Thinking of moving out of the big family home and downsizing into something smaller, or an apartment? It can be a daunting prospect but for those empty nesters who’ve successfully done it, it can be the start of a whole new adventure.
“It’s very emotional because you have to let go of many things and have a big clean-out and when you’ve been in the family home for a while, that’s tough,” says Terry Carver (below), who shifted from a big four-bedroom Federation house with a pool in Sydney’s Roseville to a two-bedroom apartment in Potts Point 12 years ago.
“But I love it. It’s such a buzz living in an area close to the city. I have five hatted restaurants within 100 metres, I can walk everywhere and if I want to go away for the weekend, I just lock up and leave. And if I forget something, I can always phone the concierge and ask them to check it for me!”
His best tips for a successful downsize are to check there’s good storage both within the new home, and additional storage areas outside, like storage cages in the building, and storage units allowed to be installed at the front of car spaces. “And make sure your building of choice is well run as living communally does involve a whole lot of rules and things you might have little control over,” says Carver, a corporate adviser on mergers and acquisitions who’s also the chair of his Ikon building.
“It’s important to do your homework, a strata search and talk to people who already live in the building. You don’t want one with problems or special levies coming up.”
So what other tips are there for making your downsize work for you?
The Henderson was specifically designed with downsizer's in mind and features plenty of storage
1. Sell the family house before you buy your downsizer home. Consider selling your family home during the second half of the year so potential buyers have time to enrol their kids in nearby schools.
2. Be prepared to get rid of lots of stuff.
It's too easy for clutter to build up when you're living in a house. Moving to a smaller apartment often means you won't have the same storage capacities that you had in your house, so get ready to start afresh.
3. Think of that as a positive new start, a chance to clear the decks to allow the possessions that inspire you to shine, rather than seeing it as being forced to let go. This is your chance to have the things you've always wanted, styled in the way you've always wanted.
4. Be prepared to compromise on your downsizer home. You might want a view, three bedrooms, three bathrooms and double parking but depending on where you buy these may be more costly than you anticipate.
5. You often won’t even need two cars for apartments in highly walkable areas, with good public transport. Living closer in means you can enjoy the freedom of only having one car. It's usually more convenient to walk, catch a tram or even an Uber to where you need to go.
6. Choose an apartment building that’s encouraging a good mix of singles, couples, families and older people, and is actively building a sense of belonging. Knowing your neighbours in the building will help you adjust to apartment living, especially if you knew your neighbours at your family home. Be sure to choose a development that has been designed for the owner-occupier - these will generally have premium finishes, bespoke fixtures and better floor plans.
7. It can take a while to adjust to living with other people, and sharing a lift with others, the lobby, the car park. Take note of how many people will be living in the building and on each level and compare it to how many lifts there are.
8. Make sure there’s effective security at the building and that it has a good front door with a clear street address and identity. One of the major benefits of moving into an apartment is the high level of security it provides - you won't need to check every door and window before you leave home!
9. Lots of amenities compensate for less space and the loss of the garden for a downsizer. If you can't get a lower ground residence with a courtyard or terrace, look to the amenities in the building for added luxury. Pools, gyms, lounge rooms or libraries are great for entertaining, relaxing and meeting new people. Keep in mind that these amenities can make owner's corporations fees high!
10. If you’re still nervous about buying off the plan, engage a buyers’ agent or speak to an investor friend.
Talk to friends who have experience in buying apartments that are built for owner occupiers - they'll know of things that you might not think of and will be able to tell you about what to look out for.
11. If you’re moving nearer to the city, be prepared for noise. Consider your proximity to trams, buses, or busy roads - you will get used to living closer to traffic, but don't expect it to be the same as your family home!
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