In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy reminds us that home is special, as she clicks the heels of her red slippers together and repeats three times: “There’s no place like home”. But what is home? Is it the place we always return to, a place of childhood memory? Or is it the place we discover for ourselves, a place of personal freedom?
What is home?
Home means different things to different people.
It may simply be where you live at any given time: a place of shelter. Or it may embody a deeper meaning: a haven from the busyness and intrusiveness of the world; a place where you feel most comfortable and accepted.
For many, home is one of the most important anchors in your life. It’s where you most want to be in a crisis or when you’re sick. It contains your favourite people and your fondest memories. It’s where you spend a great deal of your time, and for that reason it becomes a reflection of you: your personality, lifestyle and experiences.
Whether you value it most as a shelter, a sanctuary or a gathering place, it is your own personal space.
So, why move home in later life?
You might assume that moving to a smaller house is the best way to ensure independence as you get older. Indeed, research by SunLife reveals that the largest proportion of over 55s (44%) would choose to downsize for a more comfortable life.*
Downsizing is a practical solution for some. If you think you need more money in retirement, it can free up cash from the sale of your home, while reducing the day to day costs involved in running a more manageable property. Or, if the decision is motivated by cutting the time and effort you spend on cleaning, maintenance and repairs, a smaller space is likely to be easier to look after.
However, you may not sell your home for as much as you hoped. Even if you do, the average cost of moving, including legal fees, stamp duty and removal fees, is estimated at £10,210. At the same time, moving to a new area may make it harder for you to see friends and family who were previously close by. Then there’s the loss of that place called home.
If your home is precious to you, it’s worth considering a range of alternative options.
What’s the right choice for you?
Re-purposing your rooms
Perhaps your children have moved out and have left behind a spare room or two. This blank space can feel like an unnecessary luxury, while creating an extra burden on cleaning. But why not breathe new life back into them by changing their purpose? Looking after them won’t feel like such a chore if you do.
You may want to transform the space into a room for your grandchildren. Perhaps you’ve taken up painting and a studio would encourage you to sit at your canvas more often, or bringing in the treadmill from the garage would allow you to create an at-home gym. You may be someone who likes the idea of running a B&B, with new people and some extra cash coming through the door.
Modifying your home
If you’re struggling to move safely around certain parts of the home, or you’re thinking ahead to when this might be the case, there are minor modifications you can make to boost your confidence.
Bathroom adjustments are popular – from non-slip mats and grab rails all the way through to walk-in showers and wet rooms. Updating flooring to prevent slips and adding lighting to entrance ways can also be helpful.
These smaller home improvement investments may make moving to a more accessible property unnecessary.
If you’re less worried about having too much extra space or getting around your home easily, and what you really want to ensure is greater financial independence, then it might be worth considering equity release.
A product that allows you to unlock a tax-free lump sum from your home without losing ownership of it, the money is paid back when you die or move into long-term care.
With the cost of living reaching its highest level in five years in 2017, finding a way to live securely and comfortably post-retirement is more important than ever. Downsizing is an option many consider. But, if there’s no place like home, why leave it?
*SunLife A comfortable retirement – on the house February 2018