, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute at The University of New South Wales, 2014