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Dos and don'ts of downsizing

There’s no across-the-board consensus on the correct time to downsize. Some advocate doing it on the early side before the house and the garden become too much; others, meanwhile, want to hold on for as long as possible so the next generation can enjoy the house.

Head of Country House department David King believes it's worth giving it a lot of consideration: "Don't downsize until you are absolutely sure it is right for you. Bear in mind that often, after the downsize, it won't be possible to have children and grandchildren to stay."

Where to move

If there are children and grandchildren to consider, don't move too far away. Decamping to Devon or Cornwall might mean you see them for two weeks in the summer but not for the rest of the year.

It makes sense, when considering the next step, to move into a market town such as Lewes, in East Sussex, or Marlborough in Wiltshire, so that all the shops, new friends and amenities such as the GP surgery are within walking distance. Some downsizers are choosing to go a step further and buy a house or flat in leafy but bustling areas of south-west London. Not only does that mean everything is on the doorstep - or a short bus or taxi ride away - but often they will be closer to children and grandchildren.

What to buy

Before putting the house on the market, take a look at what options are available to start getting in the right mind set for the move. Often, the biggest stumbling block for downsizers is having to compromise on room dimensions. The idyll is to find a house that has a large and bright eat-in kitchen as well as a sitting room which is spacious enough to host Christmas but can also be shut off when not in use. An apartment that has been carved out of a larger country house can be a good solution for downsizers as the reception room will be large enough to host parties and accommodate any good pieces of furniture and art.

A new-build house is another practical solution as they are often easier to manage and come with better security so can be left for longer periods of time. "Downsizing has a major advantage in that it can release capital for travel - ”particularly useful for those who want to escape the British winter and spend February in the southern hemisphere," adds David. New developments in London are also worth considering as they offer easier, lateral living and often come with parking, lifts and porters.

If remaining in the countryside, don't forget to consider the garden - a third to half an acre is generally ideal. "But remember that smaller gardens are not necessarily less demanding especially if they are on a slope or have a large number of flower beds," warns David.

Downsizing means de-cluttering

This is a time-consuming exercise and is probably worth starting at least three months before embarking on the move. In any case, the clean-out might well help with the sale of the current property. Once you've found the new house, take measurements of all the rooms or draw up a floor plan and plot where the furniture will go.

When decluttering, take full advantage online sale rooms such as eBay or Gumtree - or turn to your local auction house for help.

Many studies have been done in recent years focussing on how we view our possessions. One of the outcomes has been to view everything through a prism of how much joy the item brings. It's a good strategy to embrace as, pretty quickly, it becomes apparent what things are potentially expendable.


If you're looking to downsize or make your next move, or simply would like some advice on the current market conditions, please get in touch.

Find your local Winkworth office here

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