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Pandemic prompts imminent downsizing plans for one in eight over 70s

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  • 1 in 8 over 70s have or are looking to downsize as a direct result of the pandemic
  • 1 in 3 downsizers are looking to better manage their home, while 1 in 5 seek to free up cash
  • 1 in 10 are now actively managing their finances with 1 in 5 planning a spending spree
  • Over 70s have reduced personal debt by a total of £1.7bn across the UK during the pandemic

Today, new research from Retirement Villages Group (RVG) reveals that one in eight (12%) over 70s have or are soon looking to downsize as a direct result of the pandemic. That offers the potential to unlock hundreds of thousands of homes in the property market as a result of shifting priorities amongst those in later life.

Downsizing from the family home – although often an emotional decision – can bring much freedom for older homeowners. RVG’s ‘Back on Track’ research shows that one in three (33%) older adults looking to downsize are doing so because their current property is too difficult to maintain, with two thirds (65%) recognising that their property is too large at their current life stage, while more than 1 in 5 (22%) are seeking greater financial freedom by unlocking equity from their home.1

As well as downsizing, over 70s are taking further steps towards increasing their financial freedom to ensure they’re able to live their best life, pursue goals, and stay active for longer. More than one in ten (11%) are now taking a more active role in managing their finances, while those with debts have reduced their debt by an average of £866 – a total of £1.7bn across the UK – since March 2020, and almost a quarter (23%) are saving more than ever before.

With their greater financial freedom, this is no time to slow down, with people aged over 70 looking for ways to treat themselves and get the most out of life. 1 in 5 (19%) are planning a spending splurge and 1 in 4 (27%) are planning to travel more than usual. They are also freeing up cash to better support their children during a challenging financial period, with 1 in 10 (10%) over 70s reporting that they lent more money to their children than usual in the last 16 months.

In light of a surge in demand for rural properties, a shortage of homes for sale, and rising property prices driven by the pandemic, more homes freed up in the property market could not be better timed for families looking to gain space. Encouragingly, 7% of people aged over 70 reported that the last 16 months have helped them raise the subject of moving out of the family home with their loved ones. However, many still find it a difficult conversation and put it off, staying in the family home for longer than is suitable.

Retirement Villages Group is calling for change, encouraging everyone – young and old – to open up better conversations about life choices in older age and start removing the stigma associated with downsizing. They are also calling for Government to introduce a SDLT waiver for downsizers to actively support people in making this choice and paving the way for families to confidently explore options that support independent, active later living choices.

Will Bax, CEO, Retirement Villages Group, comments:

“The pandemic has prompted many of us to rethink where we are in life leading to a huge surge in interest for our retirement communities.  Our research reinforces this trend, suggesting that more people are planning for the future, getting on top of their finances and exploring their property options. Whilst downsizing remains a difficult conversation for many families, for those that seize the moment it’s a massive step towards financial freedom that enables people to live life on their terms, to pursue personal goals, and stay active and independent for longer.

“Helping people to make the decision to downsize is also a huge opportunity to rebalance the UK property market. Freeing up the top rung of the property ladder at a time when our ongoing shortage of housing supply continues to create heat in the market, despite the economic impacts of the pandemic.  This is a win-win and we call on Government to do more to support older people in making the choice to move into a new breed of later life communities across the country; aspirational, connected, thriving places, that play a vital role in their local neighbourhoods.”

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