What to consider as a last time buyer
1st June 2017
This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.
So much information is focussed on first time buyers and their step onto the property ladder, but there should be an equal concentration aimed at last time buyers, to ensure their final house will suit all of their needs.
There are concerns that not enough family homes are available on the market, and this is due to older adults living in unsuitable properties, however the reality is that many find there are not enough properties appropriate for the last time buyer.
Nobody enjoys moving house, and the last thing you want to do in your retirement is to move a second time as what you expected to be your final home turns out to be unsuitable for your needs. See the handy guide below to make sure you are prepared as a last time buyer.
This may seem like an obvious solution to many problems, however there is much to consider when looking at a smaller property. There are clear benefits such as cheaper household bills and tax however whether you have just retired or settled into the routine, you want enough space to hold your life. The Readers Digest has some words of caution before you plunge in wholeheartedly:
“Before taking the plunge and downsizing, it’s important you work out how much it will cost you. Moving house involves many costs—such as legal fees, stamp duty and estate agent fees. All of these costs can eat into the money you will have at the end of the sale.
“You should also consider the reasons you’re making a move and talk to your family or friends about your decision.”
Often many choose to stay in the same home they raised their families in, and it becomes a hub for children and grandchildren alike. While this may be wonderful for holidays, it leaves you spending the rest of the year cleaning and paying for four bedrooms you don’t use.
Downsizing to less spare bedrooms will save on bills, while still allowing visitors to stay over as and when you please. It also means you can reduce the amount of furniture, bedding and other items that you acquire in a large home.
Clever use of space
Understanding how you use your home will help you know which rooms you require and which you can live without. Some people never use a dining room, and this could instead be a second bedroom or an area to pursue their interests. Others may find a conservatory doubles as the lounge offering another room up for repurposing. Walton Homes encourages people to plan when they look to downsize:
“Sit down and create a list of essential criteria when you’re downsizing/upsizing. You need to look at this from the point of view of what do you need, as opposed to what you want: How many bedrooms should the house have? What sized living room/kitchen/garden suits your needs? What are your reasons for moving? For example, are you downsizing to reduce your mortgage repayments?”
This extends into the gardeners. Keen gardeners may bemoan the loss of their greenhouse and acres of manicured lawn, but often this is impossible to maintain if you face limited mobility. There are many more options now available with lean to and wall greenhouses taking up much less space, while pots in a courtyard offer you a release for your green fingered tendencies without the upkeep of a lawn.
Everybody acquires a fair amount of household items, from family photographs to the steamer that was a Christmas present and has only been used once. If you are thinking of downsizing you will need to consider what furniture you can’t live without and what can go.
Whether it is an enormous welsh dresser you intend to giveaway or sell, or merely putting all the family photos in a digital archive, there is much you can live without and reducing the contents of your house will help you understand what size property you will need. James is a specialist from House to Home UK and has some suggestions of what to do with the items you decide you don’t need:
“Most of us have a wardrobe or cupboard filled with clothes that haven’t seen the light of day in ages. If you haven’t worn something in more than three years, it’s probably time it went to the charity shop.
• If you have any furniture you know will be too big for your new home and that you think may be of value, ask a local sale house to give you an idea of how much you could get for it at auction.
• Many charities will pick up larger items to repurpose.
• Finally, remember this is a positive step. Many people feel very liberated when they have rid themselves of clutter.”
The ‘where’ of downsizing is really important especially if you are considering your future accessibility, there are three circles of location to consider; Locality, Nationally and Family. While The Telegraph may post the top places to retire, it is really a much more personal decision than a top ten list can account for.
While you may currently be an independent two car household and want nothing more than a small holding in rural Sussex, looking at a more long term plan will drastically change your criteria. If you wish this to be a last time buy, then there may come a point where you don’t wish to drive all the time. This means living close to public transport and possibly a shop for the milk run. Many encounter medical difficulties, and being in walking distance to a doctor and pharmacy could be appealing.
The other element is social life. Many older people in the UK are lonely and isolated, if you pick a town or village that has a community, whether that is a pub or a bowls team, you will find it much easier to stay social.
The Balance rebuffs the appeals of rural living: “You may think you want to move away from civilization, but you can easily begin to feel isolated. Most importantly for seniors, a full-service medical facility should be within reasonable driving distance.”
Where do you want to be in the country? This can be very dependent on hobbies and holidays as well as attachments like family and community. If you have had a favourite holiday spot that you have been going back to for years, downsizing may allow you to live in your dream location. Perhaps you have a passion for golfing and wish to be closer to a better club?
Often people choose to relocate down south due to the milder climate and gentler landscape, however a smaller house means smaller bills and if it is well insulated it can be quite economic.
Don’t let the winter weather put you off your retirement dream of living in the Lake District. While many of the top ten retirement spot lists can be discounted, a few are very helpful if you are looking at where to start. The Guardian created an in-depth study into top retirement towns and offer not only the percentage of other retired folk but also average rainfall and sunshine hours, crime rates and cost of housing, transport links as well as local areas of cultural and natural beauty.
Penelope Trunk is a career advisor and has been subject to a fair few locations, her advice is to look at it differently:
“Think about what you are actually willing to give up. Each relocation is really about giving up stuff that you have now that you won't have later. Getting new, fun stuff is going to be great. But knowing what you can do without is more important. And more mature. Because the most adult decisions in your life are ones that put severe limits on other possibilities.”
In years gone by, families would have stayed in the same area for generations, however 2017 finds them much more scattered, with children moving away to find work or staying in towns where they attended university. Though many people are attached to the area they raised their family, it in no way tethers them to it. The children may move to the big city, what is to stop you doing the same?
There are still things to consider however, though you may have a burning desire to enjoy your retirement in the furthest corner of the West Country, this may make getting to you a chore for family and friends. Pick an area that is accessible, with good rail and road links, if anything happens you want to be able to get to places fast and country roads may be attractive, but they are not renowned for speed.
While the rest of this advice may seem general, this section is very much tailored to the needs of the individual and the property in question. While you may currently be mobile, the future is an unknown and ensuring your property is set up to meet your needs is a crucial step to finding your perfect home. Your Home in Australia note the importance of accessible housing:
“By meeting occupant needs over a greater period of time, the liveable house and the adaptable house reduce the need to relocate to alternative housing, which can break community ties. They are also attractive housing options for the greatest number of people and therefore provide a sound investment for resale and rental.
“Design for adaptability enables rapid response to changing life needs which can be swift and unexpected. It also increases the building’s serviceable life span before remodelling, with associated financial, energy and material savings.”
Ensuring your house is step free may not seem like a big deal now, however if you do have limited mobility in years to come, pre-emptive planning will be incredibly helpful. This doesn’t just include inside your home, but getting to and from your front door, a dropped pavement nearby and accessible parking are all important factors.
This by no means constrains you to a bungalow as interior facilities can make multiple floors available to you. You can even contemplate flats as long as they have an elevator. I would note that if your mobility is impaired, then a flat may not be an option due to emergency evacuation.
Though you may not want to widen all the door frames as soon as you move in, this could be a possibility in years to come. Ensuring your stair case is suitable for a stairlift and your bathroom has the capability to house a walk in bath or shower will make you more comfortable in your later years. As more people opt to live independently, adapted interiors are becoming more and more vital. According to Cheat Sheet’s factors to look at before buying a retirement home:
“Believe it or not, the bathroom is the No. 1 room in the house where accidents occur, says comFree. You want to make sure to have a bathroom that has enough space to move around. While some bathrooms may already offer various safety features or appliances, such as grab bars, there’s a good chance you’ll have to install these yourselves if you ever opt for them. So, take a look and make sure you’ll have enough room to do that if you decide to make some safety changes.”
Rosemarie Rossetti is an expert in universal design and accessible housing and has long known the importance of modified interiors:
“I see a trend that seniors are preferring to stay in their homes as they retire rather than move to assisted living. AARP research shows that only 1% of all homes in the US are adequate for people to age in place. People need to create homes that will stand the test of time for independent living.
“In order to live in a home that will support independence, safety and accessibility oftenmodifications are needed to an existing home, or families must move, or build a new home that will be more accommodating. Factors such as no-step entrances, 36” wide interior and exterior doors, low door thresholds, curbless showers, 17” high toilet seat height, and grab bars in the toileting and showering areas need to be included. Homes with a bedroom and full bathroom with a curbless shower on the first floor will accommodate families who have members that are unable to use stairs to a second floor.”