Empty Nester's Guide to Downsizing to an Apartment

Friday 16 Nov 2018

Over the next 40 years, Australia will have to accommodate an increasing number of older people, many of whom will be living longer than previous generations due to improved health care. According to the federal government’s Intergenerational Report (IGR), Australia’s population will climb to 40 million by 2055, with 22.6 per cent (8.9 million people) aged over 65 years.

The retirees of today and tomorrow do not think about retirement in the traditional sense, and their lifestyle expectations are very different to their parents’ generation. After downsizing, they are looking to enjoy their new lifestyle close to transport, infrastructure and amenities, and be actively involved in their communities.

The city centres – once dominated by young singles – are becoming more and more popular with empty nesters looking for low-maintenance living. In metropolitan Sydney, for example, 33 per cent of apartment owner-occupiers are aged over 60, and 23 per cent of those intending to move to an apartment are over 60. And for those who wish to downsize close to where they currently live, there are a growing number of apartment developments and retirement resorts located in the suburbs.

With a changing lifestyle, it is vital to think about where and how you want to live, what your financial situation looks like and what is important to you. This article proposes considerations to help you make the right decisions.

Rustic Home Office by Jeni Lee

Consider the total cost of downsizing.

  • Consult three real estate agents for appraisals of your family home so you can gauge how much can you realistically sell it for. Then ask yourself, how much money will I have to invest in a new apartment?
  • Start searching early for the right place to live. There are specific real estate websites that focus on apartment developments and retirement villages in Australia and overseas.
  • If you plan to buy into a body corporate, check out the monthly fees and consider consulting a strata searcher to help you make the right decision.
  • Depending on where you would like to live, calculate your cost of living, which might be higher in an inner-city environment.
  • Think about what additional furniture you might need and if you can repurpose existing pieces.

Give an existing chair a new lease on life

Take the time to thoroughly think about your desired lifestyle after downsizing.

  • Embrace the change and be open to the opportunities that come with it.
  • Consider which activities, hobbies or interests you want to pursue. How will you accommodate your hobbies, and what will you need to do so?
  • If your hobby requires a studio or workshop, find like-minded people who are willing to share space.
  • Check out meetup to join other empty nesters in your area.
  • Now is the time to do the things you always wanted to do: exercise, start painting, join a writing group, travel, socialise with friends, and spend more quality time with your family.
  • Experiment and try something new. You deserve it! 


Beach Style Dining Room by Highgate House

Browse thousands of photos for home office inspiration

Choose a location that is close to the places you love and the services you need.

  •  Studies show that many retirees are not ready to retire from work in their 50s, but wish to downsize, pay off their mortgage and live a simpler life with less stuff.
  •  If you need to commute to work and prefer to use your car less often, choose a location close to public transport.
  •  A survey of 1,068 people – conducted by Seniors Housing Online – revealed that 88 per cent expect a garage or parking space, but 85.3 per cent also want to live near public transport facilities.
  • Over 80 per cent said they were prepared to move away from their local area to find the right retirement property and lifestyle.


Traditional Living Room by Inside Out Colour and Design

Beautiful dining rooms you wish you could call your own

Examine the design features of a prospective new home.

  •  Regardless of whether you are considering buying an apartment off the plan or downsizing to an independent living unit in a retirement village, always have a close look at the features of your new home.
  • There are a number of factors to consider. Ask yourself: How functional is it? Does it have enough storage options?
  •  Is there a balcony or courtyard that you can use as an outdoor area and additional room in the summer?
  • What about traffic flow? Will walkways still be wide enough once you have furnished the apartment?
  • Does it have enough natural light?
  • Consider consulting a professional to assist you in optimising the existing design according to your needs.

How to get one room to multi-task


Transitional Bathroom by Jordyn Developments


Make sure your home allows for you to live in it safely, independently and comfortably, so you can ‘age in place’.

  • None of us want to think about the days when health conditions might deteriorate, and walking becomes difficult, but those days can come at an advanced age.
  • If you intend to stay in your prospective apartment for the next 20 years, for example, have a close look at the details of its design.
  • More questions to consider are: How high are the overhead kitchen cupboards? Are they in easy reach, or do you need a step ladder to get something out of them?
  • How big is the bathroom? Can it be easily updated with safety features, if necessary?
  • How wide are clearances throughout the apartment? The smaller the apartment, the more important it is to work out how your existing furniture is going to fit.

Find inspiration from these popular bathroom designs Woods_Bagot.jpg

Contemporary Exterior by Woods Bagot AustraliaWoods Bagot Australia

Do extensive checks on this and you will have peace of mind.
The aspect of increased security in an apartment block can play an important role in the decision-making process when downsizing.
One empty nester told me that she sleeps much better since they moved to a secure apartment building.
If you are living on your own, it can be reassuring to know that you are not alone in the building, and that neighbours are within reach in case of an emergency.


Contemporary Courtyard by Aurora Florialis

Social network

  • Don’t underestimate the importance of family and friends around you – and the opportunity to make more.
  • How important is your social network? When downsizing to another suburb, city or even country, you might lose friends or have to reduce the number of interactions with them.
  • Are your family and friends a substantial part of your life right now? Would you be able to cope without a network of friends you can count on when needed?
  • When moving away from your existing network, make a plan for how you can find new friends. Consider voluntary work, joining a community centre or connecting with groups of like-minded people. With some effort, you will surely make new friends and establish close relationships.

For more expert advice on downsizing, tune in to the Downsize with Style podcast.

Contemporary by The Happy Home Blog

Bettina Deda 21 September 2015
Houzz Australia Contributor. Design and copy writer, interior stylist, collector of beautiful things, passionate about colour, interiors and art. Beauty and gratitude are my top personal values. The Art Gallery of NSW is a second home. The perfect weekend is browsing flea markets and antique shops. I love green tea. I am the proud mum of two lovely (wild) boys. Yoga and meditation have helped me step out of my comfort zone and experience new things.

Guest contributor: Bettina Deda; this story first appeared on houzz.com.au

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The following advice is of a general nature only and intended as a broad guide. The advice should not be regarded as legal, financial or real estate advice. You should make your own inquiries and obtain independent professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances before making any legal, financial or real estate decisions.