There are many theories about the reasons behind the current housing shortage, but one area where many experts believe relief may lie is in the provision of a greater number of suitable ‘downsizing’ properties that would encourage older homeowners to move from their large family-sized property, freeing up much-needed housing stock and providing a ‘jump start’ to the industry.
It would appear there is certainly demand for suitable properties for the older homeowner, with a report released earlier this year suggesting that 33 per cent of homeowners aged 55-plus are currently considering, or plan to consider in the future, the idea of downsizing.
The report goes on to say, however, that a distinct lack of suitable property options is preventing them from actually making the move. Now research published by a retirement housing provider has added to the conversation, suggesting that one of the biggest factors in creating desirable property for the older homeowner is the provision of aspirational communal facilities such as health spas.
Peter Ford, chairman of Rangeford Holdings – a company that develops retirement villages, explains:
The ‘baby-boomers’ generation is growing fast, with Euromonitor forecasting their spending power to reach $15 trillion by 2020. This group (currently aged between 50 and 68 years) is widely associated with privilege and were the wealthiest, most active, and most physically fit generation up to that time.
With a liking for increased consumerism, the majority are not willing to compromise and looking to improve their lifestyle to suit their life stage at 55+.
And it seems that unwillingness to compromise has led to many UK homes being under-occupied, and millions of would-be home owners unable to get a foot on the property ladder.
Clive Fenton, chief executive officer of retirement property developer McCarthy & Stone, says:
Millions of older people want to downsize to more suitable housing but there is currently little incentive or choice for them to move. As a result, housing chains are blocked at the top of the ladder.
Mr Fenton goes on to suggest that attractive facilities will not be enough to attract downsizers, and instead the government should be looking at other ‘incentives’ to encourage downsizing.
Billions of pounds of housing for families and younger people could be freed up via policies that encourage a wider range of housing options and also incentives to move, such as a stamp duty exemption for those moving to a smaller property. This is an area which demands greater policy focus by government in 2016.
Danny Luke, managing director at Quick Move Now, commented:
A substantial number of our customers are homeowners choosing to downsize, so it’s definitely a trend that is continuing, despite a general shortage of appropriate properties. Older homeowners do control a large percentage of UK properties, and freeing up under-occupied family-sized properties would have a significant effect on the UK property market, but you can’t blame them for wanting to hold on to their properties if they’re not being offered an attractive alternative.
As the research has revealed, there is a desire and motivation there to downsize, but the property industry needs to provide properties that are worth downsizing to, and ensure that the move is financially beneficial.
Downsizers will undoubtedly benefit from lower property maintenance costs, lower fuel bills and a more manageable property, but if they’re having to pay tens of thousands of pounds in stamp duty and other moving costs the property industry is going to need to offer a more attractive prospect than just ‘lower bills’.
Ultimately, if an older homeowner finds an attractive, desirable property in the right area, that happens to offer the added benefit of being more manageable and more cost efficient, then they’re going to want to downsize. However, if the right properties aren’t available, those large family-sized homes are going to be held onto until would-be downsizers’ needs and desires are addressed.
Older homeowners do not want to be ‘packed off’ into just any property, they want to fall in love with their next home, just like any other house hunter.
They don’t want to be forced into downsizing, they want to be able to choose the right property to suit their preferred lifestyle; whether that’s a purpose-built retirement property with onsite leisure facilities or simply a smaller, more manageable property that enables them to maintain their independence.
The property industry cannot think of older homeowners as one entity any more than they can think of any other group of homeowners as one being; their wants and needs will differ hugely, and as such each homeowner must be treated as an individual.