The conundrums of a down-sizer

I read a pretty amazing statistic the other day: pensioners now control more than 44% of our housing wealth.

This is a staggering figure. But when you think about it, it explains a lot about the housing market as this important segment of the market owns a lot of the good quality family homes that so many buyers are looking for – and are in such short supply.

It’s a real issue and has been for a while, but there are ways around the problem.

The fact is that down-sizers are good buyers. They are moving for a reason – so are motivated buyers. They are also predominantly in a stronger financial position, having seen massive increases in property prices over the past 30 years.

It is also a fact that more of these buyers would definitely make the move to down size if they could find more suitable properties.

Doing the job I do, I get to speak to quite a lot of down-sizers and like so many of them, I met a couple recently who explained the problems and frustrations they – and quite a few of their friends – have been experiencing.

They moved to their home 34 years ago and brought up their four children there. At the time it was perfect for their needs: four bedrooms, plenty of space for their children to run around and a large garden.

However, they told me they now felt that they were rattling around in their home save for the odd weekend when family came to visit, and even though they still loved the house, they told me their kitchen was old, the internet didn’t work very well, and the place cost them a fortune to heat and maintain!

For the last few years, they have been thinking about down-sizing. Recently, they have even taken to looking at property websites. Yet no matter how many pretty cottages and purpose-built retirement homes they have browsed through, they are yet to take the plunge.

Perhaps they are being too fussy. Perhaps that ideal property doesn’t exist.

Whatever the case, there is, of course, a lot to be said for down-sizers moving to a property within walking distance of everything they need – and housebuilders should realise that there is a great opportunity here.

Housebuilders and developers should realise that if they offer down-sizers something to whet their appetites, then house-hunting will start to become more interesting and fun for them, rather than depressing and uninspiring – and they will feel more motivated to make the move.

Of course there’s the financial element, too.

Last year, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People commissioned a report by the think tank Demos. It recommended three things: remove stamp duty for down-sizers buying for under £250,000; allow down-sizers with less valuable homes access to help-to-buy deals; and provide financial advice to help people work through the options.

Down-sizers want to feel better placed to make the decision to move before they are forced into it.

If a more sensible approach was given to planning – and buyers’ needs and demands were considered properly – then perhaps we would see more down-sizers putting their own properties on the market confident in a wider choice of suitable properties for them to move to, rather than the dirge of new builds that are snapped by the buy-to-let investor market.