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Is it time to downsize?

By Michael Walkden


It happens to everyone eventually – we reach a point where, for any number of reasons, we just need a change. A lot of us have been through the struggle to get that first home, have started families that have grown and moved away, and accumulated more stuff that we could possibly ever need. It’s not unusual in your advanced years to come to a loose end, and be forced to ask yourself “what’s next?”

When your children leave, maybe it’s time to look at a smaller house.

It’s times like these that you might want to start looking at other houses for sale. Selling the family home may seem just as nerve-wracking as acquiring it in the first place was, but if you find yourself with a glut of space, empty rooms never being entered or more maintenance work than you need to be dealing with, maybe it’s time to think about downsizing.


Whether parents want to admit it or not, the reality is that kids grow, and grow quickly. Before you know it, your young ones are on their feet and out the door. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures project that by 2031, around 3.5 million people across the nation will be couples living without children – mostly “empty nesters”. In New Zealand meanwhile, the same demographic makes up over 40 per cent of all family types, according to the most recent census.

There can be a lot of sentimental attachment to a family home.

It’s easy to get sucked in to the trap of holding on to your large family home, just in case your kids decide to come running back to your loving arms. In most cases however, when children leave their family home, they are unlikely to return, save for sporadic special occasions and get-togethers. If you find you aren’t filling that vacated space easily, downsizing could be for you.


Even if you haven’t raised children in your long-term home, chances are you’ve still accumulated alarming amounts of stuff over the years. If every nook and cranny inside your home is threatening to overflow, or storing something in your garage requires professional Tetris skills, you might be in desperate need of a clear out.

Downsizing is a great excuse to free yourself of clutter.

Before you find yourself featuring on an episode of a hoarding reality TV show, why not investigate some smaller homes for sale in your area? Look at it as a truly fresh start, not just a new location but a whole new clutter-free life. You might be shocked to learn just how much excess baggage you have collected while living in your current home.


Let’s not overlook one of the best reasons for downsizing – the potential financial gain. Looking at the recent rapid increases in house prices – as high as 44 per cent in Sydney over just two years to 2014/15, according to the QBE Australian Housing Outlook – it’s not unreasonable to assume all of that extra room you’re sitting on could turn into a tidy profit.

It’s easy to get sucked in to the trap of holding on to your large family home.

For a lot of families, children will start to begin leaving the nest in their late teens or early 20s, so let’s examine the difference in median house prices in New Zealand over the last 20 years. In 1995, Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand figures show an average price of $140,000.

Cut to 2015, where figure from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand show you can expect to pay upwards of $460,000. It’s a staggering leap, and if you’re trading down from a large multi-room family abode to a 1-2 bedroom house or unit, some of that extra cash could be headed straight for your back pocket.

It’s not an easy decision, as there can be a lot of sentimental attachment to a family home. Still, the argument for downsizing is very compelling. It’s the happiness of the people inside, not the house itself, that really matters.

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