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In our quest to look at a variety of accommodation options
in retirement, the one big question is
– Should I downsize or not?


downsizing home 1200



There comes a time in all of our lives, where the big question raises its head.  What to do?  Stay in my home and adapt it for advancing years?  Do I downsize?  Do I move to a retirement village?  Will I need frail care?   When?  How?  Why?  Why not?  The majority of  South African over-60s, who are still living in their homes, are exploring alternative options for accommodation in retirement.

Retirement villages are great, but not everyone can afford them?  Co-housing is a possible option.  What about ageing in place (staying in your own home as you get older) or living with one’s children (a growing trend out of necessity).  And then there is downsizing.


YEI looks at several aspects of downsizing
– all of which need careful consideration


What does it mean to downsize?

Downsizing means moving to a smaller home from the family home and simultaneously reducing the amount of possessions that you own.  In later life, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage a large home and garden, and on a fixed and/or limited pension, the costs of maintaining the home can become a burden.

You may think that downsizing is not an option for you – you may think that it is a critical survival strategy that could boost your savings.  Life events can overturn one’s retirement plans on their head.  However, does downsizing boost your coffers – read on…


downsizing the big question


Research, research, research and then plan, plan, plan

Downsizing can set an emotional rollercoaster in place.  Timing is a critical consideration – don’t move on impulse – you may regret your decision.  Run the numbers before you start packing – you need to do your homework thoroughly when making the downsizing decision.  Will the family home fund a happy retirement and bolster your nest egg?  Consider unexpected life events that could be a drain on your pension.  Also consider if you can adapt your current home to meet your physical and financial needs in later life?  And when you think you are ready to make a decision, consult a Financial Advisor for assistance in crunching the numbers.


Where do you want to live?

 Do you want to live in a smaller home, a retirement village or a flat within a retirement complex?  Do you want to live near friends, your children and grandchildren, in the country, the city or by the sea?  What sort of climate are you looking at?  Do you want to be close to medical facilities?  Or do you want to stay in your family home?


Financing your retirement by selling your current home – myth or fact?

Many of us bought our homes in the 70’s and 80’s and their current value has substantially increased. Many people believe that they can sell their home, buy a smaller place and invest the difference to boost their retirement savings.  Time to do your homework – it is possible that you have overestimated what your home is worth and you will reap less profit that you had hoped.  Consult three or four estate agents to get a realistic estimate on your home’s current market value.


downsizing - couple asking questions


Don’t forget the additional costs

It may have been years since you last bought a home.  Don’t forget to factor in all the additional costs – legal fees, estate agent commission, moving costs, levies, maintenance, security and all possible hidden costs.


In a nutshell:


Signs that it could be time to downsize:


  • Your youngest child has moved out of the family home
  • There are rooms in the house that are not being used
  • Everything is becoming too much work – the house, the garden
  • You are either retired or preparing for retirement
  • You feel it’s time to be living a simpler life so you can lock up and go, have more time with family and friends and travel to those bucket list destinations


 The good parts about downsizing


  • You will simplify your life
  • You will reduce your accumulated lifetime possessions which have probably become a burden
  • Downsizing could mean easier, cheaper, less stress
  • You could increase your retirement pot
  • Your home-maintenance and utility bills will reduce for years to come.
  • Lock up and go and travel more frequently


Toys house and pile of coins representing downgrade to a smaller home


Thoughts to consider when downsizing


  • Downsizing can bring about an emotional rollercoaster. Do your homework thoroughly and ensure that you are prepared emotionally before moving.
  • We can’t emphasize this enough – check out the financials, the total cost of downsizing. Consider all the hidden expenses.
  • Consider your friends and family. Some say that as you get older, your social network becomes even more important than your family.  If you move, will you be further away from good friends?
  • Are there activities that you would enjoy in the new vicinity? Are there health-care services available?  What sort of transport is available?
  • Will you be able to live in your new home for a long time? Does it have the features that enable ageing?
  • Be honest about why you are considering moving. Consider the financial reasons and the practical reasons.  Assess your current and possible future needs so that you can reach old age with dignity and comfort.
  • How about renting in the new area for a year before you sell up the family home? This will give you a good idea of what your new location is like throughout the year, and whether moving to this new area is the right move for you.
  • If you are living mortgage-free, but need more income – have you considered renting a room or turning the garage into a bedsit?


downsizing home


So is downsizing for you?


Experts have said that downsizing needs to reduce your expenses by at least 25%.  If not, is it worth the trauma, the bother, the expense.  If you have done all your homework and are convinced that it is, then a whole new simplified life could be waiting for you.


YEI readers have this to say:

James and Helen live in Claremont.  They believe that their biggest asset base is their current home and they plan to live there for the next 5-10 years.  They plan to put their names down at one of the local retirement homes, but “the waiting list is so long, we’ll probably be dead by the time they offer us a place”!!  The only reason that would prompt them to sell earlier would be if they were made an offer on the house that they simply couldn’t refuse, or possibly ill health.  James view on downsizing is that it is “bloody expensive, and costs a lot of money!”

“Downsizing at this stage of our lives just does not appeal” – so say Trish and Kim who have been living in their Newlands home for over 38 years.  At this stage of their lives, nothing would prompt them into selling.  They love their home which is not big.  The garden is manageable, and there is adequate space for grandchildren to play and for the old fogies to play a game of croquet or boulle.    They believe that buying into a retirement village is very expensive when one takes the on-going costs of levies into account.  Trish agrees that a retirement village would be a lure for someone who might have lost a partner, or for those who enjoy community spirit, but it’s not for them.

Belinda and John have had their adult daughter, her husband and two small tots move back to Cape Town from Canada.  With the cost of housing going through the roof, the decision they have made is to turn their granny flat into a larger abode.  Belinda and John will move into the granny flat while the youngsters take over the main house.  They believe that this is a win-win situation for the whole family.

Felicity and Mark believe that they have experienced an upside to downsizing since they moved into a smaller home in a retirement village.  Their life has simplified.  They have more usable money.  Their quality of life is so much better than it was – they are able to go out regularly for meals and they are in a position to travel to see grandchildren in the UK.


Where are you at in this cycle of life?

Do share your thoughts and experiences of downsizing
with us in the comments section below


Related articles:


Farewell Old Age Home! Hello co-living!

The unique challenges of Retirement: Challenge #3 – Housing



  • BARRY SMITH says:

    An excellent article to such an important aspect of retirement, which one could quite easily make a mistake which one could regret for the rest of their lives. You have provided the reader with so much valuable information to assist a reader make such an important decision. In our book ” The Next Step – planning the road through retirement ” i covered this most important aspect in a separate chapter. Kind regards.

  • Lyn says:

    This is our dilemma a the moment – what to do – to move to the coast or not! We would like to be closer to family and friends, but could not bear to leave the grandchildren and family who live close to us a the moment – although they keep saying that if the right job opportunity comes up they will move to the coast too…Our other son is married and living in New Zealand and wants us to emigrate to be closer to them when they start a family and because they don’t think SA is as safe as it should be because of the extremely high crime rates. We love our home but it is going to be too large to maintain eventually. Friends of ours from Gauteng lived in Sedgefield for a year and decided that village life at the coast was definitely for them. They stayed for 3 years and are now back in Centurion as they said it was just too windy, sandy and miserable down there? It was like living in an old age home as everyone they met was in their late 70’s or 80’s and they are still in their 60’s? They missed their family and friends too much. What to do? So confused!

  • Vivienne Moore says:

    Thank you we are busy downsizing, we have bought into a retirement village, so the articles have been a big help. The Village is still being developed we
    are due to move into our unit in January 2019, we put our house on the market as we were not sure how long it will take to sell, within three days we had
    a buyer. So we have two months to pack up our home of 30 years so all the options have been a big help. I plan on holding a garage sale and then what is not
    sold will call in Cash Converters to see what our options are there.

  • Peter says:

    A very relevant subject.
    We decided to stay in our existing home, but to de-clutter (only partially successful thus far i must say!) and most importantly to reduce our own living area by converting other portions of the home for additional income and building an additional garden cottage to rent out.
    This way we have (partially!) de-cluttered and downsized while still remaining in our own neighborhood and place.
    Also can keep an eye on the property.
    This way you still have the capital appreciation factor (if any, these days) and still in the comfort of your own, albeit reduced space.
    Of course there are pro’s and con’s to this but then also to selling .

    For example Can you earn enough income from investing your NET sale proceedings to cover your cost of renting or buying elsewhere?
    AND have some sufficiently greater income or savings in cost to warrant the change? If not – don’t do it!

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