That house you bought all those years ago has become a home in the last few decades, filled with the echoes of life. The sounds of the past ring loud once the place is empty – crying babies, the beep of the microwave, bouncing balls, clinking glasses, alarm clocks, showers, piano lessons, slamming doors and pet claws on floorboards have permeated the walls and now there is only silence.
Many people think that life will get easier once the kids move out and, in many ways, it does. But some things become more challenging – like managing the loneliness, working out what to do with all the extra time you have, and maintaining your property - that large family home that you’re now rattling around alone or as a couple in.
It’s common for parents to feel like they should maintain the family home for the rest of the family – so the children can come home for Christmas, or birthdays, or Easter holidays. But is this really the most practical choice? The truth is that wherever you are, the family will be. This is the end of one phase of your family life and the beginning of a new one.
Now is the time to think differently about your financial future. Your family home has probably increased in value considerably since you first bought it and living in it just doesn’t make much sense any more - especially when compared to renting it out for a solid income stream, or selling it and freeing up that capital. By letting go of the past, you can make decisions that create other opportunities more in line with your current values and plans for the future.
Retirement has changed in recent years, with people retiring earlier, living longer and having more options today than previous generations of retirees. Many retirees choose city life after so long in the suburbs raising families – ABS data states that since 2010, the aged population (65 years and over) of Australia’s capital cities has increased by almost 20% - from 1.8 million in 2010 to 2.2 million in 2015. This is a clear indication that retirees are rejecting the traditional notion of shuffling around a retirement village, between card games and naps, and opting to live their retired years in the best ways possible.
The concept of getting rid of things and moving to smaller living quarters is known as ‘downsizing’. The key considerations for those who are downsizing are affordability, location, security and lifestyle – some things don’t change! However, your priorities around those points will have changed now, especially with regard to lifestyle.
When downsizing your home, knowing what you can afford to downsize to is key – and exciting! It’s wise to get a few appraisals on your existing property to get a solid overview and then consider your other assets to determine exactly what your options are. You want to move to something smaller but your decision should also be a good investment choice rather than a decadent splurge.
More and more empty nesters are opting for a sea change as a way of choosing a totally different life, however as mentioned previously, city life is still the location of choice for many over 65s. The important thing for the individual though is to have access to the local facilities you desire, as well as to still be a manageable distance from family and your close friends. If it’s a long-term plan then consider what health facilities are nearby too, just in case.
There is a bit of a cliché about baby boomers being too extravagant but the subtext of that is to spend with a considered approach rather than with reckless abandon. Whatever you are downsizing to should provide you with a new home and lifestyle but also personal and financial security for your future.
You no longer have to choose ‘the right’ area – close to schools, with places where the kids can ride their bikes - for a family lifestyle. Now you can choose the lifestyle that suits you and your needs. Do your research before you buy and discover what’s available that will feed into your plans – walks on the beach, good cafes and bars, theatres, golf courses, gyms, bowls clubs – are all going to be on your To Do list, so your new address should have at least some of these at your disposal.
Making the transition into this next phase of your life might be a bit emotional and frightening, but also exciting and filled with possibilities. The first step is downsizing your home and that will quickly be followed by the upsizing of all other aspects of your life as you discover new freedoms and opportunities.
If you have downsized already, what tips can you share about your experience with our audience?
Thinking of selling
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.