Leaving the family home is often daunting and emotional, but the pay-off can be financial freedom. To help you through the process, we spoke with Andrew Winter, the presenter of Selling Houses Australia. As a property expert, Andrew has plenty of helpful ideas on downsizing. Or, as he calls it, ‘right-sizing’.
Andrew started by explaining the main reasons for thinking about making the change.
‘Usually, your house has outgrown its usefulness. The kids might have left home, and you're in a big house that you no longer need. The bedrooms are being used for storage rather than anything else. The upkeep of a big house like that can be more expensive than necessary, especially if you have big gardens requiring maintenance.’
And, of course, you're sitting on capital or equity. Which is cash that’s waiting for you to make the most of it.
The biggest barrier to releasing that cash is usually the emotional and overwhelming thoughts about leaving your property. When Andrew holds live events, he often does an exercise where he asks people to raise their hands if they've lived in their homes for more than 10 years. Usually, a lot of hands go up at that question. Most stay up for over 20 years and over 30 years. And there are still quite a few hands in the air for over 40 and over 50 years.
That's a lot of memories. And often a lot of clutter.
Andrew has pragmatic advice on both.
‘You're going to have memories attached to a lot of your possessions, so take pictures of them. Then create a hardback book with all the pictures,’ he says. ‘Keep that book on the coffee table of your new place. When someone comes around and says “Remember that old table”, you can flick through the book and show them.’
Andrew gently warns children can exert a certain amount of pressure when it comes to keeping those memories alive. If they've grown up in the family home, they might not be the best people to ask for positive advice on moving. After all, somewhere to congregate at Christmas and a bunch of memories is not reason enough to stay in a house you no longer need.
The overwhelming thought of moving and getting rid of stuff is the other daunting prospect. Minimalism is rarely embraced.
Again, Andrew's advice is practical.
‘Take it slowly, and do things methodically. Clear one room at a time and do it over a period of, say 6 months. While you're looking around at retirement villages, start preparing.’
‘There are actually services that will help you do the whole thing. They can give advice, help with packing, selling, disposing, whatever you need.’ Andrew advises you to plan and budget in advance. There will be some stress, but you can minimise it by working through all the costs of moving and disposing of your clutter in advance.
You can prepare your property for sale at the same time. Update the garden, fix anything that's broken and take care of any odd jobs like painting and decorating.
A small investment before selling can pay dividends on auction day.
The upside of all this can be complete financial freedom for the rest of your life. No mortgage, a top-up of savings and superannuation with tax benefits. And perhaps even a beautiful, relaxing cruise to somewhere exotic once the move is complete.
Yes, there are monthly fees attached to your new retirement home, but as Andrew explains, it's worth comparing it to owning your home.
‘Add up your rates and other living expenses related to owning a home and see how they compare,’ he says. ‘They'll be nowhere near as cheap or fixed and reliable.’
‘Once the move is complete, it may not be the huge life change you expected,’ says Andrew. ‘Most people wake up on the first morning in their new place, and it all feels completely normal.’
Maybe it feels 'right-sized'.
For more information about the lifestyle and support offered at our retirement villages, call our customer service team on 1800 550 550.
If you think your family or friends might enjoy this article, please share it with them.