Downsizing: everything you need to know about moving to a smaller home

If you think now is the time to declutter and downsize, here’s how to start your journey to a new, smaller property

This two-bed stone barn in Port Isaac, Cornwall has a large garden and countryside views, sold by johnbray.co.uk

There are many reasons why people decide to downsize. For some, it’s because the children have left home; for others, it’s the need for a place that’s easier and less expensive to look after.

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Whatever the reason, you’ll need to figure out what type of property you want, where you want it to be and how much you can afford to spend on it.

But, of course, downsizing also means you’ll have less space, which means every square inch of your new home has to work harder. So here are a few tips to help you find, and fit your life into, a downsized dwelling…

Downsizing: a step-by-step guide to making the right choice

Work out what you want when you downsize

Downsizing can be emotional and stressful, but it can have a number of benefits – you could save on bills, the property will be easier to manage and you can enjoy doing it up. Not to mention the fact that by selling a larger property and buying a smaller one you might end up with money leftover in the bank.

The first thing to do is work out why you want to downsize – is it due to money, property, location, family circumstances? Think about where you want to live to meet those needs – whether that’s somewhere nearby or another part of the country, a country cottage or a city apartment.

Make a list the things you need and want in a downsized home, as this will help to narrow your search. Look online at locations and the types of properties on offer and see what your budget allows.

Choose a property that’s right for you

Downsizing isn’t just about finding somewhere smaller; it’s also about finding a new home that suits your lifestyle and plans.

If you want this to be your forever home, you might want to consider a bungalow or somewhere with easy access and a small, low-effort garden for your retirement years. Think about what you can manage in terms of maintenance, upkeep and getting around, and how you might feel in five or 10 years’ time.

Many older downsizers opt for a retirement village aimed at residents who still want to live independently, or you could go for an apartment set within a maintained complex.

On the other hand, it may simply be a case of swapping a five-bedroom detached house for a two-bed terrace. Take your time to make sure your next property matches you and your needs.

Don’t rule out renting a smaller property

Many of us place a high value on owning our own home, but it may make more sense financially for you to rent rather than buy your next property. This will give you more flexibility and less of a longterm financial commitment later in life.

Plus, renting also frees up all the equity you may have left over from selling up, some of which you can use for travelling and holidays or gift to your children so it won’t be affected by inheritance tax later on (see gov.uk/inheritance-tax/gifts for information on criteria and limits).

When renting, you won’t have to worry about unexpected costs, such as a broken boiler, because the landlord will take care of them. It also means that you’re not tied to a particular property if you feel like a change in years to come. The downside is that by renting you aren’t building up any capital, but that may suit your circumstances, even if it’s in the short term.

Make sure you get a good deal

Once you know what sort of property you want, where you want that property to be and what you can comfortably afford to spend on it, you need to make sure you get the best possible deal.

Search property websites, keep an eye on local newspaper ads that cover the location you’re interested in and phone estate agents in the area to register your interest. Look at property developers’ websites as well as those linked to estate agents and check out property auctions too.

Visit the areas around the properties you’re interested in to get a feel for prices, traffic and noise levels, but also what amenities and transport links it has.

It’s also worth looking into up-and-coming towns where public transport is being improved and new shops are popping up, as you could bag a bargain.

Weigh up the costs of downsizing

It’s easy to assume that downsizing will save you money and while it certainly can, there are still plenty of costs involved with moving house, so ensure it makes financial sense before you leap in. Stamp duty rules return to normal (the threshold has been raised to £250,000 until October 2021), it will take up a large portion of your budget.

From October, you won’t pay anything on properties below £125,000 while those between £125,001 and £250,000 will pay stamp duty of two per cent. Anything above that is five per cent, increasing to 10 per cent on properties over £925,000.

Then there are the estate agent’s fees – these will vary but an average commission is around two per cent of your sale price. You could look at online agents instead, who charge a flat fee of around £700, or see our guide to selling your home without an estate agent.

Conveyancing fees and surveys will cost between £2,000 and £2,600, then there’s the price of hiring a removals firm as well as any décor, fittings and furnishings you need for the new place.

Start to declutter early

You’ll need to have a good sort out before downsizing. It’s potentially a big job, but if you start early it’ll feel less overwhelming. Sell your old things, donate them to charity shops or give them away on Freecycle or similar sites. Your local council may be able to collect large pieces of furniture or appliances for a small fee.

Keep any items you use regularly or that have sentimental value. But you’ll need to be a bit ruthless as the fewer belongings you have to take to your new smaller home, the larger it will feel, and you can begin your life there with a clean, decluttered space.

Feature Hayley Gilbert

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This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in Your Home magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?