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Downsize? Upsize? Where will YOU spend your retirement?


What type of home do you expect to be living in once you approach retirement? Do you plan to upsize or – more probably – downsize?

Whether you decide to upsize, downsize or just stay put, each one is likely to have its advantages and, in some measure, be a question of personal preference.

But there are also financial considerations, too, and the type of home in which you live immediately before and during your retirement may also depend on the anticipated state of your finances, the extent to which your pension management has involved careful financial planning, and therefore, how much you are able to afford.

Interestingly, the latest research cited on the website Property Wire on the 31st of January 2018, suggests that homeowners over the age of 55 may be equally interested in upsizing as well as the more conventional decision to downsize.

A general caveat

Before looking at the options in a little more detail, it may be helpful to make a more general suggestion. The home you choose to live in as retirement beckons is likely to prove fundamental to your enjoyment of the many long years in later life. Every move carries its own expense, so it is vital to get it right.

Although the assumption is that you already own your own home, whether you decide to move or stay put, demands a careful understanding of prevailing conditions in the housing market, the budget you are going to be working with, and an honesty about your needs, requirements and domestic circumstances.

Get it wrong, and you face the prospect of losing out both financially and emotionally.


The most popular move is to downsize. On the 2nd of August 2017, the Independent newspaper published a story claiming that as many as 11 million homeowners might consider downsizing over the next 20 years.

Half of all homeowners over the age of 65 (a total of 300,000 people) were already attracted to the idea of downsizing, said the article, with the average such homeowner using this as a way of releasing an average of £80,000 each through either the sale of their current property or by releasing equity.

If the whole of that number of older homeowners went ahead with that decision to downsize, the sales might release a total of £450 billion in equity release to finance their retirement and other expenditure, developers McCarthy & Stone are quoted as saying.

In addition to equity release, some of the other reasons for downsizing include:

  • the ability to pay off an existing mortgage or cover the capital shortfall on an interest-only mortgage – and spend a retirement mortgage-free;
  • the lower running and maintenance costs of a smaller home and garden; and

Nevertheless, it is also important to consider some of the potential downsides, especially if downsizing also means moving to a different part of the country:

  • it might prove an emotional wrench tearing yourself away from what has been a family home, full of happy memories, for many years;
  • your children might have hoped to make your house the family home for themselves and their children;
  • if you are moving away from the area altogether, you are likely to miss the friends and acquaintances you built up over many years and who provided a familiar framework of support – leaving you the need to start all over again in your new neighbourhood and location.


Until recently, many people may have thought you were swimming against the tide by choosing to upsize rather than downsize.

That perception may be set to change, however, following the publication of a study by the NHBC Foundation on the 7th of December 2017. This revealed that almost half (46%) of homeowners aged 55 and over are as likely to choose to upsize as downsize in preparation for their retirement.

Indeed, some 40% of those who had decided to move invested their funds in a house of four or more bedrooms – despite the property being normally occupied by an average of just two people.

An article posted by the Guild of Property Professionals on the 30th of January 2018 may help to explain the growing interest in upsizing – and that is the performance of this particular sector of the housing market.

Since the over 50s no longer consider themselves “old” and anticipate many long years in retirement, there is still time enough – and plenty of opportunities – to regard the home in which you live as an investment. If the day comes when financial considerations suggest a move to downsize, that might not be until many years hence and, even if that does not happen, the upsized home continues to appreciate in value and may represent an even more valuable legacy to leave to your children.

Staying put

If you cannot tear yourself away from a beloved family home or face the expense, hassle and disruption of moving to upsize or downsize, you still have the option of staying put.

If you are anxious to release the equity locked up in your home, you may still achieve that end by arranging a lifetime mortgage with an equity release provider – and preferably one registered with the industry’s representative body, the Equity Release Council.

Equity release in this way is not for everyone, however – not least because of the impact it may have on any expectations your children may have had about the nature and size of the legacy you leave behind.

* The data used in this article is correct at the time of writing.

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