To downsize or not to downsize in retirement

Posted in: Finance Last updated: 06 Nov 2013

Once the kids have moved out, lots of us are left with an awful lot abandoned space that we don’t really need. As much as you’d have liked to turn the spare bedroom into a yoga studio, the reality is it’s been uninhibited for years and accumulating mountains of dust. Downsizing to a smaller abode can turn ‘empty nest syndrome’ into a positive opportunity – by primarily saving you some money.

Keymove Property Services reported around one in five (18%) of over 55s plans to downsize in the next five years to raise money [1]. But could you part with half of your belongings and settle into a smaller space? Here are some of the pros and cons.


  • De-clutter – moving homes is a perfect opportunity to sort out old items that are clogging up your living space. Clearing out old stuff can take time though, ‘it took us months to sort out our belongings, I would definitely recommend sorting things out a little at a time’ says Rose Chapman, a retired lecturer who went through the process not so long ago.
  • Lower utility bills – having less space means you won’t have to blast out the heating in unoccupied rooms and you could also reduce your monthly council tax bill depending on where you relocate to.
  • Less maintenance – a smaller house that is easier to manage and clean can free up time so you can attend that cookery course you’ve always wanted to join or the gym class you’ve been pondering over. ‘Since we downsized our home, I’ve found that I can get the housework done in half the time which means I can now concentrate on looking after myself’ says Mrs Chapman.


  • Breaking emotional ties – dealing with the emotional tangles that come with moving can be difficult. ‘It was hard to let go at first, saying goodbye to the home that we’d brought our family up in was heart breaking’ says Rose.
  • House prices – with market prices rapidly changing, downsizing doesn’t always promise financial stability. Moving home is a costly exercise in itself once the estate agent’s fees, legal costs and stamp duty have been accounted for. Staying in the same neighbourhood can be tricky too because a property half the size won’t necessarily be half the price.
  • Crowded – squeezing into smaller quarters and getting accustomed to a more confined living space can take time.‘ We have quite a big family and I was concerned it’d feel overcrowded when they came to stay at Christmas, but we managed.’ says Rose.

If you’re thinking about scaling back in retirement, there are a number of things to bear in mind:

Location - where do your children and grandchildren live? Will reducing the size of your home reduce your social circle? If you’re moving to a new town this can be a big adjustment. Having a close knit community is important for most of us so think sensibly about where you would be happiest.

Adequate amenities – look at your future needs. In the long term, accessibility will become a priority and convenience will be key so look out for areas with good transport routes and places that are short walk away from shops/ amenities. You’ll need to make sure you prepare for all potential circumstances.

Downsizing your home needs a great deal of thought and planning – it’s important that you consider your options carefully. Think about how much money you want to make from the move and set yourself a budget for the properties you want to look out for. Do your research – visit property websites, estate agents and keep your eyes peeled for adverts in the local newspaper. It’s always a good idea to seek professional advice before approaching this sort of situation.

1 Key Retirement Solutions (April,2013), “One In Five Over-55 Homeowners Want To Downsize” [online]. Available from www.keyrs.co.uk

Note: Whilst we take care to ensure Hub content is accurate at the time of publication, individual circumstances can differ so please don’t rely on it when making financial decisions. OneFamily do not provide advice so it may be worth speaking to an independent financial advisor about your own circumstances.