Selling a property to downsize

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The pros and cons

Downsizing is, at its most simple, moving to a smaller property. People often associate downsizing with retirement, although it can appeal equally to active empty-nesters attracted to looking to release some of their equity.

Whatever your age, there are advantages and disadvantages to downsizing. It is a big decision, with lots to consider. So, it is important to plan well ahead and get the right professional advice from the start.

The pros and cons of downsizing

If you are uncertain whether downsizing is for you, it can help to make a list of advantages and disadvantages, which you could then discuss with friends and family. For example:

  • Downsizing could help you stay independent longer, and many older people choose to buy a bungalow or an apartment with this in mind.
  • It could provide surplus sale proceeds, which you can use to boost your pension, fund a holiday home or help your children onto the property ladder.
  • A smaller home will benefit from lower utility bills and other outgoings, and a more modern property will require less maintenance.
  • Being closer to other family members or living in an area you love can provide that all important feel-good factor.

On the other hand, it is also important to think about what you might miss, and ask yourself how well you would cope with fewer rooms or less storage space.

Identifying what you want to get out of the move is key to determining where and for what type of property you need to search.

Getting your home ready for sale

Dealing with surplus possessions is the most common reason people give for not downsizing sooner. This may come as no surprise, as many of us would struggle to fit our furniture into a smaller space or know what to do with all the things we have accumulated over the years.

Starting the process of decluttering early on can help, as can a systematic approach. Experts recommend working through a house room by room, deciding which items to keep, which to give away, and which to bin. At the same time, you may want to think about improving the appearance of your property and completing any outstanding jobs, like fixing broken guttering or finishing off a painting project.

It may sound like a daunting task, but a well-maintained, decluttered home will be much more attractive to buyers.

Legal preparations

Ideally, your preparation should also involve checking there are no legal issues which could affect a sale. These could reveal things of which you are unaware. For example, a strip of land you have used as garden for many years but which falls outside your legal title, or an extension which required a consent which has been overlooked.

Discussing your plans with an experienced conveyancing lawyer at the outset can help identify any issues. Acting early on issues can pre-empt problems, which could otherwise threaten your sale. For example, your lawyer may recommend applying to the Land Registry to regularise the position or title insurance to alleviate any buyer’s potential concerns.

Contract Ready

To help you with the legal preparations of selling your house our residential property team provide a Contract Ready service. Being Contract Ready is having the legal property documents required for a house sale ready in advance of marketing the property and agreeing the sale.

Legal documents are usually collated after a sale has been agreed, however in being Contract Ready the legal documents are prepared and collated prior to marketing your home in order to help speed up the sale. This helps to make it more transparent to both sides and allows the seller to share all the information prospective buyers will need.

Managing a chain of transactions

Naturally, you will want the best price possible for your home and for the sale and purchase to complete smoothly and without unplanned delay.

When downsizing, you may be vulnerable on two counts:

  • First, you may find yourself competing against first time buyers, who sellers may prefer because they are chain free.
  • Second, you will be selling a larger more expensive property and so you are more likely to find yourself at the top of a chain of connected transactions which introduces extra risk. Any one of the linked transactions could collapse, leaving your buyer, and you, unable to proceed.

Wherever you are in a chain, it is also important your conveyancer is both experienced and an excellent communicator. Regularly monitoring progress and giving your transactions their close personal attention means they will spot any issues early on. Dealing with potential delays before they become problems, offering solutions, and keeping everyone well informed will help to keep your transaction on track.

Part exchange schemes

Part exchange schemes tend to focus on buyers trading up. However, there are some schemes which target downsizers.

In these schemes, a developer takes your home in part payment for a new one. This can reduce the stress of moving as you do not have to worry about selling your current property. It is important to understand exactly what is on offer, and all the costs involved. You will almost certainly pay a premium for a new home. Sometimes those aimed at retirees also come with additional services and expense, which could increase rather than reduce your ongoing living costs.

How we can help

Moving house can be both exciting and stressful, especially when you are leaving the home you have lived in for many years. As well as being legal experts, we understand this and will do everything we can to ensure this important transition is as smooth as possible for you.

For further information on buying or selling a property and our Contract Ready service, please contact Pippa Woodcock in the residential property team on 01733 882800 or email [email protected].

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