“Some people are really surprised by how much more time they have for things they enjoy. They love having the freedom and flexibility to pick up an old hobby or start a new one, do some form of work or volunteer.” – Aimee Defries.
It was the daily chore of watering their large garden that prompted Anne and Peter to start thinking about downsizing. “I was fed up with needing to hand-water the garden during the drought,” says Peter.
“We’d decided we’d both retire in the next 12 months, so we thought we could move somewhere smaller that possibly required less maintenance and certainly had a smaller garden, which would free up some capital to add to our superannuation fund.”
From the ease of a smaller garden to the thrill of a new location, there are numerous reasons why you might consider selling your family home and right-sizing. If you’re starting to consider whether right-sizing might be right for you – but aren’t quite sure exactly how it might benefit you – we’ve put together a list of reasons for right-sizing that you may not have thought about.
1. You’d like more money to spend in retirement
Having more money to spend when you’re no longer working could make a big difference to your wellbeing – and selling your family home and moving into a smaller property can be a good way to put extra cash in your pocket. This can be particularly effective if you’re eligible for a downsizer contribution, which allows you to add up to $300,000 (each, if you’re in a couple) from the proceeds of the sale to your superannuation fund, helping you to increase your tax-free income in retirement.
However, it’s important to look at the bigger picture before taking the plunge. For example, if you’re counting on the Age Pension you should talk to an independent financial adviser to make sure the pension won’t be affected by the sale. You should also take the costs of selling and buying into account, such as real estate agent fees, stamp duty, legal fees and removal costs.
2. Your house is too big for your needs
Do you feel you need spare bedrooms “just in case”? Are there rooms – such as a family room or formal dining room – you only enter to clean?
For Peter, this was the tipping point. “We had a house that was perfectly manageable for us as a couple, but we had a dining room that was absolutely surplus to our needs, and two spare bedrooms. We had three rooms we didn’t need, so right-sizing gave us better bang for our buck in terms of space. We now use all the rooms we’ve paid for.”
In general, the larger the home, the more expensive it is to run. Along with the cost of maintenance and repairs, your bills for cooling and heating, water, council rates and insurance could all be very high. Together, they can add up to a significant percentage of your income, particularly in retirement. A move to a smaller property could potentially help to cut those costs.
Maintaining a large home also takes time and energy. If you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of keeping your house in good repair and your garden under control, you might welcome the ease and convenience of a smaller home.
3. You want to embrace a new lifestyle
A big house in the suburbs is ideal for a growing family but, as you get older, you might crave a change.
Perhaps you’d like to live closer to your grandchildren – or perhaps you dream of waking up to the sound of the ocean, the birds of the bush or the buzz of inner-city traffic. Rightsizing could be the key to spending every day in your ideal surroundings.
“Some people are really surprised by how much more time they have for things they enjoy,” says Aimee Defries, Executive Manager Consumer Experience at Australian Unity, who has worked in the seniors living and aged care sector for ten years. “They love having the freedom and flexibility to pick up an old hobby or start a new one, do some form of work or volunteer.”
Looking for new friends and a sense of community? Right-sizing to retirement village might be the right option, with Lauren Ffrost – General Manager of The Grace Albert Park Lake, an Australian Unity retirement community – pointing out that their residents love the community’s social networks, as well as its other services and amenities.
Or, if you’re a nomad by nature, retirement can be the perfect time to travel. Overseas may not be an option for a while, but there’s a lot to enjoy closer to home – so who will water your garden while you’re away? The responsibilities that come with a larger home can be limiting, but many apartments take care of themselves.
4. You’d like to feel more secure
We often become more conscious of safety and security as we get older. Some people choose to right-size to a retirement village for features such as secure parking, security cameras, emergency call systems, good lighting and night patrols.
You might also save on insurance. Retirement communities tend to have fewer break-ins and have strict regulations that reduce the risk of fire, which can lower your insurance premiums.
5. You’re thinking about your future
The majority of Australians say they want to live in their own home for as long as possible.
“Right-sizing gives you an opportunity to prepare for that by choosing a home with features that allow you to continue living independently as you age,” says Aimee. “These could include having access to health and wellbeing services, no stairs or steps, roomy bathrooms and generous doorways in case you ever need a wheelchair or walking frame.”
Peter reiterates Aimee’s point. “It wasn’t necessarily something we’d considered, but our daughter is a physio and she was absolutely adamant that we bought somewhere that was single storey and that had a shower that we could walk into. And as we’ve got older, and our friends and family have got older, we’ve found this to be invaluable,” he says.
As there might come a point when you no longer drive, a new location can also ensure you’re within walking distance of public transport, shops, a pharmacy and medical care.
6. You're ready for a new adventure
If you see right-sizing in your future, it makes sense to plan well ahead.
“Some people experience unexpected life events that trigger the decision-making, and that can be very hard,” says Lauren. “You don’t want to be forced to act quickly to sell your home and find somewhere more suitable because you’re ill or have had an accident.
“It’s so much more positive all round if you see the move as the start of a new chapter – something to be celebrated and embraced. This is a chance to make new friends and join a like-minded community, particularly if you decide to right-size to a retirement village. We hear so many people say they wish they’d made the move sooner.”
Right-sizing is a big step, but it’s one that can have many benefits for your wellbeing. If you’ve decided to make the move, why not check out our downsizing planning guide to find out what needs to happen next?
Disclaimer: Information provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest.
Remedy Healthcare Group Pty Limited and Australian Unity Health Limited are wholly owned subsidiaries of Australian Unity Limited.
An Australian Unity health partner, Remedy Healthcare provides targeted, solution-oriented healthcare that is based on clinically proven techniques. In the past 12 years, they have worked with more than 100,000 Australians – helping them to manage their health through caring, coaching, empowerment and support.